Civil assault is an unlawful threat of bodily harm to another with the present ability to effectuate the threat. The act required for an assault must be overt, which means that words or threats alone are insufficient to create an assault. A verbal threat combined with a raised fist, however, may be sufficient if it causes a reasonable fear of harm in the victim. Further, the intent of the assailant to harm or kill the victim is irrelevant, it is only necessary to show that the assailant intended to cause the fear of harmful contact or that the assailant intended to do the act that causes such a fear. For example, an assailant who holds a gun to a victim’s head possesses the requisite intent for an assault since it is substantially certain that the act will cause fear in the victim, regardless of whether the assailant plans to pull the trigger or not.
Battery is an intentional unpermitted offensive contact with another person. Unlike assault, this requires actual, physical contact with another. Physical or severe emotional harm does not necessarily have to result for a viable claim; however, the absence of substantial harm means that a victim would likely only be entitled to nominal (minimal) damages.
There are a number of defenses to both assault and battery civil claims, the most common being the defenses of consent, privilege, and self-defense or defense of others. Assault and battery are both crimes and torts and, therefore, may result in civil or criminal liability. If you have been a victim of an assault or a battery you may be entitled to compensatory damages which are intended to compensate you for the injury caused by the assailant.