When people hear the term “assault” they usually think of the crime. However, assault can also be a civil action. In a civil case, an assault refers to an attempt or threat of violence – not necessarily actual violence itself. If someone is assaulted they can sue to recover monetary damages.
Assault vs. Battery
Most people think of “assault” as referring to a violent attack. Violence, or at least some sort of physical contact, is generally implied in the term. However, while state laws sometimes differ, assault generally doesn't require that physical contact actually occurred. Assault is an intentional tort is Maryland, which is different from negligence cases. Assault is defined as an intentional attempt or threat to inflict bodily harm upon a person, coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, which creates a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact in another.
In a civil case, assault does not require actual touching or violence to the victim. If someone is actually harmed, or touched, physically, it is referred to as a “battery.” You may have heard the term “assault and battery.” This refers to situation where both an assault (attempting to injure or threatening to injure) and a battery (actually touching someone) occur in the same incident. Often the assault occurs immediately after the battery.
Filing a Lawsuit for Assault
Separate from any criminal prosecution for assault, a victim may sue for monetary damages in civil court. After a determination by the court that an assault was committed, the next step is to determine what compensation is appropriate.
Three types of damages may be awarded. Compensatory damages, such as medical expenses, are meant to compensate for the actual injury. Nominal damages are a small sum. Nominal damages are awarded in cases where no actual injury has resulted, or where an injury occurred, but the amount has not been established. Finally, punitive damages may sometimes be awarded. Punitive damages may be awarded in particularly egregious circumstances, as a way to further punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages go above and beyond compensatory damages.
Assault can range from the threat of violence (causing apprehension or fear of harm), to unwanted touching (such as groping), to an act of violence. Regardless of the circumstances, you have the right to seek compensation for any injuries -- physical and/or emotional -- that result from an assault. Have an attorney review your assault claim today, at absolutely no charge.