Assault is one of the most severe crimes out there. When one person brings physical harm upon someone else, it is a despicable act. However, even if you have been wrongly assaulted, there are limits to the kinds of legal actions you can take against your assailant.
For the most part, you should find it reasonably simple to sue for assault charges, but there will always be outliers where it is not an option. Therefore, knowing the details of how and when you can seek legal action against your assaulter is crucial to your success.
The legal world is rife with details and clauses that can be difficult for non-professionals to navigate. We hope to provide you with the details you need to know about when you can and cannot sue for assault with this article. So let’s begin.
Can You Sue Someone for Assault?
Yes, you can sue someone for assault with the intent to win financial damages in court because the act of assault can be both a crime and a civil tort. When someone does a civil tort such as assault, they do civil wrongdoing. This is not the same as a criminal wrong.
For example, suppose someone physically assaults another person. In that case, the perpetrator who did the assault can be arrested and face criminal charges such as assault and battery.
Even if they are found not guilty of a crime, the person they assaulted can also sue them for assault in a civil lawsuit for the financial damages they sustained.
What is Civil Assault?
The first distinction you should make is breaking down assault cases into two different categories. To start, we will discuss civil assaults.
Civil assaults are classified as intentional torts in the letter of the law. While most torts are born of negligence and do not take the tortfeasor’s intent into account, a deliberate tort involves the tortfeasor actively attempting to bring harm to their victim.
Essentially, what distinguishes a civil assault claim from a personal injury claim is that the aggressor was actively trying to harm or intimidate you rather than doing so purely out of ignorance or inattention.
For example, imagine you at your local market doing some grocery shopping before dinner. You are perusing the shelves for a favorite item, and another shopper is coming down the aisle towards you. Let us also assume that you are just slightly in their way, just enough to prevent them from carrying on through the aisle without you moving.
If, instead of drawing your attention to the issue, they proceed to strike you with their cart intentionally, they have committed civil assault. This example is the start of what permits you to sue for assault or not.
If the person who struck you did so intentionally, it could be pursued as an assault case, especially if you suffered a severe enough injury. For example, say the blow caused you to strike your head against something and caused a head wound. The intent is what allows you to consider it an assault claim.
Essentially, a civil assault consists of any intentional, violent action that causes you to feel apprehension and physical harm. You do not even need to be fully struck for it to be considered a civil assault. However, things are very different if the blow was accidental or negligent.
Let us transition from our grocery store metaphor to one involving motor vehicles. Let us start by assuming that you took a parking spot that another driver had hoped to claim for themselves. They intentionally attempt to strike you with their vehicle in response to losing the parking area.
This type of car accident could easily be constituted as assault, and you would be permitted to pursue a legal assault claim against the driver who performed this intimidation attempt for punitive damages.
However, suppose the other driver did this without seeing you were there and struck you with intent. In that case, it becomes a much different story that turns it from an assault claim to a personal injury claim for your medical bills, injuries, and even emotional distress.
The difference between an intentional act and an accidental injury means that you obviously cannot pursue an assault claim in a court of law against this person.
If you’ve suffered from physical injuries and were the victim of an assault, we recommend speaking with a personal injury attorney for an attorney-client relationship and individualized legal advice.
We have only discussed civil assaults; another form of assault can yield more severe consequences.
What is Criminal Assault?
While being a victim of civil assault is an awful experience, criminal assaults take it further. Criminal assault involves everything detailed in a civil assault, except there is almost always physical contact and the assaulter violated the law in doing so.
Now, the fact is that most assaults can be qualified as criminal assaults since most states have laws against such things.
Specifically, any state with an existing law prohibiting anyone from striking another citizen in a specific way or with a particular item would turn it into a criminal assault. So, it might be simpler to say that criminal assault is when you sustain a severe injury.
While criminal assault is more severe than civil assault, it also brings more severe qualifiers. Because criminal assault brings harsh punishments for the aggressor if they are found guilty, there is a more significant burden of proof to get a successful criminal claim filed.
Additionally, there needs to be proof connecting the assault to the violation of a criminal statute that prohibits the specific actions taken to render harm unto someone. Evidence of criminal assault could include photos, videos, witnesses, and a police report.
In criminal assault cases and battery cases, you can not file the charges yourself, as it would be the filing by a prosecuting attorney alleging a crime was committed. However, you might be able to file a criminal complaint against the person who assaulted you. It acts as a petition to the district attorney asking them to bring charges against your attacker.
If you are ever being accused of assault or have charges brought against you, you should speak to a criminal law attorney and law firm who can help you understand any criminal charges and decide how to best protect yourself in a potential assault lawsuit.
Double Jeopardy is Inapplicable
For those of you who might not be aware, there is a term in the legal world known as “double jeopardy.” While the name of this law was inspired by the television program Jeopardy, it is nowhere near as pleasant.
Double jeopardy laws typically prohibit anyone from being tried twice for the same crime if they are acquitted the first time around. However, there are some special allowances for filing an assault claim.
Civil and criminal assault charges can be brought up as different measures against the aggressor. The former is to seek out remuneration for the damages caused by the assault, while the latter results in possible jail time and other consequences.
However, one does not prevent the other from being filed.
The same exemption from double Jeopardy is fully applicable to the assault you have suffered. A highly famous example of this involved Pro Football Hall of Fame player O.J. Simpson’s controversial acquittal for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. While O.J. Simpson was acquitted for the criminal case, the civil case proceeded and was won without issue.
