Civil Liability for Assault & Battery in Colorado

Experiencing an assault can be a traumatic and overwhelming ordeal. Beyond the physical harm and emotional trauma inflicted, victims/survivors of assault can sustain fiscal damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. In this blog, we will discuss the options victims/survivors have to pursue compensation for their damages after being assaulted or battered.  

Assault and Battery: Civil Lawsuit vs. Criminal Case   

In a civil lawsuit for assault and battery, an individual (the plaintiff) seeks compensation or damages from the alleged perpetrator (the defendant). The focus is on resolving disputes between individuals and seeking financial restitution for the harm caused. To file a civil lawsuit for assault and battery, the plaintiff must meet certain requirements, including: 

  • Proving that the defendant's actions caused harm or injury. 

  • Demonstrating that the defendant had the intent to harm or acted negligently. 

  • Filing the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. 

A criminal case involves the state or government prosecuting an individual (the defendant) for committing a crime, including assault and battery. The primary objective is to punish the offender for their actions and protect society. Charging someone with assault and battery in a criminal case involves specific requirements such as: 

  • Establishing probable cause that the accused committed the offense. 

  • Initiating the charges through law enforcement or the prosecutor's office. 

  • Adhering to the relevant statute of limitations for criminal charges. 

Civil and criminal cases are also different when it comes to the following aspects:  

  • Burden of proof. In a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff, who must establish the defendant's liability by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the evidence presented must show it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the assault and battery. In a criminal case, on the other hand, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, who must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence provided must leave no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors or judge regarding the defendant's involvement in the assault and battery. 

  • Potential outcomes. In a criminal case, if the defendant is found guilty, the court can impose penalties such as fines, probation, community service, or incarceration, depending on the severity of the offense. If a plaintiff successfully proves their case in a civil lawsuit for assault and battery, they may be awarded monetary compensation, also known as damages, to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other related losses. 

Pursuing Damages After a Physical Attack  

Should a person wish to pursue civil damages against their attacker, they will need to file a complaint. This legal document outlines the specific charges against the defendant, provides a detailed account of the incident, and states what compensation the victim is seeking. It's essential to hire an experienced attorney to ensure your complaint is properly formatted and contains all the necessary details. 

After filing a complaint, both parties enter the discovery process, where they exchange information about the case. This procedure may include depositions, interrogatories, and document production. The discovery process allows both parties to prepare their case and determine their strengths and weaknesses. 

Even if the attacker is not charged or convicted of the offense, you can still pursue compensation. The criminal and civil cases are not linked, and the results of each are independent of one another.  

It is important to note that you may be barred from filing a claim if you suffered injuries in a setting when you have assumed such a risk. For instance, if you are battered while in a boxing or martial arts class, the other party is not liable for your injuries.  

Premises Liability | Negligent Security Lawsuit  

If the assault and battery occurred due to inadequate security, the victim could file a negligent security lawsuit against the property owner. To successfully sue for negligent security in Colorado, the victim must prove that: 

  • The property owner owed a duty of care to the victim. 

  • The property owner breached that duty by failing to provide adequate security. 

  • The victim suffered harm as a direct result of the breach. 

The victim must also demonstrate that the property owner was aware of the potential danger but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it. For instance, if previous incidents of violence occurred on the property, and the owner did not improve security measures, they could be held liable. 

What to Do After Being Assaulted 

After a physical assault, you may be wondering what you should do. To protect yourself and your legal rights, you should consider the following actionable steps:  

  • Seek medical attention. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a physical assault. Going to the hospital allows you to receive care for any injuries and also document your injuries in case you decide to pursue legal action. 

  • Preserve/gather evidence. Document and property damage, injuries, and financial losses you suffer.  

  • Report the incident to the authorities. Deciding whether to report the assault to law enforcement is a personal choice. If you make a report, the police will investigate and collect evidence to give to the prosecution.  

  • Prioritize your safety and self-care. Take steps to ensure your physical safety, such as changing locks, informing trusted individuals about the situation, or seeking assistance from local victim support organizations. Practice self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies that bring you comfort. 

  • Contact support services. Experiencing an assault can have a significant emotional impact. After an attack, it is normal to feel scared, angry, and have difficulty coping with these emotions. A trained mental health professional can provide counseling services and support that can help you find a way forward. Consider reaching out to local organizations that support survivors of assault. They can provide guidance, counseling referrals, and access to support groups. You can also speak with a therapist or counselor who specializes in trauma. They can assist you in processing your emotions, developing coping strategies, and supporting your recovery. 

  • Reach out to an attorney. You should consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling civil and personal injury cases.  

Experienced Personal Injury Attorney  

The Law Office of Joseph A. Lazzara, P.C. works hard to help people in Denver and the surrounding area file personal injury claims. If you or someone you know are harmed by someone’s intentional act, our experienced attorney can advise you of your legal options and help you understand how to pursue damages against the assailant and/or other liable parties.  

Learn more about your legal rights and options by discussing your case with our attorney. Call (720) 809-8262 to request a free initial consultation.