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Bringing A Claim For Assault and Battery

Individuals who pursue personal injury claims typically do so to recover damages that stemmed from an accident. Assault and battery are both intentional torts, which means that each could serve as the basis for a civil claim where a plaintiff is looking to recover compensation for damages.  Assault and battery are also illegal actions and could result in jail time if the perpetrator is found guilty. Knowing what constitutes assault and what constitutes battery and how those apply to a potential personal injury claim will be necessary for a plaintiff to understand.

In the context of a personal injury, claim assault is typically defined as an intentional act that caused the victim to expect that they were about to be injured or touched in a harmful way by the offender.  In North Carolina, when someone threatens to cause or actually causes injury to another person, an assault has occurred. When the reasonable fear of imminent harm is present, that is all that is required for assault to be present. When an assault occurs, there is no physical contact. An individual pointing a weapon and threatening a store clerk, or someone with a cocked fist threatening to punch someone is all that is required for assault to be present, when there is actual physical contact between an offender and a victim that would be classified as battery.

Battery is an offensive touching of an individual without the consent of that individual. It is important to note that North Carolina has merged assault and battery together, while many states regard them as separate offenses. Battery can fit into three classifications. It can be direct and immediate, meaning one individual punches another, for example. Battery can be indirect and immediate, meaning one individual throws a rock that hits another individual. Finally, battery can be indirect and remote; this occurs when someone sets a trap that a victim falls into some time later.  It is essential to take note that the victim does not actually have to sustain injuries for battery to be present under civil law.

North Carolina has a further classification in the assault, and battery category referred to as affray. Affray is defined as a fight between two or more people in a public place likely to frighten others. Victims who are not involved in the fight could suffer from mental and physiological damage as a result of their proximity to the events.

An individual who commits assault and battery could be subject to criminal charges that are brought forth by the government and could be subject to a civil trial which is brought forth by the plaintiff who was affected by the actions of the defendant.

The civil proceedings will only be successful if the defendant does not have a valid reason for their conduct. There are several common defenses to a personal injury lawsuit where assault and battery are alleged. The defendant could claim there was consent from the plaintiff. A defendant who claims consent is making the argument that the defendant agreed to the possibility of being hurt. A defense of consent is most often seen when there is a dispute over injuries sustained in contact sports. It would be difficult for plaintiffs to be victorious in their case if they agreed to the contact such as in a tackle football game, or while playing paintball for example. A defendant may also claim that they have a defense of privilege. If a plaintiff sustains injuries during an arrest, a police officer might argue that they had the privilege to make physical contact. Privilege cases are contingent on the defendant behaving with a reasonable and appropriate amount of physical force regardless of the privilege they may have. Finally, a defendant might claim they were acting in self-defense or defense of others. The required prerequisite is again that the defendant behaved in a manner that was appropriate considering the threat posed to them.

If a defendant does not have a valid reason or is unable to provide an adequate defense, the plaintiff would be entitled to damages in a civil matter. Civil cases involving assault and battery can run the gamut of seriousness, and be complex because, with assault, no physical contact is required. The burden of proof is lower in civil proceeding when it comes to assault and battery because the plaintiff does not have the requirement of proving the violation of a specific criminal statute. The victim does have rights to recover damages in the form of nominal damages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

Nominal damages are a minimal sum give to a plaintiff when an assault is proven, but there is no actual harm such as lacerations or broken bones. When an assault occurs, there is an apprehension of harm present, and when apprehension of harm is present, it assumes some harm. A plaintiff who is awarded nominal damages fulfills an important requirement of finding a defendant responsible for some harm. Finding a defendant responsible opens the door for a defendant being found liable for punitive damages. Compensatory damages can also be recovered by the plaintiff and are designed to make the plaintiff whole. Compensatory damages much in the same way as other personal injury claims are broken up into general damages and special damages. General damages for assault can be pain and suffering or any other mental distress that resulted from the assault. The plaintiff is not required to make a special request for general damages as the amount awarded is determined by the jury. Special damages, on the other hand, help to compensate for the more specific damages that may have occurred. Special damages must be specially requested by the plaintiff and proved in some manner. A plaintiff may need to seek psychiatric treatment because of the incident and recovering the expense of that treatment would be done through a special damages request.

A plaintiff will either need to prove nominal or compensatory damages in order to collect punitive damages in a civil matter. Punitive damages are, only available when a defendant intentionally and maliciously caused harm to the plaintiff. Punitive damages are in place to punish the defendant for their actions as well as to set an example so to deter from similar conduct. The jury will consider all the facts proven in the case and then award punitive damages relative to the assets of the defendant.

Assault and battery is a criminal matter that can spill over into civil court when a plaintiff is seeking compensation for the damages. The plaintiff will need to prove that they suffered directly because of the events that transpired and that the defendant should have to compensate them in some way because of that.  

If you or a loved one was injured in an assault please contact us.  You will speak with an injury lawyer who can best answer your questions and provide options.   There is no fee for the initial consultation.

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