Suppose the aggressor who struck you is not successfully convicted of criminal assault. In that case, you are entirely able to seek out a civil or personal injury case against them with a personal injury lawyer.
This action serves as an excellent example of a time you could sue for assault regardless of other legal proceedings the aggressor is enduring.
Once again, let us return to the road rage example we previously provided. After the driver strikes you with their vehicle, you file a civil claim for damages and pain and suffering. However, since the law actively prohibits striking other citizens with motor vehicles, they can also be taken to court for criminal assault charges.
Therefore, you can pursue both cases to the fullest extent since you have damages, and the aggressor committed a crime by violating a statute of the law.
Can Self-Defense Affect Assault Claims?
Yes, one significant distinction that needs to be made is between self-defense and assault.
Assault involves an unsolicited or unjustified form of physical aggression from another person or persons. When assaulted, you have every right to seek justice against the person responsible for your injuries and trauma.
However, those rights can go right out the window depending on the incident’s circumstances.
Just as everyone has a right to sue for assault, everyone has the right to defend themselves against an aggressor. As the name implies, self-defense is taking physical action against an aggressor to minimize the harm that comes to you and repel the attacker entirely.
Unfortunately, however, sometimes self-defense action leaves the aggressor in worse condition than they might have even left you in.
While self-defense is a reasonable action to take when someone engages in violent physical activity against you, there is a rule of reasonable force. This loops back to the civil and criminal case distinction as well. While you can defend yourself against an aggressor, you might wind up being sued yourself if you take it further than a reasonable person would.
Let us say that the person attempting to strike you with their vehicle is still coming toward you when your fight or flight instincts kick in. In response, you draw a concealed firearm and shoot them through the windshield to stop its progression.
Not only have you employed deadly force, but you have also done so publicly and made use of imperfect self-defense. Imperfect self-defense involves using lethal force against an aggressor who might not have used enough force to justify it.
For example, suppose that it was found that the driver lost consciousness due to a medical condition and veered towards the sidewalk. In that case, you may not have enough evidence that you were justified in using a firearm for self-defense or that you were faced with immediate harm.
Also, if you provoked the aggressor into using force in the first place, imperfect self-defense and self-defense, in general, might not be applicable since you escalated the incident.
As our auto accident example illustrates, self-defense claims can greatly complicate these cases. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the extent of the bodily harm, witness testimonies, and the evidence at hand.
How to Win a Civil Assault Case?
Lawsuits filed for assault charges require a great deal of supporting evidence to ensure that you can prove the aggressor harmed you. When filing a civil claim, this is important to make sure you are appropriately compensated for the damages incurred by the incident.
However, to successfully file and win your assault claim, you need to consider what resources you must draw on to adequately prove your aggressor’s fault. Witnesses are among the chief resources you need for the claim since people who observed the incident can corroborate the events before a jury.
You can also collect evidence and record the conflict before violence breaks out. Look on the internet, and you will see countless YouTube videos or Facebook streams of people filming a confrontation as it became more heated until the person being recorded finally comes to blows.
We know this will not always be an option depending on how quickly things escalate, but recording conflicts can remove any doubt about how the assault occurred.
Another way to secure a victory for a civil claim is for the criminal case to convict your assailant successfully. Once the criminal side is secured in the court record, it becomes much simpler for a lawsuit to play out in your favor in civil court.
However, there is one other consideration that needs to be made. While a personal injury lawsuit will help you recover economic and non-economic damages from the assault, like mental damages, you need to consider the financial burden and the time it takes for cases to run their course.
The costs not related to those of your legal representation and filing a claim are not negligible and can be prohibitive for those with financial issues. Still, the unfortunate reality is that you can win a civil suit, and not there not be any trial award monies to collect.
So you keep that in mind when you are dealing with personal injury law and the absence of an insurance company to accept liability.
Civil Damages: Assault Lawsuit Settlements
Assault is a serious occurrence that is worthy of legal consideration. For the most part, you will find that you have every right to sue assault with only a select few exceptions.
Types of Damages for Assault Cases:
- Psychological counseling
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress or trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Medical or hospital bills
- Scarring on body
- Damage to clothes
- Pain and suffering
When seeking compensation for the injuries and damages you sustained, it becomes little more than a matter of proving that the aggressor attacked you unprovoked and caused your injuries.
One of the most interesting components is that criminal assault cases do not impede your efforts to seek restitution since civil law is a separate matter.
We know that filing a civil assault claim against a company or person is an arduous endeavor that can leave you struggling. This process can be even more complicated when compounded with the daily costs of living and coping with any medical care you have been forced to seek out.
With all of these expenses piling on top of each other, we understand how you can feel like you are drowning in a sea of costs. Fortunately, there might be a solution to your financial worries so you can focus on healing and your assault legal case.
We at Express Legal Funding have experience in providing our pre-settlement funding service to plaintiffs involved in assault and battery cases so they could use it to pay for essentials like rent, power, and unexpected medical costs. The cash advance on your assault claim is in exchange for the small portion of your settlement or case award when the civil lawsuit wraps up.
So the best part is that you are only obligated to ensure repayment if you settle or win your claim. If you go to court and lose, you get to keep the funds advanced to you on your civil lawsuit—risk-free funding. Call us today for a free consultation and to see if pre-settlement funding is the right choice for you.
About the Author
Aaron R. Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, he has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. Aaron's "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron has a scholarly approach to business. In early 2022, Aaron Winston gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's work has been granted copyright protection by the United States Copyright Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and company growth case study (2022).