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Seeking justice after an assault in civil court

If you're the victim of a crime like assault, you probably want the perpetrator to face criminal charges. If they plead guilty or are found guilty, a judge may order them to pay restitution and compensate you for costs like medical expenses, lost income and more.

However, what if the defendant is acquitted or gets a much lighter sentence than you believe they deserve? You can file a civil suit for assault against them to seek some sense of justice — as well as compensation.

To file a "civil assault" lawsuit, you need to show:

  • The defendant threatened or attempted to injure you.
  • They appeared able to cause the harm that they threatened or attempted.
  • You had a reasonable fear of bodily harm or some type of offensive contact.

Notice that a person doesn't need to actually cause physical harm or even touch someone in an assault case. If they did, that would fall under the category of battery, which can also be handled through criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit -- "civil battery."

Victims can seek economic damages in these types of lawsuits for things like hospital bills and lost wages. However, they can also seek compensation for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages. Both civil assault and battery are considered intentional torts. That means the defendant intended the action.

If it was particularly egregious or harmful, a victim can seek punitive damages. These are intended not just to punish the perpetrator but to discourage others from acting in the same way.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of assault, battery or another crime that caused injuries, you may want to find out what your options are for taking civil action separate from any criminal charges the perpetrator is facing.

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