Thursday, January 7, 2010

What is Civil Assault?

In Pittsburgh, as is the case across PA, an assault is an act done with the intent to put another in reasonable and immediate fear of a harmful or offensive contact (threat of punching, hitting, kicking, spitting, death, hit with a car, etc.) with his or her body and that does, in fact, cause such fear. Pa. Civ. Jur. Ins. 13.01.

To commit an assault, it's not necessary that the attacker actually intend to inflict harm or offensive contact (actually try and hit, kick, punch) on someone else. To the contrary, it is enough that the person intend to cause only a fear of such contact.

In order for a civil defendant (different PA laws apply for civil and criminal assault) in Pittsburgh to be held responsible for an assault against a victim, it must be found:

1. That the defendant intended to put the plaintiff in reasonable and immediate fear of a harmful or offensive contact; and

2. That the plaintiff, as a result of the defendant’s act, was put in reasonable and immediate fear of such contact.

A lot of people in Pittsburgh confuse the terms Assault and Battery. An assault concerns only the threat of imminent bodily harm whereas a Battery is the actual offensive contact (hitting, kicking, punching, spitting, etc).

Furthermore, there is both Civil Assault and Criminal Assault. Because the penalty for criminal assault (imprisonment) is much greater than civil assault (money) the burden of proof is much higher for criminal assault in Pittsburgh. Therefore, it is easier to hold someone responsible for civil assault than criminal assault.

Lastly, it used to be the case in Pittsburgh that the Plaintiff had to show that the Defendant took some overt step in causing the assault i.e. raising one's hand as if to hit another person. This is no longer the case. In Pittsburgh, it is the immediate physical threat that is important. The manner in which it is conveyed is irrelevant.

I am a Pittsburgh Attorney with extensive experience in civil assault cases. If you believe you have been assaulted please contact me to learn more about your legal rights. Share this post :
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