Experiencing assault and battery in any form is, without a doubt, a terrifying experience. There is sure to be a lasting impact on the victim, whether through physical injuries, mental and emotional damage, or a combination of both. These types of violent incidents are unfortunately all too common; in fact, data from the Philadelphia police department shows that there were more than 300 aggravated assaults reported in the last two weeks of 2021 alone. If you have experienced something like this, we are deeply sorry, and we are here to protect your rights and fight for the financial compensation to which you may be entitled.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we stand with all assault and battery victims. Pursuing a personal injury case in regards to assault can be a lengthy and taxing process, so let us focus on the legal battle while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery. Contact an experienced assault and battery lawyer at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today to schedule a free initial consultation.
What is Assault & Battery?
What exactly is assault and battery? The two terms often go hand in hand, but do have distinct nuances. Generally speaking, assault refers to a criminal act in which one person may inflict, or causes the fear of inflicting, physical harm on another. In the case of battery, one individual does inflict physical harm onto the other. In other words, an assault is a situation in which the victim is reasonably fearful of receiving a battery but may not actually experience physical injury or even physical contact, while battery by definition involves physical contact
Simple Assault Versus Aggravated Assault
In some states, “assault” and “battery” are defined separately under the law, belonging to their own statutes and carrying their own penalties. In Pennsylvania, however, they are combined in Chapter 27 of the Commonwealth code under the umbrellas of “simple assault” and “aggravated assault”. The difference between simple and aggravated assault in a criminal case is, generally, the severity of the bodily injury caused to the victim. Simple assault refers to cases where an individual attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. It also covers situations in which one person negligently causes bodily injury to another with a weapon, or causes another person to be fearful of bodily injury. In an aggravated assault, the perpetrator causes not just bodily injury, but “severe” bodily injury. This means that the perpetrator created a real risk of death for the victim, or caused permanent disfiguration or impairment.
Perpetrating an assault against certain individuals can also automatically upgrade the offense to an aggravated assault, even if the assault itself falls into the simple assault category. For instance, an attempt at bodily harm against a firefighter, any kind of law enforcement official, a judge, a teacher, and several other specific categories of personnel by nature considered aggravated assault.
Charges for Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault
In the state of Pennsylvania, a simple assault is a misdemeanor, while an aggravated assault is a felony. Simple assaults are generally considered second degree misdemeanors, but can range from first to third degree misdemeanors depending on the specifics of the case. For instance, if an adult perpetrates a simple assault against a child under the age of 12, it becomes first degree, and but if it occurs in a fight or scuffle that was entered into consensually, it becomes a third-degree misdemeanor. Aggravated assault can be considered a first or second degree felony depending on the specifics of the incident.
Civil Charges Versus Criminal Charges
A case of assault and battery can be pursued in both criminal court and civil court. Criminal court cases are prosecuted by the state, and the goal is to keep the general public safe from individuals that may cause harm. These cases are typically handled by a District Attorney.
A civil case, conversely, has a different goal. This is the aspect of your case that would be handled by your Munley assault and battery attorney. The goal of the civil court is generally to provide monetary damages, provided by the perpetrator, to the victim of a crime, and to reinstate the victim to the lifestyle and position they were in before the incident occurred. In a civil case, you as the victim would choose your own legal representation and make the decision to file a complaint.
Assault itself has slightly different definitions in regards to civil court and criminal court. In civil court, assault is an act that both intends to and succeeds in putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an immediate battery. Criminal court, on the other hand, is where the specific distinctions between simple assault and aggravated assault come into play.
It’s important to remember that a person cannot be involved in a criminal court case and a civil court case for the same incident at the same time. The criminal court case takes priority, even if the civil suit began first. This means that if you begin to pursue a personal injury case against someone for a case of assault, and then the state decides to pursue a criminal case against them for the same act, your personal injury case will be put on hold until the criminal case is concluded.
If you have been the victim of assault and battery, you will want to work with an experienced assault and battery lawyer who can defend you every step of the way. These laws can be complex, and the defendant and their legal team will often try to plead self defense even when that is not true. It’s in your best interest to hire a dedicated assault and battery attorney like those at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys as soon as possible after the incident.
