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Assault and Battery: Intentional Torts and Personal Injury Law

August 22, 2017

The majority of personal injury cases concern accidents and careless behavior.  But, some injuries are the result of intentional behavior.  If you are a victim of assault or battery, whether criminal charges are filed, you have a right under the law to compensation.

Criminal and civil courts serve different functions.  State and federal governments are charged with prosecuting criminal behavior and administering justice on behalf of the people.  Prosecutors serve the public by bringing criminal charges against those suspected of breaking the law.  Under Florida law, a batter occurs “when a person: actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.”  Battery is classified as a first degree misdemeanor.  However, prosecutors represent the people, not you.

A tort is most simply defined as a civil wrong.  While someone that is found guilty of assault or battery is criminally liable, they may also be civilly liable.  The criminal justice system is primarily concerned with enforcing the law, not making victims whole again.  Victims of assault or battery can seek redress for their pain and suffering, and economic injuries through civil courts.

A battery is an unwanted or offensive touching of another.  Assault does not require contact or touching.  Assault occurs when somebody is held in “reasonable apprehension of imminent and harmful contact.”  In everyday nomenclature, many people confuse battery for assault.  Even if someone does not commit violence, the mere fear that violence will occur could be grounds for liability in a civil suit.

Prosecutors do not always have enough evidence to bring criminal charges.  One of the reasons for this is that the standard of proof in criminal cases is very high.  Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof in the legal system.  Civil cases employ the preponderance standard or the clear and convincing standard.  Both civil standards require less proof.

Intentional torts are not limited to assault or battery.  False imprisonment is defined as a sufficient act of restraint that confines the plaintiff to a bounded area.  The plaintiff must be able to show that the plaintiff intended the confinement or that the defendant knew his or her actions would lead to confinement.  The defendant is not liable for false imprisonment if the confinement is the result of negligence.  Confinement is defined broadly and the plaintiff must show that they were prevented from leaving a certain area.  Defendants may use the threat of force or feign legal authority to carry out the false imprisonment.  It is key that the plaintiff be aware of the confinement otherwise liability will not attach.  The confinement need not last for a long time but if the plaintiff has a reasonable means of escape, such as an open door, there is no imprisonment.

Other intentional torts such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass to land, and trespass to chattel are grounds for a lawsuit in civil court.  Know that criminal prosecution is not the only available means of justice.  While a criminal conviction brings a sense of closure to victims and their families, it does not necessarily bring economic restoration for the economic loss and mental anguish.

Bryan W. Crews is a personal injury attorney practicing in Orlando.  If you or a family member are the victim of an intentional tort, contact the offices of Bryan W. Crews for a case evaluation.  We draw on our years of experience, and sterling reputation to advocate on your behalf.  Bryan W. Crews puts clients first, please contact us today to evaluate the merits of you case.

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