Intentional Torts and Assault and Battery
Law Offices of David Drexler
Personal Injury, Car Accident Lawyer, Car Accident Attorney
What does “intentional torts” mean in assault and battery - and how does it affect a damage award in civil cases?
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No one should be subjected to violence or the threat of violence. But when it happens, the victim can and should pursue damages in civil court.
When someone is physically hurt by the intentions of another, it rises to a legal definition that is more serious than if the harm were caused by mere negligence. For example, it’s bad enough if a careless driver injures a pedestrian due to texting while driving – that’s unintentional, technically negligence. But if the driver were an enraged former paramour who meant to hit the pedestrian, it falls under the definition of an “intentional tort.”
Such injuries and the incident that led to those injuries may involve criminal charges, particularly when the crime was clearly intentional. But regardless of whether it involved criminal charges, regardless if there was a conviction or acquittal, and even regardless if it was negligent or intentional, the victim can pursue compensation in a civil court.
A “criminal attorney” is a lawyer who defends the perpetrator in criminal court. For the victim to sue the perpetrator in civil court, he or she would hire a personal injury attorney that specializes in intentional torts, such as assault and battery. So often are people intentionally assaulted in large cities like Los Angeles that many Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are marketing themselves as “Los Angeles assault lawyers”.
What is important to know is that punishment in both criminal and civil courts in California are generally greater when the injuries were done with intent. A criminal court judge may impose sentences involving fines (up to $10,000) and incarceration (six months to four years, the most serious charges for battery or assault with a deadly weapon leading to the latter). The criminal court judge may assess the situation, looking at the suffering and financial losses of the victim and the financial wherewithal of the tortfeasor (the person who committed the wrongful act). From that, the judge has the option to make a punitive damage award, forcing the perpetrator to make payments to the victim.
In civil court, the victim more directly seeks compensation. Of note, civil courts require only a majority of the jury to vote in favor of the victim; in criminal court, the jury must be unanimous.
But the challenge of intentional tort cases is that the intentions of the wrongdoer are sometimes elusive. The burden on the plaintiff is to prove the following:
There was intent to harm
The act occurred and was non-consensual
The act was harmful or offensive
The act caused injury
The injury created a cost in the life of the victim
In California legal circles there is an argument for identifying early in a trial how deep the assets are of the defendant. This would enable plaintiffs to know if the lawsuit would be financially worth pursuing. However, in all courts that official discovery of assets takes place only in the sentencing phase.
A qualified personal injury attorney with experience in assault and battery lawsuits should be contacted as soon as possible after an incident where harm occurred. Witness and evidence might be available then to help win the case.
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