Assault is one of the few intentional torts that does not require actual physical contact. It’s also quite common, though many of the cases are thrown out of the court within a matter of weeks because there’s insufficient evidence to prove the elements of the tort. However, just because most of these cases do not result in settlements or going to trial does not mean that you should not protect yourself.
Your Position as the Defendant
If someone is claiming that you have assaulted him, this means that you are the defendant. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, the person who is claiming you assaulted him. He has to show that it is more likely than not that you actually assaulted him. You, on the other hand, must merely show that either any of the elements are not met or that it is not more likely than not that you assaulted him.
The Safest Focus
Most of the time, as you can see from legal sites like LegalZoom, the easiest way to defend yourself is to target weaknesses in the elements. Intent is the easiest one to focus on if the actual assault component is fairly easy to prove. For instance, if he is claiming you assaulted him because you lifted up a chair and he was afraid that you were going to hit him, then you may want to focus on the intent. Intent is the hardest element to prove in any intentional tort case because it goes to your state of mind. The plaintiff is going to prove your intent through your actions as well as through surrounding circumstances. You will need to craft your own evidentiary presentation to show that you did not have the intent.
The one thing that you must remember about intent is that it does not always have to be intent to commit the assault. In most states, it is enough if you should have known that it would cause the impact that it did. In other states, intent can be inferred if a reasonable person would have been seen as having that intent. You will be in the best position to prove your state of mind though.
Always Remain Calm
Oftentimes, the plaintiff will ask to have this before a jury. In most states, this can be obtained at either the plaintiff’s or the defendant’s request. But if this happens, you must remember that how you come across to the jurors is just as important as the truth. You need to be cautious of how you come across in your testimony. Do not become antagonistic. Do not attack the plaintiff. Even if a statement is an utter fabrication, remain controlled.
When someone claims that you have assaulted him, you need to defend yourself. The plaintiff will have to prove his claim, but you need to defend yourself. Your best defense will focus on disproving the intent requirement. But always remember to remain calm. It will make it easier for you to demonstrate your case and avoid being found liable.