Assault is generally defined as an intentional act that makes another person apprehensive or fearful that an imminent harmful or offensive conduct will occur.
In some cases, assault can be a crime; however, assault can also be seen as a tort which exposes you to civil liability. The difference between a criminal assault and a civil assault in tort is that for the crime of assault, the victim does not need to have an awareness of contact.
A criminal assault occurs if the defendant intends to injure the plaintiff, and has the perceived ability to do so. If you are sued for civil assault, a court must prove certain elements for you to be found liable for civil assault.
In addition, there may be defenses against the claim of civil assault. Potential penalties could result in damages being ordered to the plaintiff (the person suing you) for your actions.
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What Are The Elements Of Civil Assault?
There are four elements that must be met in order to establish civil assault. The elements are:
- An intentional act;
- That made the plaintiff apprehensive of a harmful or offensive conduct;
- That was done without lawful justification; and
- Caused injury or apprehension of injury.
Typically, if any of these elements are missing, then there may be no case for civil assault.
What Are The Defenses For Civil Assault?
There are several defenses that may be available to you if you are sued for civil assault. If the elements of civil assault are met to establish a claim of civil assault against you, there are certain defenses that can be raised in a civil assault case. These defenses include:
Consent. Consent is one possible defense to a charge of civil assault. In order to succeed with this defense, you must show that the plaintiff consented to the contact. This consent must be voluntary and not the result of coercion or duress.
The consent must also be specific to the alleged act of assault. If the plaintiff consented to one type of contact, but the defendant performed a different type of contact, then the defense will likely fail.
Self Defense. Self-defense is one of the most commonly asserted defenses in cases of civil assault. It has long been established that self defense is a privilege, meaning that anyone is privileged to use reasonable force to defend themself.
In order to raise this defense, you must show that you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of being subjected to unlawful force. In other words, to successfully argue self-defense, you must show that you had a reasonable belief that you were in danger of being harmed or killed.
You must also show that the use of force was necessary to defend yourself and that the force used was proportional to the threat faced. This means that, in order to use this defense, you must also use no more force than was necessary to protect yourself from the danger.
Defense of Others. Another common defense to a civil assault claim is defense of others. This defense applies when you use force to protect someone else from being assaulted. In order to use this defense, you must show that you had a reasonable belief that the person was in danger of being harmed or killed and that the use of force was necessary to defend them.
In order to successfully use this defense, you generally must show the following elements:
a) an attack on another person;
b) that placed that other person in imminent danger of unlawful force.
In addition, you must show that your intervention was necessary and that your self-defense satisfies the elements for self-defense given above. Again, if you can establish these elements, there is a likelihood that you may be successful in your defense against civil assault.
Defense of Property. Different definitions exist for different jurisdictions, but generally, the term “defense of property” refers to any type of force used to defend one’s person (including one’s home) against attack. One may not use more force than necessary in defending his or her person and property from a criminal assault.
However, the line distinguishing self-defense from possibly being harmed or killed can depend on the state of mind of the victim at the time of the assault.
It can be hard to tell whether a homeowner was acting too aggressively when defending their home from burglars, but most courts have agreed that the privilege to defend property is limited to the use of reasonable force necessary as it appeared to the defendant at the time.
Necessity. Necessity is another possible defense against a charge of civil assault. This defense will only work if the actions taken by the defendant were the result of an emergency which posed an immediate threat to life or physical safety and created a necessity to take some action to avoid harm. Even though there may have been no way out without committing what would appear to be an assault, the defendant must show that their actions were necessary and emergency-based.
What Are The Penalties for Civil Assault?
While there are differences between criminal assault and civil assault, depending on the jurisdiction, a defendant could be subject to either criminal prosecution or civil damages or both.
If found liable for civil assault, you could be ordered to pay damages for your actions. The amount of damages awarded will depend on the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and other factors.
If it can be proven that the elements of civil assault are satisfied and no defense is raised or the elements to your defenses are not met, then you may be required to pay restitution to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries or any expenses resulting from the assault.
If you are found liable for civil assault, you may be ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff for your actions. This differs from criminal assault in that if you are convicted of criminal assault, you may also face penalties, such as jail time or fines.
A civil assault can result in a lawsuit, but it does not result in a criminal record. Furthermore, in a civil suit for assault, punitive damages could be awarded as well if it is shown that your conduct was reckless or malicious.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Civil Assault Case?
If you have been the victim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, then you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on your rights and help you to pursue a claim against the person who caused your injuries.
A successful claim for civil assault can provide you with financial compensation for the damages that you have suffered. This can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other losses that you incurred as a result of the defendant’s actions.
On the other hand, if you are faced with a civil assault claim, it is important to speak with an attorney who can advise you on the best course of action.
An attorney can help you identify any potential defenses to the claim and can represent you in court if necessary. Contact a local attorney today to schedule a consultation.