Assault and battery cases are considered intentional torts (wrongs) under United States law. These terms refer to instances of harmful, threatening, or offensive acts that can be committed together or separately, as several states maintain distinct legal definitions for each.
If you are a victim of assault or battery, you’re entitled to pursue legal recourse through filing an assault and battery claim or lawsuit against the perpetrator (defendant). If the civil or criminal charges brought against the defendant is ruled in your favor, you may be able to receive compensation for physical or psychological damages suffered as a result of the incident.
These legal terms are explained in further detail below, in addition to other information, you may wish to know if you’re planning to pursue legal action for assault or battery.
What Is Considered Assault And Battery?
Although often considered synonymous, in legal settings “assault” and “battery” are defined separately according to very specific circumstances of threatening behavior, or harmful or offensive contact.
Definition Of Assault
Under U.S. law, assault can refer to any instance in which an individual threatens bodily harm and has the ability to carry out such a threat. Assault may or may not actually lead to an act of physical violence against a person.
For instance, if you’re in a heated discussion with a person and that person brings up their fist to hit you, but is stopped before they make physical contact—that person may still be charged with assault.
To be charged with assault, the incident must involve these necessary elements:
- verbal or physical aggression
- intentional and unlawful threat
- instills reasonable fear or apprehension in the plaintiff (victim) of an imminent threat of harm
- the perpetrator has the ability to carry out an act of harm against the victim
Assault may also be further classified as simple or aggravated assault. The previous example constitutes an example of simple assault. Pressing charges for aggravated assault requires that the defendant had the intention of doing more than just frightening the victim. Aggravated assault may be committed with the intention of robbing, killing, or raping a person and is punishable in all states as a felony.
Definition Of Battery
In contrast, a charge of battery requires that physical contact is made by the perpetrator. However, the impact of the contact (i.e. whether there is a resulting injury) is irrelevant.
The legal definition of battery varies from state to state but typically does not require that the physical contact results in severe injury as long as the contact can be reasonably deemed inappropriate or offensive.
The following are the essential elements of battery:
- intent to cause harmful or offensive contact with the victim
- committed an offensive or harmful act of physical contact
- the act was committed without the victim’s consent or permission
Although battery and assault often go hand-in-hand, they are not always committed together. If you’re unsure of how to define your incident of intentional harm, or an imminent threat of harm, a seasoned assault and battery attorney can help you determine which charge is most appropriate based on the details of your case.
What To Do After An Assault And Battery: A Step-By-Step Guide
In the immediate aftermath of an assault or battery, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Incidents of assault and battery can be troubling for a person at their mildest and traumatic at worst.
Below is a step-by-step guide carefully curated to help you establish and protect your rights after an act of assault and battery:
1. Seek Immediate Safety
The number one priority following an incident of assault or battery is to seek safety. Depending on the context of the situation, this may require moving locations to a hospital, police station, or any other environment that removes you from a threat of harm.
2. Get Medical Care
If the assault or battery has led to an injury, seek medical attention right away. Even if you are unsure of the extent of your injury, seeking medical care is an important way to ensure that your condition doesn’t worsen. Small injuries, or blows to the head, can become more serious without prompt treatment by a medical professional.
3. Contact Police And File A Report
Before or after seeking medical care, you may also want to contact the police to file a report of the incident. If you’re in a state of still feeling very shaken or disoriented, hospital staff may be able to help you contact the appropriate authorities.
Filing a police report can be useful for proving fault later on in the event that you choose to file an assault and battery claim against the perpetrator.
4. Get In Touch With An Assault And Battery Attorney
One of the most important steps in determining and advocating for your rights following an act of assault or battery is getting in touch with an experienced assault and battery attorney. An attorney can help you determine your legal options and provide efficient legal representation on your behalf as you consider your next steps.
Experiences of assault and battery can be very overwhelming. This can make it difficult for a person to organize their thoughts as they consider the legal steps they can take against their perpetrator.
An attorney can help guide you through this process, with the benefit of expertise, compassion, and understanding on their side to give you space to focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
5. File An Assault And Battery Claim, If Desired
Not every person is immediately sure of what they want to do in the aftermath of a violent or otherwise threatening incident. Getting in touch with an attorney can offer you an informed perspective on your legal options. It’s up to you to determine whether you wish to file an assault and battery claim against the perpetrator to receive compensation for damages.
Common Causes Of Assault And Battery
The events that lead to assault and battery cases can vary according to personal circumstances and a victim’s relationship to the offender. In domestic disputes between relatives, partners, or spouses, for instance, the full picture of the incident may be layered and complex.
If the perpetrator is a stranger, such as a person you came across at a restaurant, sports game, or party—the events leading up to the instance of assault and battery may be less muddled, if nonetheless upsetting.
