What is Transferred Intent According to Personal Injury Law?


You are in a concert venue standing next to an arguing couple. One party gets upset at the other and throws a beer bottle at them. Instead of hitting the intended target, the other person ducks and you get hit squarely in the face, sustaining injuries. You might be wondering if the person who threw the bottle is liable for your injuries or not.

In most instances the answer would be yes, because their intent might not have been to injure you, but you are injured due to their actions anyway. Just because someone doesn’t intend to hurt you, that does not negate their responsibility or their liability to pay for your injuries and damages.

Under the transfer of intent doctrine, if you are hurt due to someone else’s actions, it doesn’t matter if you were the intended target. This is a theory that a lawyer can apply to torts within the personal injury and criminal law statutes. For personal injury cases, a person can be found liable for any damages or injuries that they cause if they harm someone, even if the person injured wasn’t the target. If a defendant harms another person, they are liable whether the person injured was who they meant to harm or not.

The types of personal injury cases where transferred intent applies are battery, assault, false imprisonment, trespass to chattel, battery, trespass to land and conversion. The key to transferred intent is that the person who harms you intended to harm someone other than you and instead harmed the wrong person — or the right person in the wrong way.

How is it applied?

When trying an intentional tort law case, you have to prove that the person who hurt you actually took action to intentionally cause you injury or harm. It is the plaintiff’s obligation to prove that the person they are taking action against had the intention to hurt someone. If you can prove that the person intended to cause harm to you through their actions, then you can recover for damages or injuries sustained in an intentional tort claim.

That means if someone hurt you, you can claim transferred intent by proving that they might not have intentionally meant to hurt you directly, but that their actions, intended to harm someone else, resulted in you being hurt. If you can prove that there was intent on the part of the defendant in the case, then you are eligible to receive compensation.

Defenses that someone might use to defend themselves against an intentional tort claim

There are several ways that a defendant may defend themselves in court. One of the most common is “self-defense.” This is used when the defendant alleges that they had to do what they did for their own self-preservation or to stop themselves from being harmed. They have to prove that the actions they took were meant to protect themselves from a perceived threat.

The other defense they might use is “consent.” The defendant might argue that the plaintiff consented for the person to harm or intentionally hurt them. An example of this defense would be if two individuals were in a boxing match and one got severely hurt. The defendant might argue that there was consent since they agreed to fight one another.

What are the exceptions to intentional infliction?

Another type of intentional tort claim is “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” This argues that the defendant intentionally conducted themselves in an outrageous way that caused the plaintiff to experience emotional distress.

Typically, the emotional distress claim cannot be used under the transferred intent doctrine. The only exceptions are if a direct family member of the victim was harmed by what the defendant did, the plaintiff was at the scene of the action, or if the defendant knew that the victim was present and put them in danger anyway by conducting themselves the way they did that lead to harm.

If you are hurt by the actions of someone else, even if they meant to hurt someone other than you and you accidentally got in the way, you are entitled to recover for your injuries and damages. A personal injury lawyer in Queens can help guide you through the complexity of the transferred intent doctrine to get the compensation you are entitled to.

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