What Must a Plaintiff Prove to Recover for an Assault or Battery?

The terms assault and battery are often used interchangeably, but they mean distinctly different things. These definitions are an important consideration when filing a personal injury claim.

Assault does not require physical contact between two people; rather, an assault can be defined as the threat to use unlawful force to inflict bodily injury upon another. When the plaintiff believes that this use of force is imminent, causing reasonable apprehension, an assault has occurred.

When determining whether a particular act is an assault, a judge or jury will assess whether the plaintiff’s reaction was reasonable. If the defendant threatens to use force against the plaintiff, but clearly states that they will do so at some point in the future rather than imminently, a plaintiff is unlikely to prevail on a claim of assault. If the threat is imminent, and the defendant appears capable and intent on carrying it out, the plaintiff will likely succeed in proving an assault occurred.

By contrast, battery is the intentional and unpermitted contact with another. A battery, for practical purposes, is the end product of an assault. A plaintiff in a battery claim does not need to prove an actual injury, but only needs to show that the defendant had unlawful and unpermitted contact with his or her person.

In addition, battery claims can be filed in cases where a defendant had unpermitted contact with the plaintiff’s property when it was located within the plaintiff’s proximity. For example, plaintiffs have successfully proven a battery where the defendant grabbed onto the plaintiff’s coat.