Civil law in California permits victims of all sorts of assaults to pursue justice and restitution for their physical and emotional damages. Every assault victim has the constitutional right to pursue legal action and sue their attackers for their injuries. This blog discusses the several legal concerns you need to be aware of to obtain compensation for the assault.
Definition of Assault According to California Laws
Assault is regarded as an attempt to injure another person or threaten to use force against them. The victim needs to be convinced that a sensible person could have understood that the risk was real and also that the attacker was capable of harming or hurting the victim.
The fact that physical force is not required is perhaps the most important aspect of assault charges; in other words, you can sue for assault compensation even if you were not hit or injured. There is also verbal assault, which can cause psychological or emotional trauma. The actual application of physical force is referred to as a "battery." It encompasses any hit, blow, or injury caused by the attacker.
Aggravated assault can be defined as a felony offense that incorporates a weapon and the intent to conduct a violent crime. Aggravated assault often precedes or includes rape, brutal beatings, and thefts, among others. Sexual assault is classified as a category of aggravated assault because it has no specific laws but distinct definitions and penalties.
When Can You Sue For Assault?
If you're intending to pursue an assault civil suit, there are several basic elements you need to prove:
- A deliberate act on the defendant's part
- The offender intended to instill fear in the victim
- Your justified fear of imminent harm as a result of the offender's intent
Consider the following scenario: You're waiting on the subway after work when you're abruptly approached by someone who is coming towards you quickly. The stranger is holding a knife as if he's going to use it to stab you. The stranger is approximately five feet away from you at this point. Injuring yourself in the process, you rush out of his way as he lunges the knife at you.
In that case, the attacker acted with intent, as seen by his approach and lunging the knife at you, and the goal of instilling fear is evident in these frightening actions. Those acts eventually caused you considerable fear, which was understandable given the fear of being stabbed. In such a case, you have every right to initiate a civil lawsuit for assault.
Imagine another scenario, where you are coming from a baseball game and another fan runs towards you waving a bat. He accidentally strikes you on the head with the bat, resulting in a minor laceration. In this case, you cannot file for assault charges. There's no intention of causing fear of injury, and you weren't alarmed. Even though you might establish a claim for the fan's recklessness, you were harmed in an unforeseen accident and not an assault.
What Kinds of Acts Can You Sue For?
Acts of assault that can be used as the foundation for civil assault lawsuits include but are not limited to:
- Simple assault
- Vehicular assault
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
To be entitled to compensation, the claimant must establish by a preponderance of proof that:
- The perpetrator owed the claimant a duty of reasonable care
- Through ignorance, carelessness, or deliberate misconduct, the perpetrator violated that duty of care
- The claimant was harmed due to the violation
Additional Parties Could Be Liable For Assault
In some situations, a civil suit might be filed against another entity rather than the person who committed the abuse or assault. If the assault happened at a business premise, hospital, or school, for instance, that institution (quite often the accused's employer) may be held liable:
- Under the theory of negligent supervision
- As a result of a failure to offer proper security
- For neglecting to defend a minor and/or disadvantaged person or group appropriately
Several lawsuits have lately been filed against Lyft and Uber, alleging that the ridesharing companies have failed to protect their passengers from sexual assault and have also disregarded numerous accusations of driver conduct varying from indecent to criminal.
Injuries Sustained in Assault Incidences
Assault cases have the potential to cause a wide range of harm. Somebody could hurt you in several ways, particularly if he or she is armed with a weapon. If at all feasible, you must try to shield yourself and prevent any harm, but if that isn't possible, you must attempt to reduce the damage. The attacker might intend to injure you so seriously that you will be confined to a hospital for an extended time. The following are injuries you might sustain from an assault:
- Brain trauma
- Closed head injuries
- Damage to internal organs
- Wounds from gunshots
- Wounds caused by stabs
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Brain damage
- Damage to the nerves
- Knee injuries
In most assault cases, there is lingering damage from the main altercation. For example, if an attacker strikes somebody in the forehead using his or her fist, the victim is likely to be knocked unconscious. Although the first injury may not be severe, when the victim loses control, she or he might fall and strike his or her head on the pavement, tumble down a stairwell, or land on a sharp object, resulting in puncture injuries. The offender will be found accountable for any subsequent injuries, and not only the first. Other people might be held culpable too.
Damages in Assault Lawsuits
In a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff who demonstrates that the defendant is guilty of assault is eligible to receive compensation: nominal, punitive, and compensatory damages. We'll go over each type of compensation as well as how they relate to a civil lawsuit for assault.
When an assault is confirmed, and there's no real harm done to the claimant—or no proof of harm—the claimant is awarded a small amount of money called "nominal damages." Since fear of injury is an essential component of assault, and apprehension presupposes some sort of injury, a successful claimant on an assault charge will usually obtain much more than nominal compensation.
One exemption would be when a claimant states that he or she believed she or he was being attacked but claims that the act "didn't alarm him or her" or that she suffered no emotional distress as a result.
Even though nominal compensation awards are insignificant, they satisfy a fundamental aspect: some form of initial compensation must be granted before a criminal can be held responsible for punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are a type of injury compensation intended to "help make the claimant whole," that is, to financially reward the claimant for the injury and costs incurred as a consequence of the incident. There are typically two types of compensatory damage: special and general.
General damages recompense the claimant for the type of damages that could be foreseen as a result of the accused's wrongdoing. In most cases, compensatory damages for assault will also include psychological suffering and pain, as well as other emotional stress. The claimant is not required to file a separate petition for general compensation, and the jury determines the amount to be granted.