Common factors and causes seen in assault and battery claims include:
- personal disagreement
- domestic disputes
- strong feelings of anger
- drug or alcohol intoxication
- difficulty expressing frustration in a healthy and lawful way
- intention to harm, kill, or commit rape
Knowing When To File An Assault And Battery Claim
Determining when or if you have enough support to file an assault and battery claim can be a challenging task to face alone. If you’ve experienced verbal or physical violence at the hands of another person, you may be entitled to receive compensation for physical or psychological harm.
The most important element you have to prove in the event that you decide to file a claim is that you’ve suffered damages as a result of the harmful or offensive act.
Common damages involved in assault and battery cases include:
- personal injury
- emotional distress or trauma
- pain and suffering costs
- medical bills
- psychological counseling
- lost wages
Contacting an attorney who has experience in handling civil and criminal cases involving assault and battery is the best option available to help you determine your options.
Laws On Assault And Battery
United States laws concerning assault and battery charges can vary by state. While some states consider assault and battery to be two separate charges by definition, in other states they may be converged into a single type of criminal charge or claim.
Assault and battery can also be filed as either civil or criminal lawsuits, depending on the nature of the incident. Filing an incident as a civil or criminal charge can impact your responsibility for legal fees, criminal conviction requirements, recoverable damages, and the sentence received by the defendant.
One shared requirement for civil and criminal cases is proof that the offender was the direct cause of the assault or battery, and was not lawfully provoked—a distinction that is explained in greater detail below.
In some states, charges may be more serious for incidents that lead to severe or permanent injury, or meet the criteria for aggravated assault and battery. This typically involves serious threats of harm and may involve the use or threat of a deadly weapon.
Statute Of Limitations On Assault And Battery Claims
The statute of limitations in an assault and battery case refers to the deadline a victim has for beginning the process of filing a claim or lawsuit. This deadline can vary by state.
In Florida, for instance, the statute of limitations for assault and battery claims is four years. However, this may not apply to individuals in all states nationwide.
Factors That Affect Assault And Battery Claims
Not every instance of violence or threatening behavior can necessarily lead to a charge of assault and battery. There are certain situational factors that can impact the likely success of a claim or lawsuit and affect how your case is perceived under your state’s laws.
If Consent Was Involved
There are some settings in which assault or physical contact can be reasonably deemed consensual, by nature of context. For instance, if you are walking through a large crowd of people and get bumped around, this is not by itself going to make for a reasonable case of assault or battery.
Another example of implied consent may be a situation where you are playing a contact sport, and can thus reasonably expect the possibility of being on the receiving end of physical contact, either by a person or object.
If The Person Had Privilege To Commit Assault
There are select persons that can be exempt from facing consequences for battery, under the right circumstances. A prominent example is police officers, who may deem it necessary in appropriate situations to use force to place a person under arrest for a suspected crime.
Whether The Assault Was Self-Defense
Individuals who commit assault as an act of self-defense are unlikely to be charged for their actions. This is applicable under circumstances where the defendant committed an act of assault to protect themselves against an initial assault committed by the plaintiff. This defense can also apply in situations where a person uses reasonable force to protect another person under threat.
Denial Of Elements
All necessary elements listed as definitions of assault and battery must be met in order for a defendant to be legally charged. If a defendant is able to disprove or deny one or more elements, the charge or claim filed against them will likely fail.
List Of Assault And Battery Attorneys Serving The U.S.
Understanding your legal options after assault or battery and pursuing legal recourse can be best facilitated under the guidance of an experienced attorney.
The attorneys of Florin|Roebig have been providing crucial legal representation for clients in various areas of personal injury law—including assault and battery claims— for decades. With offices in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado, our attorneys are capable of serving clients in several locations across the country.
Our team of highly accomplished assault and battery attorneys includes:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Michael L. Walker, B.C.S.
- Chase P. Florin, B.C.S.
- Neil P. O’Brien, M.B.A.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Luca G. Esposito
- Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M.
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Josh T. Walker
- Jordan A. Kolinski
- Catherine J. Sams
- Parker Y. Florin, LL.M.
- Taylor D. Roebig
- Kavon P. Smith
- Matthew L. McMullen
- Francisco O. Garcia
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
Reach Out For Help With Filing An Assault And Battery Claim
If you or a loved one has been assaulted or become a victim of battery, you don’t have to suffer alone. The attorneys of Florin|Roebig can offer you a free case evaluation to identify your legal options and help you seek compensation for physical, psychological, and financial damages suffered as a result of your incident.
Our attorneys understand how difficult it can be to reach out for help. Our knowledge, resources, and skills in assault and battery law have prepared us to represent clients from a wide range of backgrounds and have informed our ability to work with plaintiffs each step of the way.
Contact the offices of Florin|Roebig today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced assault and battery law attorneys.