Most people think of a battery in the context of a criminal prosecution and the possibility of a jail term. Criminal courts don’t have the authority to award damages though. That’s why the alleged victim of a battery can also bring a claim for damages in the civil courts.
What is battery?
Battery occurs when one person intentionally makes harmful or offensive contact with another person. It must be without the victim’s consent or without legal justification. The following examples are NOT considered battery:
- Boxers batter each other in matches, but each of them consents to being hit.
- A person might punch a mugger, but self defense presents legal justification for punching the mugger.
- Two people might accidently brush against each other on a crowded subway car.
A person’s intent to punch or batter one person can be transferred when an unintended victim is injured. For example, Allan might intend to punch Brian, but Brian ducks the punch. Carol was standing behind Allan and looking in another direction. Allan ends up accidentally punching Carol in the face. The punch knocks her out and fractures her jaw. The law allows Allan’s intent to be transferred over to Carol as the intended victim. Carol probably has a valid civil personal injury battery claim against Allan.
The Burden of Proof
In civil cases: The victim can seek damages from the batterer in a civil case because there isn’t the possibility of being jailed. The burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. That means the victim’s version of events is more likely true than not true.
In criminal cases: A person can be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for battery. For them to be found guilty, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s because the battery offense can be punished by a jail term.
Proof of Contact
In the example provided above, Carol shouldn’t have difficulty proving contact. She was knocked out cold, she had immediate bruising and she felt great pain on the right side of her face when she became conscious. She also has Brian as a witness. Remember that there’s a criminal case unfolding too. Anything that Allan says in that criminal case can be used against him in the civil case, especially if a guilty plea is entered in response to the battery charge. He might also admit contact during the process of the civil case.
Proving Harmful Contact
The law won’t allow Carol to testify that her jaw was fractured. That’s hearsay evidence because she got that information from an emergency room physician. However, she can testify to experiencing bruising and pain after being hit. Either the emergency room doctor or her own doctor would be required to testify and establish the fracture and prognosis.
A criminal court certainly has authority to order restitution in a battery case when the victim required medical treatment, but that doesn’t fully compensate a person who suffered serious injuries as a result of a battery. Common compensatory damages in a civil court include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Any permanent disfigurement
- Any permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses in the event of a wrongful death
If the burden of proof is met in a civil battery case, it’s also possible that punitive damages could be awarded due to the intentional nature of the act. If you were injured by someone, seek the professional legal guidance of an experienced professional such as the Personal Injury Attorney locals trust.