Recovering Damages for an Assault
Nov 8, 2018 - Personal Injury
If you’ve been intentionally injured by another person in Pennsylvania, then they may not only be criminally liable for having committed assault, but also civilly liable for the damages they caused you to suffer as a result of their actions.
Many people do not realize that they are entitled to bring a civil action — independent of State prosecutors’ criminal case — against the individual(s) who assaulted them. This civil action is important, as it may give the injured plaintiff access to financial resources that covers their losses. For example, if you are badly injured in an assault and is thereby forced to resign from your position (due to your inability to perform the material duties of the job), then you could ostensibly sue and recover damages for those lost wages and the loss of future earning capacity, among other losses.
So, how does a civil assault claim work? Let’s examine the basics.
In Pennsylvania, assault requires:
- The attempt to cause bodily injury to another;
- The attempt (by physical menace) to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another; or
- Negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.
This may give rise to a civil claim for damages, as the victims of an intentional tort are entitled to sue and recover damages for the harm caused by the defendant.
Suppose, for example, that the defendant pushes you into a dark alleyway and waves a gun at you, laughing maniacally. They do not intend to cause physical injury, but they are attempting to put you in “fear” of imminent serious bodily injury. It works.
Following the encounter, you experience regular nightmares and serious mental anguish that is interfering with your ability to work efficiently and to have a normal social life. You could ostensibly bring an action against the defendant for damages caused by their assault.
It’s worth noting that, even if the defendant is found innocent in criminal litigation, that is not necessarily indicative of whether you will succeed in your civil action. Criminal litigation requires a higher standard of proof — beyond a reasonable doubt — than civil litigation, and as such, it’s not uncommon for defendants to be found innocent of the crime of assault but liable civilly.
Intentional Torts and Punitive Damages Availability
Intentional torts — such as assault — may give rise to punitive damages, which are essentially damages meant to discourage the plaintiff (and others in similar circumstances) from engaging in similarly wrongful behavior. Punitive damages are quite rare, though Pennsylvania courts sometimes award them in cases where the defendant’s misconduct is particularly egregious or malicious in nature.
For example, if the defendant (for no reason at all except for the “fun of it”) attacks you outside of your home, then the court may award punitive damages, given the egregious and malicious nature of such conduct. By contrast, the court may not award punitive damages in a case where you and the defendant “traded words” and the fight was quickly broken up before extreme damage was done.
Punitive damages are a multiplier of the compensatory damages. If you have damages totaling $200,000, for example, then the punitive damages may be $600,000, for a grand total of $800,000.
Our Team of Experienced Bethlehem Personal Injury Lawyers Can Provide Comprehensive Assistance
Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, we have over three decades of experience representing clients throughout Pennsylvania in a range of personal injury litigation, from motor vehicle accidents to product liability disputes and more.
We have developed a keen understanding of what it takes to succeed in personal injury litigation — not only with regarding to “winning” a case but advocating effectively to secure maximum compensation. Since our founding, we have obtained tens of millions of dollars for our clients, helping them secure the resources they need to make a full, adequate, and speedy recovery.