In the context of a civil case, assault and battery are considered “intentional torts”. This means that they are caused by intentional acts rather than negligence. These intentional acts may be reckless or careless, but that is different from negligence. In a slip and fall accident case, for example, a person may be considered negligent if they were aware of a dangerous condition on their property and failed to fix it, causing someone to fall and sustain an injury.
In a case like that, the property owner is at fault, but there was no actual intent to cause harm. In an assault case, on the other hand, there is some degree of intent. Even if the perpetrator did not intend to cause serious injury, they were at least aware that that was a possible consequence of their direct actions.
Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages in an Assault and Battery Suit
As intentional torts, assault and battery cases in Pennsylvania can involve both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim for their pain and suffering and provide the opportunity for a return to normal life, while punitive damages are specifically intended to punish the assailant. Compensatory damages may cover things like the victim’s medical bills and lost wages, as well as providing compensation for their physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Reaching a Settlement Amount in an Assault and Battery Case
In most assault and battery cases (and in most personal injury cases), the primary goal is to reach a settlement that fairly and accurately accounts for all of the victim’s physical and mental or emotional suffering. In most cases, the absolute baseline for a settlement is to cover all medical expenses that occurred as a result of injuries related to the assault. Additional types of damages include:
- Lost wages
- Lost future wages.
- The impact of an assault and battery incident can be lifelong, and some victims may be permanently impaired. This compensation applies if your future earning capacity will likely be lowered as a result of injuries from the assault.
- Therapy or psychological counseling
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Anxiety or depression
- Prescription and/or over the counter medications
Determining how much your case may be worth is difficult as it absolutely depends on the specific details of your situation. Your Munley assault and battery lawyer will review your case in detail in order to come up with this number. Some additional factors that will determine the settlement amount include:
- The extent of your injuries
- The number of perpetrators
- Where the assault took place (if it was on property where an owner or manager could have stepped in to help but did not, they may be liable to pay additional damages)
- Your current income and expected future income
- The extent of your mental and emotional suffering after the incident
Talk to your Munley assault and battery lawyer today for a more accurate and specific sense of how much your case may be worth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Required to Prove My Case in a Civil Suit?
Most civil suits and personal injury cases settle long before a trial is needed. However, going to court is always a possibility when taking legal action. The good news is that your Munley assault and battery lawyer can defend you both throughout the settlement process and in a courtroom if the need should arise. All Munley attorneys have extensive hands-on trial experience and can protect you in both mediation and in a trial.
In the case that your civil suit does go to trial, the burden of proof is different than it would be for a criminal court. In a criminal court, the defendant must be proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In a civil court, however, the evidentiary standard is something called a “preponderance of evidence”. This means that the judge or jury needs to be only 51% convinced, or believe it “more likely than not”, that the defendant is liable for the assault.
You and your assault and battery defense lawyer will work together to compile substantial evidence in order to prove your case. In the case of battery, you will need to prove that the other party intended to come into contact with you, or acted in a reckless manner that caused unwanted contact. You’ll then need to show that some kind of “offensive contact” was made. This may mean a true physical assault that resulted in injuries, but it can also include something like spitting. For an assault, you’ll need to prove that the other party acted in a way that made you reasonably fear battery, and/or fear for your safety, even if no actual contact was made.
Does the Perpetrator Need to Face Criminal Charges in Order for Me to File a Civil Suit?
No. What happens in criminal court and civil court is, for the most part, entirely separate. You can file a civil suit even if the person responsible for your assault does not face any criminal charges. You can even sue if they are found “not guilty” in a criminal court.
We’re Here To Help
You have been through a devastating and traumatic experience, and for that we are so deeply sorry. But you should not have to carry the additional burden of navigating your rights in the legal system alone. There is a way through, and Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys is always here to help you find it. The lawyers here at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are experts in all things personal injury, and we have your best interests at heart. Our goal is to help all victims of assault and battery achieve the justice they are owed.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, each of our lawyers has over a decade of experience, as well as hands-on trial and courtroom experience. We do not get paid unless we win your case, and we will be by your side as you fight to make things right in the wake of your car accident. We also have a stellar record when it comes to winning cases for our clients.
If you are seeking legal representation, or simply want a free case evaluation, please reach out to one a car accident lawyer here at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. We are a premiere law firm in Northeastern Pennsylvania and can provide you with an experienced assault and battery attorney who will be by your side every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can help protect your interests.