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Can You Sue Someone For Assault?

Although most claims filed with personal injury lawyers are over accidents, like slips and falls at restaurants, for example, what happens when the injury was caused intentionally by another individual? When can you sue someone over an injury caused by an altercation or an intentional act of battery or assault against you?

Suing someone because of injuries and damages that were caused by the offender is entirely possible and can be either identified as a case of “assault” or “battery.” If you are seeking compensation in an assault case, or because of battery, with a personal injury lawyer there are a few terms and definitions you need to be conscious of as you file for compensation against the offender.

Filing for Assault

domestic violence assaultAssault is often defined in legal terms to mean that there is a “reasonable belief” that the offender intended to cause harm upon the individual. Though contact and physical violence are not necessarily needed in an assault case. What constitutes an assault can be any reasonable expectation of a threat by the offending party.

For example, if the offender threatens to “beat up” the victim while taking on an aggressive and threatening stance. If the individual being threatened has reason to believe that the offender will make good on this threat, and becomes fearful for their safety over this threat, this would be considered an assault case.

Additionally, any other form of threat in the same vein, such as, swinging a weapon at the individual and stopping just short enough to not hit them, speeding up in a car to make it appear that they’ll hit the individual but stopping short, and similar forms of intimidation are considered assault.

Though popular beliefs of the civil liability believe that assault requires physical contact, this isn’t true. Instead, there is another term for when there is a more physical element called “battery.” However, assault and battery are often filed together in many cases.

To file an assault claim, you do need to be able to prove a few key elements against the defendant. These elements include,

  • That the defendant acted with the intent to cause harm and intimidation
  • That the defendant intentionally acted to cause the apprehension of harm
  • Your own, resulting apprehension of immediate harm was reasonable

Take the previous example of swinging a weapon if the defendant was to have swung a bat at you with the seeming intention to make contact and cause harm, only to stop last second or for you to have to jump out of the way. You would have reasonable cause to believe that you were in immediate danger, and the defendant acted with the clear intention to cause harm or intimidate you. This would be an example of assault in civil law.

Filing for Battery

Assault and battery are often filed together but can be defined separately. Battery, unlike assault, does require that the defendant has taken intentional action to harm the victim. Rather than just the intention of harm as a threat, battery is the act of causing deliberate damage.

Battery requires contact by the offender that causes and results in harm to the individual (the victim), whether this be,

  • Direct and immediate action such as being pushed or tripped,
  • Indirect and immediate action such as throwing objects that hit the victim
  • Indirect and remote action such as setting some form of trap for the victim to stumble into

Though actual injury and harm don’t need to take place, the contact does. In a battery case, if the individual had been touched or hit by something by the action of the defendant who had the intention to cause harm or offence, that would be battery.

Though not as common, assault and battery can take place separately. The offender could raise a weapon threateningly and not actually cause harm, and it would be only an assault case. If the offender was to have surprised the victim without actually giving them the opportunity to feel intimidated or threatened before making offensive contact, this would only be a battery case. Assault and battery together is the action of the defendant to intentionally intimidate and threaten the victim before making intentional contact to cause offence or harm.

Defenses Against Assault and Battery Cases

Even with the help of a personal injury lawyer, there are a few cases in which there is no valid or legal reason for the belief that the defendant had committed an assault or battery against the victim. These reasons can vary, but there are a few examples such as,

  • Self-defense or in defense of others
    • If the action taken by the defendant was committed because of a threat posed against them, then the lawsuit won’t succeed against them. If their response was reasonable in their own defense or the defense of others. The offender cannot react in self-defense with lethal force, for example, when there was no lethal action taken against them.
  • Consent
    • If there was a situation in which the victim was aware of the threat of injury or intimidation, such as sports, then there is no legal basis for assuming the case will succeed. If the plaintiff had been participating in a hockey game and was injured in a collision on the ice with another player, there was a consent by the injured individual to play a game where they had the potential to be injured.
  • Privilege
    • If a plaintiff is attempting to sue someone of a higher privilege, such as a cop, for an injury, then there is a likelihood that it would be difficult to win. If a police officer used force to make an arrest and injured someone, so long as that officer was using a reasonable amount of force for that arrest, then they did not commit an assault or battery against the plaintiff.

Should You Sue and What of Damages?

For many of these cases to be worth filing or seeking legal aid in, there often needs to be some form of “damages,” or injury/harm of some kind. In an assault case, for example, these can be physical injuries, the hospital bills to treat said injuries, and income lost due to these injuries.

These damages can result in a few compensations/reimbursements. One of these is economic damages that are to help reimburse bills and expenses that were as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. This can include current hospital care, related future medical care, and the loss of income as a result of these injuries. Non-economic damages can include a form of compensation for “pain and suffering” and is reimbursement for harder to quantify damages. Punitive damages in assault cases are meant entirely to punish the defendant/offender and are only available under certain circumstances and in certain jurisdictions, not everywhere in every case.

Before you decide to sue, you should consider the financial undertaking of the lawsuit. As you may quickly find out if you are suing an offender with few assets, being awarded by the courts does not mean that you will be collecting any of the money. These cases are intended to help victims gain compensation from the offender when there was loss had as a result of their action, but in some cases, there isn’t enough to recover from justifying the cost of suing them.

However, deciding to sue is case by case, and consulting a personal injury lawyer to help you get compensation when you’ve been wronged is the first step.

For a free consultation, call today: 954-951-0000.

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