Civil Assault and Battery Cases
Criminal charges aren’t the only penalties you can face for committing assault or battery. Separate from any criminal prosecution, a victim of assault or battery can file a civil suit against his or her assailant. While criminal prosecution is meant to penalize defendants for their illegal acts, civil cases are designed to make the victims whole by compensating them for their injuries. Below, you’ll find information on proving civil assault and battery and the types of damages available to victims.
The Elements of Civil Battery
The elements to establish civil battery are generally the same as for criminal battery. 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,
- In a harmful or offensive manner, and
- Without the victim’s consent
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. He must merely intend to cause the imminent apprehension, or fear, of physical harm in his victim. For example, if a defendant merely intended to scare the plaintiff by swinging a baseball bat near him, but the plaintiff was accidentally hit by the bat, the plaintiff would have a case for civil battery.
The Elements of Civil Assault
Unlike battery, civil assault doesn’t require that the defendant have any physical contact with the victim. In a civil suit for assault, the plaintiff will have to prove that the following elements were present:
- An intentional attempt or threat to inflict injury on another person,
- Coupled with an apparent ability to cause the harm,
- Which creates a 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. For example, if a defendant intended to scare the plaintiff by swinging a baseball bat near him, and the plaintiff was put in fear of physical injury, the plaintiff would have a case for civil assault.
Damages in Civil Assault and Battery Cases
In a successful assault or battery suit, the plaintiff is awarded damages to compensate her for the injuries and expenses that resulted from the tort. That usually includes any medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering 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 especially appalling behavior and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. In many cases, punitive damages can be up to three-times the amount awarded for regular damages.