Tort law is the area of the law that addresses injuries—physical, emotional, and injuries to property. There are three basic types of torts recognized in most legal systems. Torts may be intentional, strict liability, or negligent. Battery is generally considered an intentional or negligent tort. Battery tort, or the tort of battery, usually requires an intentional, or negligent, touching of another person which causes harm to the person.
Battery may also be charged as a crime in many jurisdictions. When battery is charged as a crime, the defendant may face jail time as a result. In many cases, the victim of a battery also has the option to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant for personal injuries caused as a result of the battery tort. Often, a conviction in criminal court for the crime of battery may actually be used as evidence against the defendant in a civil lawsuit for battery tort.
One significant difference between the criminal charge of battery and the civil tort of battery is that, in a civil lawsuit, the degree of force used to commit the battery is irrelevant. In a criminal case, there are frequently levels of battery depending on the force used or whether a weapon was involved. In a civil battery tort lawsuit, gently pushing someone is the same as hitting someone with a weapon. In most cases, the legal issue is whether the touching was intentional; however, in some jurisdictions, battery tort may be shown by showing a negligent touching.
The other important difference between the crime of battery and battery tort is that, unlike in a criminal case where the defendant faces incarceration, in a civil lawsuit, the focus is on the damages suffered by the victim. As such, the victim will receive monetary compensation if he or she wins a civil tort lawsuit. The amount of the compensation will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the touching, the actual physical injuries suffered, as well as the emotional impact of the battery.
A defendant faced with a lawsuit for battery tort may have a defense to the lawsuit. In most jurisdictions, consent and self-defense are the most common defenses to the tort of battery. Consent is used when the defendant claims that the touching was consensual; for example, in a sexual battery lawsuit. Self-defense is alleged in situations where the defendant claims he or she was threatened by the victim and had no other reasonable choice but to protect himself or herself by committing the battery.