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Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Assault

Assaults and Civil Lawsuits

In the United States, there are 250 cases of physical assault per 100,000 of the population. While many people think that assaults onle lead to criminal charges, these wrongful acts can be the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. Here are a few things that you need to know about assaults and personal injury claims.

What Is an Assault?

For the purposes of civil law, an assault is defined as a purposeful act with the intention to instill fear or make harmful contact with another person. This assault is known as an "intentional tort" when this act is the center of a civil lawsuit. Many people believe that assault requires some type of physical contact, but that is not often the case, especially when it comes to civil law. If the person's action caused fear of harmful or offensive touching, that could be considered an assault. When there is physical contact, then those actions are often classified as battery. In many cases, both assault and battery claims are filed together in a civil lawsuit.

The Elements of Assault

If you plan to file an assault lawsuit, you have to prove several elements, such as:
  • The action was intentional on the defendant's part
  • The intention caused apprehension of harm by you
  • You as the victim had a reasonable apprehension of immediate harm
If the crime has met those elements, then you could file a civil assault claim. These personal injury lawsuits are filed against an individual who caused a "reasonable apprehension" of immediate harm. Due to that, the victim does not have to be physically harmed to file a claim of assault. With these claims, the plaintiff can collect damages to pay for their physical and emotional injuries. As previously mentioned, if the victim is physically struck, that civil lawsuit would be classified as battery. Under civil law, assault is also known as tortious assault or simple assault.

Similarities Between Criminal and Civil Assault

Along with a personal injury lawsuit, assault charges can be filed in a criminal court. Under both civil and criminal law, proving the elements of the crime are similar. In both instances, the defendant must have created a "reasonable apprehension of harm." In simple terms, if the plaintiff experienced anxiety or fear over the threat of physical harm, then that could be the grounds for a civil lawsuit. In both criminal and civil cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant triggered a reasonable apprehension of harm. Finally, in both criminal and civil law, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant meant to cause harm. In addition to that, the defendant must have known that those actions would cause imminent harm to the plaintiff. If you have been physically or emotionally harmed by an assault, you should speak to an Allentown personal injury attorney to discuss whether you can file a civil lawsuit.

Differences Between Civil Assault and Criminal Assault

As you already know, assault charges can be filed in a criminal court. The difference between a criminal assault and a civil assault is the result of the legal action. With a civil lawsuit, it is a private matter between two individuals. If the plaintiff can prove the claim, monetary damages are awarded, but no jail sentences are imposed on the defendant. However, that is not always the case with a criminal trial. The two parties involved in these cases include the defendant and the state. For any defendant found guilty of a crime, the courts can impose a jail sentence. In some cases, the punishment can range from a couple of months to several years in jail. In civil law, the defendant must have caused apprehension for the plaintiff with their actions. By contrast, in criminal law, the defendant is required to commit some type of physical battery to the plaintiff. While civil law recognizes accidental assault, there is no such designation in criminal law.

Injuries and Damages in Assault Lawsuits

Any intentional or unintentional wrongful act requires some type of damage to be considered actionable. In an assault case, those damages can include the cost to treat physical injuries and lost income. However, there are other types of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit. Economic damages will reimburse the plaintiff for any expenses and costs that are associated with the assault. Some monetary damages can include lost income and medical bills. Along with that, non-economic damages often include compensation for other losses, like pain and suffering. These damages are hard to quantify, but that compensation can be significant. Finally, punitive damages are awarded simply to punish the defendant. These damages are only allowed under certain circumstances and in a specific jurisdiction. In most cases, the assault must be particularly egregious to receive punitive damages in a lawsuit.

Defenses to Civil Assault Claims

Many people believe that assault lawsuits are open and shut cases. However, there are some defenses to these claims. In most cases, the defendant claims self-defense with a need to protect himself or herself from harm. These claims can open the plaintiff up to a countersuit from the defendant. In some cases, there is a claim of privilege. With that, the defendant has a limited right to commit assault against the plaintiff. For example, a police officer might use physical contact to place a suspect under arrest. Consent is another form of defense in an assault case. In those instances, the plaintiff consented to be in a position where an assault could occur. Finally, there is a denial of the elements of assault. In a successful claim, the plaintiff must prove all the components of assault. If any of those elements are not verified, then the civil case can be thrown out of court.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Civil Assault Claim?

If you want to file a civil assault claim, it is recommended that you hire a personal injury lawyer. An experienced attorney can present legal arguments and provide evidence to the court. In addition to that, a personal injury lawyer can represent you so that there is a better chance of receiving the right amount of compensation for your losses.

When Do You Need to Sue?

The purpose of a personal lawsuit is to provide monetary compensation to the victim. If the defendant doesn't have many assets, then there might not be much to recover. Liability insurance will not cover an intentional act like assault. For these cases, the defendant is responsible for all damages. You might be rewarded with a financial settlement, but it can be challenging to collect it. Fortunately, there are some options for you. If you are thinking about filing a civil lawsuit for an assault, you will want to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Allentown Personal Injury Attorney

Civil cases can be complicated, especially when they involve an assault. As you can tell, there are several defenses to these claims. Without experienced help, you could lose out on the proper compensation for your physical and emotional injuries. Metzger & Kleiner serves several areas of Pennsylvania. If you need an Allentown personal injury attorney, schedule a consultation by calling the Lehigh Valley office at 610-435-7400 or our Philadelphia office at 215-567-6616.

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