Special damages pay the claimant for additional expenses incurred as a result of the assault incident. For instance, the plaintiff may be unfit to work following the assault and may need further psychological counseling. In that situation, special damages should include all psychological treatment costs the claimant has already spent on and also a decent amount for just about any future treatment that could be required.
In addition, because he or she is unable to work because of the assault, he or she may be entitled to lost past and prospective earnings.
Special damages should be sought by the claimant and demonstrated in some way, sometimes with the help of a skilled witness. Certain types of special damages are easy to prove, like submitting a hospital's bill that has been authenticated. Additional special damages, like the cost of potential medical treatment or the claimant's lifetime expenses due to his or her reduced capacity to work in a specific profession, are extremely hard to demonstrate conclusively.
Punitive damages are applicable in cases where a defendant willfully causes harm. Punitive damages are intended to dissuade similar behavior by using the offender as an example to others, as well as to penalize the offender for his/her misdeeds.
The jury will decide whether or not punitive damages need to be given, and if they do, how much they should be. The court will assess the accused's act, the damage done or meant to be inflicted by the accused, as well as the amount required to punish the offender while taking into account his/her wealth. Punitive damages are often awarded for particularly heinous offenses, such as sexual assault or the sexual abuse of minors.
Punitive damages must be preceded by nominal/compensatory damages. Since an attack requires deliberate action but not bodily contact, punitive damages could be the single significant compensation a claimant receives from a culpable defendant.
In civil lawsuits, you can seek monetary compensation for injuries as well as other damages. You cannot seek such compensation in a criminal trial. Due to the harsher penalties in criminal proceedings, like prison time, fines, and community service, the burden of proof is substantially higher.
In civil suits, you only need to show that the accused was negligent. Remember that you don't have to pick between a civil suit and a criminal lawsuit; you could have both. You should enlist the assistance of a lawyer for the greatest likelihood of success as well as to receive the maximum compensation legally permitted.
An attorney's role is to make sure that their client gets what they deserve, and when you attempt to proceed without legal assistance, you might end up losing everything.
Statute of Limitations on Assault Cases
The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to submit a legal compensation claim. You won't be able to seek damages later if you don't file a claim within this time frame. This statute of limitations is intended to prevent claimants from procrastinating or taking an excessively long time to take action.
It is unjust to the accused when they committed a terrible act 20 years ago and are now being presented with a lawsuit for what they did; the proof might have been destroyed entirely and the damages paid off.
This time restriction permits the plaintiff and the defendant to collect adequate evidence that cannot be tampered with or forgotten, as well as pay their obligations and expenses on time. Personal injury cases in California, such as assault claims, have a two-year statute of limitations from the day of the incident.
This indicates that the damage could have emerged several days or weeks after the assault, allowing you to file a lawsuit after the abuse happened. The statute of limitations could, in some cases, be lengthened or tolled. When the victim had been below 18 at the moment of the assault, this may have happened (even though crimes against minors could still carry their charges).
The claimant can therefore wait until she or he is 18 years old to initiate the suit, making the limitation period two years following his or her birthday. Furthermore, the claimant could have been rendered intellectually or emotionally incapable of taking legal action as a result of the assault.
If this is the case, the statute could be waived until they are in good health again. This could be the result of a coma, a mental breakdown, a psychological issue, or something else. If you want to take legal action against the accused, he or she must be present in that state. The statute can be suspended until he or she returns if he or she has fled California. A defendant cannot avoid punishment or the law by fleeing the state; the statute would not be in effect while he or she is gone.
What You Should Do After an Assault
If you have been assaulted, you should save any hospital records, invoices, statements, or confirmation of treatment from your doctor to prove that you received medical attention and that you incurred expenses that must be reimbursed. After that, take photos of your wounds or injuries as well as the harm you've sustained.
Any photos of your injuries will be useful; they could be taken right after the event, while you're at the hospital, or even in the following days to illustrate the progression. When possible, write the contact details for the person who has assaulted you. You might not be capable of obtaining this information directly from the offender, but somebody might know them.
You might ask for statements and testimony from any bystanders or eyewitnesses who witnessed the event. They might testify to who initiated the assault, who struck first, if the offender had previously acted violently, and much more. Witnesses are crucial because if it's just the claimant and accused at the scene, your case may descend into a battle of one account against the other.
If you'd been in or around a business premise, there might have been a surveillance camera recording the occurrence on film. You can request copies of the film from the owner to attach to your lawsuit. However, if the company could be made liable, obtaining the footage could be difficult.
To safeguard themselves and their businesses, they might refuse to offer you any recordings since it's not advisable for them to offer you proof of their culpability, for example. You should keep the police reports or get a copy from the station if the police showed up at the crime scene. You also might want to press charges following the assault, which you must keep. It'll be necessary to prove that the accused was arrested, as this implies that the authorities had a solid reason to take him or her from the location.
Finally, you must retain the services of a competent assault attorney to assist you with the lawsuit. You may have no idea what intentional claims or personal injury laws are, and when you attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance provider defending the offender, you might not be able to get any wiggle room or even get anywhere close to stating your case.
A lawyer can prepare the demand letter on your behalf and file the case with the insurance provider, who will study and decide whether or not to make a payment after several weeks. You will not have to stress over any legal paperwork or proceedings because an attorney will be capable of negotiating a good deal for you.
Find an Experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
It can be difficult to obtain compensation for your injuries after an assault. You'll need an attorney's help in assessing the case's merits and determining the value of compensation. If you require assistance in obtaining compensation in Los Angeles, contact our team of experienced attorneys at Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney. Call us at 424-231-2013 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.