Many people think that the only way to achieve “justice” for an assault or battery is to go through the criminal justice system. However, the circumstances and/or context of the crime can prevent the prosecution from meeting the burden of proof for a criminal case. Another possible route for victims is through civil litigation. A lawsuit can provide damages for an assault that occurred, even if the victim did not win a criminal trial – or even went to trial.
In criminal cases, the burden of proof that the prosecution must meet is that the evidence proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, a civil lawsuit has a lower burden for the prosecution. For civil cases, the prosecutor must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable.
According to the California Penal Code, assault is defined as the threat or attempt of violent injury upon the victim. In contrast, battery is the willful and illegal use of violence upon the victim. Therefore, the difference between the two is whether the use of force was attempted/threatened or willfully executed. For both definitions, the plaintiff must prove that the evidence shows that it was more likely than not that the defendant committed either assault or battery.
If the plaintiff shows that the defendant is liable for the act, then the victim can be entitled to seek damages. The possible damages include pain and suffering, lost wages, medical costs, and emotional distress. As mentioned previously, the victim must not have gone down the criminal justice route before filing a lawsuit and being awarded any of the aforementioned damages.