In most situations, personal injury cases involve accidents. However, intentional actions can cause injury too, such as assault and battery. In civil court, assault and battery are called intentional torts (wrongs) in the context of personal injuries. This article defines assault and battery and how they apply to personal injury law.

Assault Definition

Assault by one person or more to another person is when the aggressor(s) acts intentionally to cause “reasonable apprehension of imminent and harmful contact.” By legal definition, assault is not physical contact, but rather the reasonable threat that physical contact and injury could occur. An example of assault would be if Tim held up his fist to Steve and said that he is going to knock Steve out. Up to this point, only assault has occurred because Tim has not physically touched Steve. However, it would be reasonable to assume that Steve is “apprehensive” of physical contact and harm occurring, and because of Tim’s assault, Steve could file a personal injury lawsuit against him.

Battery Definition

Battery, by intentional tort definition, varies from state to state. However, in the most general terms, battery is the physical contact to another person that was intentionally meant to cause harm. From the example above, if Tim does punch Steve, then battery has taken place. Even though the legal definition says that battery means that harm was intended, injuries do not have to be sustained for battery to have taken place.

It is also important to understand that assault and battery can happen independently of each other. For instance, assault can happen without battery, and vice versa – Tim holds up his fist to Steve, but does not punch him – this is assault without battery. On the other hand, battery can happen without assault – for instance, if Steve is standing and facing opposite of Tim, and Tim comes up behind Steve and shoves him, this is battery. But because Steve did not see Tim approach him, Steve most likely did not feel apprehension that the shove was going to take place – therefore, assault did not occur in this situation.

Compensation for Assault and Battery

In most personal injury lawsuits, compensation is awarded based on the damages that a victim suffered. If Tim punches Steve in the shoulder but no injuries were sustained, then it is likely not worth pursuing a personal injury case. But, if Steve’s shoulder got punched hard enough that it become dislocated, resulting in Steve needing medical attention, then a personal injury lawsuit would make sense. In a situation where hospitalization is needed, the party at fault should be held liable.

Assault and Battery Defenses

In some cases, physical contact was sustained in a way that does not warrant a battery charge. For instance, in situations of consent, physical harm cannot be ruled battery. In football, if Corey rams into Mark and Mark suffers an injury, battery most likely did not take place. Mark consented to play football, and physical contact is expected.

In a situation where a police officer must use force to make an arrest and the person detained was injured in the process, the police officer could use the argument of privilege. If an individual makes a struggle against the officer, then the officer must use equal force to handcuff, thus an assault and battery claim against the officer would likely not be successful.

In some situations, physical defense may be needed. For instance, if Tim throws a fist at Steve and Steve grabs his arm and holds him on the ground, then Steve acted in self-defense.

Seek an Attorney

In most cases, assault and battery will result in criminal prosecution, but personal civil lawsuits can also be used to collect damages for the victim. If you have been injured from assault and/or battery, contact the attorneys at Ingerman & Horwitz. The attorneys at Ingerman & Horwitz know how to construct your case and get you the compensation that you deserve.