Assault, Battery, and Intentional Torts
Injuries can occur for a variety of reasons. They can happen because another person was negligent or reckless (i.e. negligent torts). They can also happen if the person intentionally inflicted an injury through offensive contact.
Intentional torts occur when a person intentionally acts in a certain way that leads to another person's injury. Some common examples of common law intentional torts are:
- Assault and battery
- Trespass to land
- False imprisonment
FindLaw's section on Assault, Battery, and Intentional Torts provides information about acts considered intentional torts. Intentional torts fall under civil law that follows the preponderance of the evidence standard. It also addresses the elements that a victim must prove to prevail in their case.
Keep in mind that certain torts, including assault and battery, can also give rise to criminal charges. These are charges that are brought against a defendant by a government prosecutor in a criminal case. In criminal law, assault and battery can mean different things. This article focuses only on civil tort cases between private parties.
Types of Intentional Torts
A tort is a civil wrong that causes harm (e.g. physical harm and emotional harm) to another person. Tort law includes a wide variety of actions. It is split up into many subcategories that cover a wide range of personal injury cases.
One of the ways torts are divided is by the mental state of the wrongdoer. When a person has the intent to perform a particular action against an injured party, it's categorized as an intentional tort.
There are various types of intentional torts that can give rise to injury claims, each with its own elements. Some intentional torts are:
- False imprisonment
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Invasion of privacy
It's important not to confuse intentional torts with other kinds of torts that can still be the proximate cause (causation) of a plaintiff's injury. For example, claims of general negligence involving a violation of the duty of care or reasonable care do not require intent on the part of the tortfeasor (wrongdoer).
Assault and Battery
Assault doesn't require that the defendant make physical contact with the victim. Instead, assault is an intentional attempt or threat to inflict physical injury. It places another person in fear of or in reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm. For example, a person's threatening behavior that results in personal property damage might not involve actual contact with an injured party. But a reasonable person in the injured party's shoes might see the property damage as grounds to fear imminent harm to their person.
The tort of battery, on the other hand, is the intentional touching of another person in a harmful or offensive way without their consent. Although people seem to always say "assault and battery" together, they are separate torts. It's possible to have one without the other.
The intent required in an assault or battery is not the intent to cause injury. Instead, it's the intent to perform the act that led to the assault or battery. For example, in order for a civil battery to occur, all a person needs to do is touch the victim without the victim's consent. This is different from criminal battery, which requires the intent to do harm.
Battery in Special Situations
Many states have recognized battery in special situations. These situations include sports, domestic violence, and medicine.
A medical battery can occur if a doctor performs a non-emergency procedure without obtaining consent first. This would be a medical battery because it would be an unauthorized touching of the plaintiff's person. To recover their medical expenses, a victim of a medical battery may sue for battery as well as for medical malpractice. This holds true even though the latter is not necessarily an intentional tort.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone close to you has been injured as a result of an assault, battery, or another intentional tort, you may want to consult with a local personal injury attorney to see if you can recover for your injuries. It's in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as you can after your injury. This helps to avoid exceeding the time limit in which a personal injury lawsuit can be filed.
A personal injury lawyer can help you establish civil liability against a wrongdoer so that you may recover compensatory damages, including monetary damages, for your injuries. They may even be able to help you recover punitive damages, which are available in cases where a defendant acted egregiously and maliciously.
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