What is an Assault and Battery Lawsuit?
There are two types of lawsuits related to assault and battery. These are crimes, which means prosecuting attorneys may bring a criminal lawsuit against a perpetrator. If found guilty, they can face fines and jail time.
The victim of an assault and battery may also choose to file a civil lawsuit. Rather than punishing the perpetrator, the purpose of this lawsuit is to remedy the harm caused to the victim in the form of monetary damages.
How Will My Lawyer Prove My Case?
An assault and battery lawsuit is different from other personal injury cases in that it involves an intentional tort. Your lawyer must prove intent and ability to cause harm, whether or not the perpetrator actually injured you.
In a case of assault, your lawyer must show that the perpetrator:
- Threatened to or attempted to harm you
- Was capable of harming you
- Caused you to fear being injured or harmed
The second and third elements of proof are important. If the perpetrator did not seem capable of actually inflicting harm, because of a disability or being much smaller than you for instance, it is not assault. If you were not in fear for yourself, it is not assault.
When there is physical contact, assault transitions to battery. There are three basic elements of proving fault in a case of battery:
- The perpetrator intended to touch you directly or with an object
- They attempted to do so without your consent
- The contact was intended to be harmful or offensive
Is Anyone Else Liable for Damages?
The perpetrator is the obvious person to sue in the case of assault and battery. If they intentionally tried to harm you, it’s a pretty clear case. However, there may be other people, third parties, negligent in the assault and battery. Negligence means that someone breached a duty of care, resulting in harm. They did not intend to cause harm, but carelessness makes them liable.
A typical third-party victim to sue is a property owner. For instance, if you suffered injuries from an attack at a bar or nightclub, you may be able to prove the owner is negligent. They have a responsibility to provide a reasonably safe environment for patrons. If they took more care with safety, for instance, installing adequate lights in the parking lot, you might not have been victimized.
What Can I Recover in Damages from an Assault and Battery Lawsuit?
The main reason to file a civil lawsuit for assault and battery is to recoup costs. Physical violence causes injuries and medical expenses and also emotional harm for which you can be compensated if you prove your case successfully. Even if you did not suffer significant harm, you may be able to recover nominal damages, a small amount of compensation.
Because assault and battery are intentional torts, you may be able to recover punitive damages, costs designed to punish the perpetrator, and deter others from committing this crime.
Damages depend on several factors, including state laws. Some states set limits on the amount you can recover, particularly non-economic damages for things like pain or emotional suffering. Determining factors in calculating damages include:
- The severity and type of injuries
- Medical expenses
- Future expected medical expenses
- Mental health care
- Lost wages if the injuries prevented you from working
- Emotional suffering, physical pain, trauma, and other non-economic costs of being assaulted
Your lawyer cannot promise an exact amount of damages. Those with experience in similar cases can give you a reasonable estimate for what you can expect to recover.
What is the Time Limit on Filing an Assault and Battery Lawsuit?
Every state has a statute of limitations on filing civil lawsuits. The statute is a time limit that begins at the time the incident or injury occurred. Some states have specific statutes for different types of lawsuits. For instance, in New York, the statute of limitations on civil assault and battery cases is one year from the attack, while for general personal injury cases it is three years.
The statute of limitations varies by state and may be several years long. Make sure you talk to a lawyer as soon after an attack as possible. They can help you take legal action before your time limit runs out and you lose the opportunity.
How Do I File an Assault and Battery Lawsuit?
The first thing to do in filing an assault and battery lawsuit is to consult with an experienced lawyer. They can help you determine if you have a case and if a lawsuit is the right step. If it is, they will guide you through the process:
- Filing a complaint.
Your lawyer begins the lawsuit by filing a complaint notifying the defendants. There does not need to be criminal charges for you to file the complaint, but it does help your case.
- Investigating the incident.
Your legal team investigates the incident by interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence from the site of the incident.
- Sharing information.
During discovery, lawyers on each side may share information and hold depositions.
- Negotiating a settlement.
Your lawyer will attempt to get a settlement from the defendants through negotiations. If they cannot, you must decide if you will continue the case in court.
- Taking the case to trial.
In a trial, your lawyer presents expert testimony, witnesses, and evidence that the defendant harmed you intentionally. The jury will decide if they are guilty and if they owe you damages.
- Collecting damages.
Even if awarded damages, collecting them can be tricky. The defendant may appeal or may claim to not have the money. Your lawyer will take further legal steps to help you get the compensation.
Filing a lawsuit for assault and battery is a big step but an important one. It provides closure, a sense of justice, and compensation for the harm you suffered. Let an experienced lawyer advise you on filing a lawsuit and take you through the process.