Assault and battery are frequently used synonymously but are, in fact, two separate criminal offenses in California, and while people can certainly face criminal charges for these crimes, they could also face civil penalties as well. Any person who suffers injuries because of an assault or battery in California should retain the services of a San Francisco personal injury lawyer.
Whereas most personal injury claims usually rely on victims proving the negligence of other parties, an assault or battery claim will be different because you instead have to prove that an offender intended to cause harm. The good news for people filing civil claims is that the burden of proof is much lower than it is in criminal cases because whereas guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case, a civil claim only needs to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which translates to effectively being more than 50 percent of the evidence or “more likely than not.”
California Assault and Battery Laws
California Penal Code § 240 establishes that the crime of assault involves an illegal attempt and the present ability to commit a violent injury on the person of another party. Under California Penal Code § 242, battery involves any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another party.
A person will have a civil claim against an attacker for assault when they are able to prove that another person acted with the intention of making harmful or offensive contact with a victim, and the victim believed they were about to be so contacted. This can include scenarios in which a person threatens to harm a victim, the victim believes the other person will act upon a threat, the victim did not approve of the threatening conduct, and the threat caused the victim harm in some way.
A person may have a civil claim against an attacker for battery when they can prove another person made contact with the victim or caused the victim to be contacted, with the intent to harm or offend the victim, the victim did not approve of the contact, the victim was harmed or offended, and it was reasonable for the victim to have been offended by the contact.
Assault and battery do not necessarily occur together in every instance. A person may be the victim of an assault without ever being touched, meaning no battery occurred. Similarly, a person could be battered without first being assaulted if they are hit unexpectedly and do not see that they are being hit.
Civil Liability for Assault and Battery
Victims of assault or battery can have the right to file lawsuits against perpetrators for damages that could include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other awards. You should know that a perpetrator does not need to be found guilty in a criminal trial or even charged with a criminal offense, and even a person who is acquitted of assault or battery can still be sued.
The best example of this dynamic is perhaps the case of O.J. Simpson, who was found not guilty of murdering both his wife, Nicole Brown, and her companion, Ronald Goldman. A civil jury later found Simpson liable for the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman and battery against Brown, ordering him to pay $33.5 million in damages.
To prove liability for assault or battery, a victim will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- A perpetrator touched a victim with the intent to harm or offend them
- The victim did not consent to the touching
- The victim suffered harm or was offended by the perpetrator’s conduct
- A reasonable person in the victim’s situation would likely have been offended by the touching
A civil action for assault or battery must be filed in two years under California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1. One important exception to this time limit concerns parties who are agents of governmental entities, in which case a victim has only six months to first file a claim with the governmental entity.
The governmental entity restriction can apply when a person is the victim of an assault or battery by somebody such as a police officer. In these cases, a government agency has 45 days to respond to your claim.
When an agency responds within this time period and denies the claim, you still have another six months from the date that you receive the denial to file a lawsuit in court. When an agency does not respond, you have two years from the date of the incident in question to file a lawsuit.
California does recognize certain exceptions to the traditional statute of limitations. Examples include:
- Any period of mental incapacitation after an injury
- When the injured party happens to be a minor, the statute of limitations will be tolled (delayed) until the victim turns 18 years of age
- The injury leaves a victim physically incapacitated
- An injury does not manifest itself until a later time after the assault or battery, and the statute of limitations then runs from the date when the victim knew or should have known of the injury
It is possible that third parties could also bear liability in certain cases. For example, building owners owe a duty of care to visitors to ensure their premises are safe and could be held accountable for negligent security, and employers may be liable when they fail to maintain a safe workspace.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyer
If you suffered serious injuries because of an assault or battery in California, you are right to think that you deserve financial compensation for the harm you are enduring. Cartwright Law Firm can assist you in filing a civil claim and will know the best way to handle your case so you can recover as much as possible.
Our firm knows how to diligently investigate these types of cases and secure all of the evidence that will be necessary to prove your claims. Call (415) 433-0444 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation so we can take the time to go over all the details of your case and help you understand the ways we might be able to help you.