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The term willful refers to acts which are intentional, conscious, voluntary, and designed to achieve a particular result. The meaning of the term “willful” depends on the context in which it is used. For example:

  • In the context of criminal law, cases such as this one from Nevada, explain that “the word ‘willful’ when used in criminal statutes with respect to proscribed conduct relates to an act or omission which is done intentionally, deliberately or designedly, as distinguished from an act or omission done accidentally, inadvertently, or innocently.”
  • In the context of Workers’ Compensation Acts, cases such as this one from Wyoming, explain that willful misconduct means “that the misconduct was done purposely, with knowledge, or that the misconduct was of such a character as to evince a reckless disregard of consequences.”
  • In the context of bankruptcy law, this case from the Fifth Circuit, explains that “willful default is an intentional failure to respond to litigation.”
  • In the context of tort law, “willful” tort is a tort that is committed in an intentional and conscious way. 

[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]