Personal Injury, Probate, Employment, & Complex Litigation


Difference Between Assault and Battery

Characters in TV shows/movies will often refer to a physical confrontation as an assault. While this is a common colloquialism, it is actually incorrect when analyzing civil liability.

You see, at least when discussing civil law, assault requires no physical touching and is something different entirely.

To prove that someone assaulted you, you must show that the defendant threatened to touch you in a harmful or offensive manner (through words and actions), that you believed the harmful or offensive touching was about to be carried out, and that it was reasonable for you to believe so. (See So v. Shin). It should be noted that offensive touching means to offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity.

Compare assault with battery. To succeed on a battery claim you must show that the defendant intended to and succeeded in touching you in a harmful or offensive manner. (See So v. Shin).

Essentially the difference is the fear of imminent contact while the other is the consequences of the contact. While in most situations both causes of action or available to the injured person, that is not always the case.

For example, if someone came up to you and without warning wound up and threw a punch at you, but you successfully avoided the punch there would be assault with no battery. But if someone came up behind you with no warning and hit you in the back of your head, there would be battery with no assault.

Personal InjuryEvan Cote