Civil Assault and Battery Lawsuits FAQs

Q: What is an assault?

A: An assault occurs when one person intentionally causes a reasonable apprehension of imminent and harmful contact in another person. In other words, an assault happens when one person intentionally frightens someone else through their words or actions. For example, an assault has likely occurred if while Paul was crossing the street, Dave sped up his car, drove directly at Paul, and only swerved to avoid him at the last minute. It is important to note that the assailant does not actually have to physically touch the plaintiff during an assault, rather, the plaintiff only has to have been reasonably afraid of imminent and harmful contact.

Q: What is a battery?

A: It is helpful to think of a battery as a completed assault; an assault takes place when someone intentionally causes a reasonable apprehension of imminent and harmful contact in another person, but if that feared contact actually takes place, then the assailant has committed a battery. In other words, a battery occurs when Person A intentionally touches Person B in a harmful or offensive way. For example, if Paul intentionally throws a rock that hits Dave in the head, then Paul has committed a battery.

Q: Why are the terms “assault” and “battery” often mentioned together?

A: The terms assault and battery are often mentioned together because they frequently stem from one event, although that is not always the case. For example, consider a bar fight in which Person A intentionally throws a beer bottle at Person B under each of the following three circumstances:

  • Assault: Person B sees a bottle flying through the air, fears that the bottle will collide with his face, and avoids being hit by ducking out of the way just in time. In this hypothetical situation, an assault has likely occurred because Person B reasonably feared an imminent and harmful contact.

  • Assault and Battery: Person B sees the bottle flying through the air, fears that the bottle will collide with his face, and gets hit by the bottle because he is not able to duck out of the way in time. Here, a court would likely find that both an assault and a battery occurred because Person B reasonably feared an imminent and harmful contact (assault) and a harmful or offensive contact occurred (battery).

  • Battery: Person B does not notice the bottle flying towards him, and therefore does not fear an imminent and harmful contact, and then gets struck by the bottle. In this hypothetical situation, only a battery has likely occurred because Person A intentionally touched Person B in a harmful way.

Q: What is the difference between a civil case and a criminal case?

A: It is important to note that assaults and batteries can generally be brought in criminal court, in civil court, or in both. In a criminal case the prosecutor will file criminal assault and/or battery charges against the defendant, while in a civil case the victim files a personal injury lawsuit against an attacker in order to recover compensation for the damage that they suffered. Therefore, even if the government has already filed a criminal assault and battery case on your behalf, you likely also have the option of filing your own assault and battery personal injury lawsuit in civil court.

Need Legal Advice?

Interested in filing a civil assault and battery lawsuit in Georgia? If so, the Angell Law Firm, LLC is here to help. Experienced personal injury lawyer Bryce Angell would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free no obligation consultation. Contact our Atlanta office today at (770) 217-4954.