Self-defense in a tort is used as a justified legal defense to win a personal injury lawsuit.

What Is Self-Defense?

In criminal and tort law, it refers to a defendant’s right to use physical force to defend oneself from bodily harm. It is commonly referred to as a justifiable defense.

How Much Physical Force Can Be Used?

The amount of force used must be reasonable and match the plaintiff’s force. If the plaintiff threw a punch at the defendant, the defendant could block the plaintiff’s punch with a punch of their own.

What Is the Difference between Self-Defense and Excessive Force?

Excessive force is physical force that goes too far. In other words, it does not match the level of force the plaintiff threatened to use or actually used. An example of excessive force occurs when a plaintiff punches the defendant. The defendant then shoots the plaintiff in the stomach using a gun.

What Is Deadly Force Involving Self-Defense?

Deadly force involves using physical force that can or does cause death or serious bodily injury. It can only be used when a defendant is threatened with deadly force without any reasonable way to escape.

When Can a Defendant Claim Self-Defense?

A defendant can claim this defense when sued for battery or assault. It is also used in false imprisonment cases where a defendant was bound to a certain area without their consent by the plaintiff.

Could a Plaintiff Win a Tort Claim If Self-Defense Is Used?  

Yes, it is possible. Remember, every case is different. A defendant who attacked the plaintiff, exact revenge, or went beyond the level of the threat could lose the case. Also, a defendant who successfully defends themselves, but continues to use force against the plaintiff may also lose their case.


For example, a plaintiff punched the defendant. The defendant then punched the plaintiff back before they could land another punch. This is adequate self-defense. However, if the defendant continues punching the plaintiff without any continued threat from the plaintiff, self-defense is no longer a viable defense.

Should I Talk to an Attorney about Self-Defense?

If you are facing a tort action, you should talk to personal injury attorney about the defenses available to you.