Is Assault A Criminal Or Civil Complaint?

If someone assaults you, the first thing you do is call the police, but should you call a lawyer too? Assault and battery is most definitely a criminal offense, explains the University of California. It is against the law to act violently against a person or property. In some states, like California, it is also a civil rights violation. The key is to know when a lawsuit of this type has a chance of success in civil court.

What is Assault?

The legal system defines assault as an intentional act designed to cause fear, according to Nolo. Just being afraid of someone is not enough. That person must actually do something to cause you fear. If someone throws a bottle in your direction, it doesn't matter if it hits you or not. The mere action is enough to make you think you are going to get hurt. 

Assault does not include taunting or making threats, however. Some verbal threats are chargeable, but under a different category. They are not assault.

Battery is when the bottle actually strikes you. A person who lobes a bottle in your direction and hits you with it commits assault and battery. Assault is often used as an umbrella term to describe battery, as well.

Can You Sue Someone for Assault?

A lawyer will tell you the simple answer is yes. You can sue someone for assaulting you, but only if there are measurable damages. A person throwing a bottle in your direction isn't really hurting you. There is no physical damage caused by the bottle. If you just walk away unscathed, you may not have a strong enough case to sue.

If that bottle hits you and you are injured, a personal injury lawyer can argue your case in a civil court. The damage is measurable, because there are:

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of earnings
  • Possibly property damage

If the assault costs you money, then you might have a civil case.

What about Pain and Suffering?

Not all damage is physical and the courts may take that into consideration. Legal Match explains that pain and suffering refers to both mental and physical injuries. If the bottle thrown in your direction makes you too afraid to leave your house, it has had a mental impact on you. Things that fall under the pain and suffering category include:

  • Body aches
  • Depression and emotional trauma
  • Grief from loss of a loved one
  • Limitation of personal activities

How Do You Prove Damages in Court? 

Damages from assault can be difficult to prove. As with any tort, you must be able to show the damages are a direct result of the assault. That is where having a personal injury lawyer is crucial. An attorney will examine your case and tell you what the court will want as proof of damages.

  • Economic damage – Proof of lost wages or expenses incurred
  • Non-economic damage – This would be pain and suffering, which is harder to quantify
  • Punitive damage – Punitive damages are designed to punish like a fine you pay when you get a ticket. A lawyer may ask for punitive damages if the assault was egregious, but there is no proof available to support the request

There is no hard and fast rules – that is why you hire a lawyer to help you make the decision about whether you can sue or not.

If you are the victim of assault, it is possible you might recoup some of your losses for physical, mental and property damage in civil court. Contact a personal injury attorney first to find out what you need to prove your case.