Civil Assault and Battery Cases
Criminal charges aren't the only penalties you can face for committing assault or battery. Separate from any criminal case, a victim of assault or battery also can file a civil suit against their assailant. Criminal prosecution is meant to penalize defendants for their illegal acts. But civil claims are designed to make the victims "whole" by compensating them for their injuries. Below, you'll find information on proving civil assault and battery. You'll also learn about the types of damages available to victims in civil lawsuits.
If you've been the victim of criminal assault, sexual assault, or have a pending case in criminal court, please check out our criminal law section instead. You may also need to contact law enforcement.
Proving the Elements of Civil Battery
The elements to establish civil battery are generally the same as for criminal battery. However, an important disclaimer is that the standard of proof is different. While criminal cases require the government to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard in civil personal injury law is lower. When you sue someone in civil court, your burden of proof in a personal injury case will be a preponderance of the evidence. This means that you must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable for your claim.
A successful civil suit for battery will require the plaintiff to prove that the following elements were present:
- The intentional touching of, or application of force to, the body of another person
- Harmful, offensive manner and intent
- No consent from the victim
According to the Restatement (Second) of Torts, the assailant doesn't have to intend to have physical contact with his victim in order for civil battery to occur. They must merely intend to cause the imminent apprehension, or fear, of physical harm in their victim. For example, suppose a defendant merely intended to scare the plaintiff by swinging a baseball bat near them. If the plaintiff was accidentally hit by the bat, the plaintiff would have a case for civil battery.
The Elements of a Civil Assault Lawsuit
Unlike battery, civil assault doesn't require that the defendant have any physical contact with the victim. In a civil assault case, the plaintiff will have to prove that the following elements were present:
- An intentional attempt or threat to inflict injury on another person
- Apparent ability to cause harm
- Creation of reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact in the victim
As long as the victim is placed in fear of imminent contact, no actual physical contact or injury need occur. Using the previous example, the defendant who intended to scare the plaintiff by swinging a baseball bat near them might find themselves facing a case of civil assault if the plaintiff was put in fear of physical injury.
Damages in Civil Assault and Battery Cases
In a successful assault or battery suit, the plaintiff is awarded damages to compensate them for the injuries and expenses that resulted from the tort (civil wrong). That usually includes any:
- Medical expenses, medical bills, medical treatment costs
- Lost income and wages for the present and future
- Emotional distress or pain and suffering (non-economic damages) that the victim experienced
If the assault or battery was especially traumatic, the plaintiff may receive damages to cover the cost of therapy as well.
Civil assault and civil battery are intentional torts, meaning they stem from intentional acts rather than negligence on the part of the defendant. Victims of intentional torts can receive a special type of damages known as punitive damages.
Punitive damages are meant to penalize the defendant for appalling behavior. Also known as exemplary damages, they are designed to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. In some cases, punitive damages can be up to three times the amount awarded for regular damages.
If you're a defendant in a civil assault or battery case, there may be defenses available to help you escape charges or lower your liability. For example, a defendant may argue that they acted as a reasonable person by resorting to self-defense.
Questions About Civil Assault and Battery Cases? Contact an Attorney
If someone attempted to physically harm you or touched you in an unwanted manner, you may have a viable personal injury claim. A victim of an assault, especially one who suffered an assault injury, can recover financial compensation. A client relationship with an experienced legal professional can help. It can even the playing field when you're going up against insurance companies. A lawyer may also be able to help you file a personal injury lawsuit for assault and/or battery.
A personal injury lawyer can provide you with legal advice regarding assault & battery. Contact a personal injury attorney right away before the expiry of your state's statute of limitations. This is a deadline after which you will be barred from filing your claim, so act quickly.
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