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Civil Lawsuits for Assault in New York

In 2017, the rate of reported aggravated assault in the US was 248.9 cases per 100,000 of the nation’s population.  The unreported rate is likely much higher.  Americans are victimized on a daily basis, and their claims need to be heard.  Victims of assault and battery need experienced and trustworthy legal help from an assault and battery attorney in pursuing their claims.

Assault and battery involves the act of threatening a person with violence and then actually harming him or her.  While assault can be prosecuted criminally (in New York, there is no separate crime for battery), prosecutors may have reasons not to bring criminal charges.  Regardless of whether criminal charges are brought, an injured Plaintiff can sue an aggressor for money damages for physical or emotional harm, or for other remedies such as a restraining order. 

Assault and battery can occur at home, in the workplace, or out in public.  Assault claims can be brought against spouses, employers, bouncers, or overzealous security guards who attack or threaten innocent victims.  Victims of assault or battery need experienced legal help to make sure that they are protected from the threatening acts of aggressors and that those aggressors pay for their actions.

Who is liable for an assault?

An assailant will likely be liable for injuries caused by his or her injuries. The fact of a successful criminal prosecution can be used as evidence against the assailant in a civil trial for money damages, but it is not required. Even if the person is never arrested, the assault victim may still bring a civil suit for assault. Unfortunately, however, liability insurance companies will typically not cover the intentional actions of their insured, which means you would be limited to recovering compensation from the defendant directly. This may or may not be feasible, depending upon the person’s assets.

Another avenue for recovery is against an employer, property owner or municipality. If the assault occurred by an employee while on duty, the employer or business may be liable to the injury victim. Common examples include nightclub bouncers or security guards who lose control or abuse their power, or any employee who loses control in a confrontation with a customer. Additionally, property owners can be held liable for assaults which occur on their premises when their own negligent security encouraged or enabled the attack to occur. Examples of negligent security include failing to maintain lighting in parking garages, stairwells and hallways; failing to keep security systems operating properly; or failing to provide security personnel as necessary. Finally, municipalities and government agencies may be liable when their employees abuse their power. Civil rights attorney Leandros A. Vrionedes takes on cases of excessive force and police brutality by NYPD officers or other departments, holding agencies accountable to the people they have harmed and the public as a whole.

The Elements of Civil Assault and Battery

Battery involves the harmful touching of another person.  To prove a claim for civil battery, the Plaintiff must show the following:

  • The Defendant intended to commit the act of physical contact (even if they did not intend to cause injury), and
  • The Defendant in fact touched the plaintiff in a harmful manner.

Assault, unlike battery, does not require any actual physical contact between the Defendant and the Plaintiff.  To prove a civil assault claim, a plaintiff must prove:

  • The Defendant attempted to touch the Plaintiff, or threatened to touch the Plaintiff, intending to cause harmful or offensive contact, and
  • The Plaintiff reasonably believed that they were about to be touched in a harmful or offensive manner.

For assault, there only needs to be a credible fear of imminent contact; essentially, a credible fear of an imminent battery.  The Plaintiff must show that the Defendant acted in a threatening manner, by words or physical action, to cause the Plaintiff to reasonably fear battery.  If a Plaintiff has a claim for battery, they can typically also sue for assault.

Evidence to Look for During Discovery and Common Defenses

To prove assault and battery, the Plaintiff must show that the Defendant actually intended to touch the Plaintiff in a harmful manner.  Especially in the case of assault with no ultimate physical contact, Defendants will often claim that they never intended to touch the Plaintiff.  Evidence will vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the Plaintiff’s injuries (if any) and the relationship between the Plaintiff and Defendant.  Evidence such as police reports, eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, and first responder statements may be useful to show that the Defendant was in fact acting in a threatening manner and intended to make physical contact with the Plaintiff. 

Another common defense is that the Plaintiff consented to the touch.  If the Plaintiff consented to the touch, then they will have a harder time claiming that the actual or intended touch was “offensive or harmful.”  Again, visual evidence or evidence of the relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant will be helpful in demonstrating that the physical contact was unwanted.  An experienced attorney will know how to collect this evidence and best use it to prove claims of assault and battery. 

Expert Witnesses May Be Key

In assault and battery cases, the testimony of doctors, trauma specialists, criminal law experts and forensic technicians can often be the key to successfully pursuing claims.

Make Sure Your Rights Are Pursued By An Experienced Lawyer

Claims of assault, in particular, can be tricky to prove when there is no accompanying physical injury.  Make sure you contact an attorney right away to protect your rights, and make sure your lawyer is experienced in civil assault and battery matters to know how to properly meet the difficult evidentiary burdens.  If you have been the victim of assault and battery in New York City, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation on your claims at 212-889-9362 in Manhattan, or in Queens at 718-777-5895.