Civil Vs Criminal: Why Suing Your Assailant For Civil Damages Is Better.

December 15, 20200

Some victims of assault and battery are torn between civil vs criminal prosecution of their matter.

Knowing the difference between civil vs criminal cases will help you decide what to do in case of assault and battery.

Recently in Nigeria, a senator, Elisha Abbo was caught on camera battering a lady in a sex toy shop.

The release of the video led to the arrest and prosecution of the senator at the magistrate court. The overwhelming evidence in the video made people believe that the court will convict the senator.

To people’s utter shock and disbelief, the court, after hearing the case, dismissed all the charges against the senator.

The victim of the senator’s assault and battery quickly filed a civil case against him in the High Court.

At the end of the suit, the court awarded 50 million naira (U.S. $131,000) damages against the senator for the said assault and battery.

So why did the criminal case fail and the civil case succeed? It’s a case of civil vs criminal cases.

Crime is usually an act against the state, and all persons accused of crime face criminal prosecution by the state.

Although assault and battery are crimes against the state, they also form the basis of personal injury cases against the defendants.

Unfortunately, many victims of assault and battery are unaware or reluctant to pursue a civil suit against their assailants. A good lawyer will always know when to file a civil case for assault and battery.

Civil Vs Criminal Cases.

One major difference between a criminal charge and a civil case is the level of proof required for each of them.

To succeed in a criminal charge against a defendant, the burden of proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, in a civil case, a claimant only needs to prove the assault and battery on a preponderance of evidence.

Is a Criminal Charge necessary before a Civil Suit is Filed?

Absolutely not!    

A victim of a criminal assault and battery need not have filed a criminal complaint before suing the assailant in a civil court.

Again a defendant facing a criminal complaint, need not be convicted to face a civil case.

Benefits of Criminal Complaint.

Although a criminal complaint or conviction is not necessary before filing a civil claim, it is advisable to always make a criminal complaint against a defendant.

Some of the reasons why filing a criminal complaint against someone who assaulted or battered you include:

  • For purposes of evidence – Victims of assault and battery who do not make a criminal complaint against their assailant often face credibility issues in court.
  • To get co-operative witnesses – When you get the police involved in your assault and battery matter, they are more likely to get the co-operation of witnesses.
  • Conviction makes the civil case easier – A conviction in the criminal case against the defendant will make proving your civil claim much easier.

Civil Vs Criminal Assault.

In law, the definition of assault differs from one jurisdiction to another. Generally, however, an assault involves any direct and intentional threat that causes a reasonable apprehension of imminent harm.

There are three elements required to constitute the crime of assault.

  • The act must be intentional.
  • The act caused apprehension of harmful contact.
  • The defendant had the intent to cause apprehension of harm or offensive contact.

Civil Vs Criminal Battery.

Battery, in criminal law, refers to the intentional and unlawful contact with another person without the person’s consent.

The contact required to establish battery in law does not need to be significant or violent to constitute the offense.

Again the victim of an offense of battery does not need to suffer any physical harm or injury to constitute the crime.

Damages For Assault And Battery.

Successful claimants in a civil claim of assault and battery are entitled to damages and losses suffered thereby.

The quantum and amount of damages are calculated based on factors like loss of earning capacity, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional distress.

Sue, Don’t Fight.

It is natural and in human nature to fight back when assaulted. In some circumstances, suing rather than fighting is the best option.

An example where it is better to sue rather than fight back is where the defendant is a powerful or rich person, or someone in authority.

Some rich and powerful people are in the habit of assaulting and battering ordinary people. Suing them for damages is one way to civilize and tame their excessiveness.

A civil claim is one way victims of violence can get justice in the form of adequate compensation.

Suing Third Parties.

Another benefit of filing a civil claim for assault and battery is that it allows you to sue third parties not directly involved in the crime.

Victims of assault and battery stand a better chance of obtaining financial compensation from individuals/bodies whose employees have assaulted them.

So if a security man, who is an escort to a politician, runs you off the road or batters you, you can sue the principal for damages.

Again if a security officer of a prominent person assaults you, you can sue the employer for damages.

You can even sue your landlord for renting an apartment to your neighbor who ended up assaulting you.

You can sue anyone as long as you can prove that the person has a legal duty of care not to assault or injure you.

How to Prove an Assault and Battery Case.

To stand a chance of winning an assault and battery case in court, a victim must prove the following elements.

  • That the defendant intentionally intended or threatened to inflict injury on him.
  • The defendant was capable of inflicting the injury.
  • The victim felt a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.

To prove battery in a civil claim, the victim must prove:

  • The actual application of force.
  • The application of force was harmful and offensive.
  • The victim did not consent to it.

Final Words in Civil Vs Criminal Cases.

Apart from criminal prosecution and penalties, assault victims can file civil suits against their assailants and claim damages. 

Civil claims are ways to civilize citizens in society and hold them liable and responsible for their actions.

To succeed in recovering damages for assault and battery, victims must make sure that the assailant has adequate means and assets.

Remember, it is much easier to prove a civil claim in an assault and battery case than to prove it in a criminal trial.

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