Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are not always associated with personal injury cases. However, these infractions can be charged in civil court. Although the definitions of assault and battery vary slightly from state to state, there are commonalities that link the charges regardless of jurisdiction. Although they are often grouped together, assault and battery may or may not occur simultaneously; rather, assault and battery can occur independently of one another.


Assault is generally defined as an action of threat from one person toward another. When an action has been committed against an individual that makes them think they will be harmed or touched in a way that is harmful, this is known as assault. Many states use the plaintiff having a fear of impending harm as the threshold by which to try assault.

Common examples of assault include one party raising a fist to another and threatening to strike, or one party wielding a fake weapon that looks real at the other party. In both instances, the person on the receiving end of the threats (the plaintiff) has reason to believe that he will be harmed. Thus, the other party’s actions can be deemed assault. It is not necessary for anyone to be touched for assault to take place. Assault occurs as a result of a threat.


Battery is often defined one person making intentional, harmful contact with another. This contact can be direct (such as a push or punch) or indirect (throwing something that hits the victim) and may happen immediately or remotely, as in the case of a trap. Although the connotations of the term might suggest otherwise, harm or injury do not need to occur for battery to have taken place. Rather, any contact that is intentional and inappropriate can be deemed battery.

Defense and Damages: Should You File a Suit?

If the plaintiff’s behavior played any role in the assault and battery, filing a lawsuit may be moot. The defendant may argue that the plaintiff put himself or herself in a position to be harmed by agreeing to engage in a contact sport. Similarly, the defendant might claim that he was acting in self-defense against the plaintiff’s violent or threatening behavior.

Because instances of assault and battery do not necessarily result in physical harm (there is no physical contact in an assault and battery may be indirect), establishing damages in a personal injury lawsuit can be complicated. If there are no medical bills or monetary restitutions that can be made, it may not be prudent to file a lawsuit. However, if the assault and battery resulted in an injury that required medical attention or hospitalization, it may be in the victim’s best interest to file a lawsuit to seek damages for the medical expenses that were incurred as a result of the injury.