Understanding Assault & Battery

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Assault and battery are separate offenses in the context of tort law. Assault means an act which creates fear of an imminent attack, while battery is the attack itself, or wrongful touching. Most of the time personal injury claims would come from instances of battery, but even if there’s no physical injury incurred, or if there’s indirect wrongful touching, assault can be charged against the defendant in a personal injury claim. This article aims to explain the law of assault and battery, although tort and criminal laws in any jurisdiction may apply differently for both offenses.An assault is more described as “apprehension of imminent contact”, in which the plaintiff, or the “target” is aware of any clear and present danger or threat of forcible bodily injury by another person. There are three elements which constitutes an assault – 1.) the act must be intentional; 2.) the situation must create a well-founded fear to the plaintiff; and 3.) the defendant is apparently capable of carrying out the attack. As long as these three elements are present, a plaintiff may charge his/her assailant for assault, even if the plaintiff did not sustain an injury or any physical contact with the assailant.On the other hand, battery is the willful or intentional wrongful contact of a person against another. It could be done thru bodily contact, or done by using another object hurled or thrown against the other. For an act to qualify as battery, the contact must be either harmful or offensive, and the act has been completed or consummated.How can a plaintiff charge somebody for either assault or battery? According to tort laws, the plaintiff should not give consent to the defendant’s act. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. There are situations when a harmful physical contact can be anticipated, such as sports, or acts of self-defense, whenever reasonable force is necessary to protect one’s self from bodily harm. Other circumstances that may give exception to this rule would be where people are given “privilege” to apply threat or force in order to bring an effect to discipline, such as lawful arrest by the police, defense of property, parents spanking their children, or defense of property. A plaintiff though cannot charge assault or battery based on verbal provocation, no matter how insulting or offensive the words that were used.This article is not intended to be all-comprehensive regarding laws about assault and battery. As already said earlier, every jurisdiction has its own laws that will apply to both offenses. If you have a case of assault or battery, it’s advised to get legal consultation from a personal injury lawyer to see if it’s worth pursing a personal injury claim.