In Florida, as well as other states, assault and battery are separate and distinct actions, though popular perception often links them together. Further contributing to confusion amongst laypeople is the fact that circumstances involving assault and/or battery may form the basis for a civil personal injury claim and not just a criminal prosecution.
To put it in simpler terms: if you have been subjected to assault and/or battery, you may be able to sue the offender in civil court in order to recover damages for the injuries you suffered.
If there is a criminal prosecution related to the assault and/or battery at-issue, the criminal case will not affect your potential civil lawsuit. Many victims worry that the burden of proof will be stricter for their civil lawsuit, or that the outcome of the criminal case will affect their civil lawsuit. Again, it is worth reiterating that the criminal case will not influence the civil lawsuit in any manner.
If you do want to pursue a civil lawsuit for assault and/or battery, you will have to shoulder the responsibility of pursuing such litigation without the benefit of outside intervention. Before the statute of limitations deadline, make sure to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can properly assess your claims and file the lawsuit.
In Florida, assault and battery are governed by Florida Statutes sections 784.011 and 784.03, respectively.
Assault requires that the plaintiff feel threatened by impending harmful contact. The defendant must have demonstrated a reasonably clear intent to threaten or imminently hurt the plaintiff – this can be shown by evidence of verbal/gestural threats, and other circumstantial evidence. Assault does not require actual contact.
More simply, assault can perhaps be characterized as “attempted battery.”
Battery requires that the defendant intentionally caused harmful or offensive contact. Physical contact is required, but direct contact is not. For example, if a defendant smacks you with a stick, that would likely be considered battery, despite the fact that the defendant used an object to make contact. If an object that serves as an extension of the body is involved, then contact with said object will be enough to satisfy the physical contact requirement.
Battery must be intentional. If a defendant accidentally trips and falls on you, causing injuries, they cannot be held liable for battery as the contact was not intended.
More simply, battery can perhaps be characterized as “completed assault.”
Assault and battery claims are not always worth pursuing. Assault and battery claims in which only minor injuries were sustained – or no injuries at all (as in cases involving “offensive” touching or threat of harm) – are likely to result in insignificant damage awards. If you have sustained serious injuries, then you should consult with a personal injury attorney who can work with you to assess the potential of your claims.
If you or someone you love has been injured as the result of someone else’s wrongful acts or omissions, seek legal guidance from a skilled South Florida personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs.