PERSONAL INJURY: IF I'M ASSAULTED, CAN I SUE FOR DAMAGES?

- By Andrew Carpenter  -

After his friend assaulted him, a man sued for damages, claiming intentional assault and battery. The Court decided that for the man’s claim to succeed, it wasn’t necessary for him to prove financial loss due to his injuries. The case is an interesting commentary on the laws relating to assault and battery – it’s now easier for a victim of assault to successfully sue the person who assaulted them.

Personal Injury: Can I sue for Assault?

Background – Can I sue for personal injury arising from assault and battery?

The man and his friend had been friends for about 24 years. The man had suffered a brain injury in a car accident about 11 years prior, causing him mental and physical impairment.

The friend visited the man’s home one night and the two got into an argument after they had been drinking alcohol. The man asked the friend to leave but the friend refused. Instead, he “trashed” the man’s home and destroyed his laptop computer.

When the man tried to salvage his computer, the friend pushed him into a wall twice, injuring the man’s head, shoulders and back and leaving a hole in the wall.

The man suffered serious bruising, cuts and scrapes. He went to see a doctor. He felt unsafe in his home and became withdrawn. Eventually he sought psychological counselling.

The man made a minor civil claim against the friend for personal injuries arising from intentional assault and battery. The man read a statement to the Court but didn’t provide any medical evidence to prove his injuries (although he did produce photographs that showed the injuries and the damage to the wall). Even so, he was successful in his claim because the friend simply denied the claim and then failed to appear in Court.

In his absence, the Court awarded judgement in favour of the man.

The man was claiming $25,000 but the Court awarded him just $2,500 to cover costs including repair to the wall and computer. These costs are known as “economic loss” because they relate to the man’s out-of-pocket expenses.

The Court refused to award damages for pain and suffering or for any reduction in his ability to do things for himself and live his normal life. These things are categorised as “non-economic loss” and are more difficult to measure than economic loss.

The Court said that the laws relating to non-economic loss said that damages could only be awarded if the man’s ability to live a normal life was significantly impaired for seven days or if medical expenses of at least $3,822 had been incurred in connection with the injury.

The Court said that the man had not:

  • Shown that his normal living had been impaired for seven days.
  • Provided any medical evidence to the Court to support his claim.
  • Proven that he had spent at least $3,822 on medical expenses.

This meant that the man’s claim for damages for non-economic loss couldn’t succeed. He could only succeed in claiming damages for economic loss.

The man appealed this decision to the District Court.

Appeal

On appeal, the Court said that the trial court shouldn’t have relied on the laws dealing with non-economic loss because those laws related to damages for personal injury. They did not apply to damages caused by intentional assault and battery.

It said that proof of damage isn’t essential to prove assault and battery.

The Court found that it would have taken the man at least a few weeks to heal after the assault. He also needed regular counselling sessions for up to a year and a half afterwards.

Because there wasn’t enough evidence to make any further conclusions about the man’s medical condition, the Court decided that the man should receive $1,500 in general damages for pain, suffering and physical and emotional inconvenience.

In addition, it awarded $400 for breach of friendship and trust and mental distress. There was an award of $600 because the actions of the friend were unprovoked and protracted. This was to punish the friend for his actions (“exemplary” damages).

These amounts (as well as a few other costs) were added to the $2,500 that had been previously awarded to the man for economic loss. The total amount awarded to the man was $5,235.

What does it mean?

This case confirms that a person can sue someone for intentional assault and battery and secure an award of general damages. This is because the laws covering civil claims do not apply to “intentional” assault and battery cases.

This case concerned a civil court action, which in essence means that it wasn’t a criminal action. In other words, it wasn’t necessary to wait until charges were laid against the friend (by the police) before the man decided to commence legal action for assault and battery.

A criminal action for assault and battery would proceed separately from the civil action. However, if the criminal charges have been heard and the person found guilty, that finding may be used in the civil case as a reason for the Court to find in favour of the plaintiff.

The main thing to remember is that the criminal case will punish the defendant for the crime. It won’t compensate the plaintiff for their loss, either economic or non-economic. The plaintiff would have to make a claim for victims of crime compensation or make a civil claim against the defendant for damages (as the man in this case did).

The good news for people who have been victims of assault is that the Court in this case has confirmed that there is a good opportunity to make civil claims for general damages resulting from an intentional act.

If you are considering making a civil claim for damages, contact us today for a free first interview. We have an outstanding team of civil litigation and personal injury lawyers and we can assist with your legal needs.

Murn v Beesley [2017] SADC 46 (2 May 2017)

FREE FIRST INTERVIEW

NO WIN NO FEE*

LOCAL LAWYERS FOR LOCAL NEEDS

GET THE RIGHT LAWYER FIRST

call now

*Conditions Apply

Testimonials

Having such a short time frame I was very impressed with the outcome made by [my solicitor]. Excellent and timely manner

Sebastian

Kurralta Park

Very professional mannerism and overall great outcome was delivered by Websters Lawyers.

Nicholas

West Ryde NSW

Helpful, explained fully, patient, excellent service.

Kerry

Ridgehaven

Patient and helpful in explaining the process.

Brian

Ridgehaven

Call Websters Lawyers for a most professional and friendly service. All understanding with [my solicitors] and the reception staff. Thank you so much.

Christine

Magill

Making my will was effortless on my part, with everything explained clearly. Well done to all.

Christina

Highbury

Great service, professional, explains things clearly, definitely recommend Websters Lawyers.

Garth

Upper Hermitage

Patient, professional, good communication about procedures and probable outcomes.

Jeffrey

Brompton

Thank you for all your work over the course of the case. You [both] were always very approachable and I appreciated your understanding and professionalism in all areas.

Alexis

Christie Downs

All in all my experience was great. Thank you for your time and expertise.

Christina

Seacombe Gardens

My matter was dealt with efficiently and was explained in an understandable language. A pleasant experience.

Mary

Ridgehaven

Practical and very helpful. Reasons and explanations given where needed

John

Ridgehaven

I stumbled across Websters in the Yellow Pages and I rang, explained my situation and immediately they took my case on. Greatly appreciate their services.

Diane 

Ridgehaven

The service from Websters Lawyers was outstanding. [My solicitor] was caring, had patience and was very professional. Wonderful personality.

Julie

Yorketown

[My solicitor] made everything so simple to understand. [The receptionist] was wicked too, would recommend them anytime. Level of entire service was outstanding.

Craig

Golden Grove

 

I had dealings with Websters over 20 years ago. They were my first choice when I recently needed legal advice. Both legal and office staff were professional, courteous and accessible at all times. Everything was explained up front in a clear and concise manner. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.

Rod

Dernancourt

It has truly been a pleasure communicating with you throughout the process. I really appreciate your patient and speedy replies to my questions and requests. You were always able to provide an easily understood response and this helped me deal with the process. Your friendly and positive manner encouraged me to seek your advice.

Kathleen

Battery Hill QLD

[My lawyer's] service was prompt and efficient with all questions explained clearly with all our requests carried out within the laws. Overall service was very satisfactory.

John

Wynn Vale

[My lawyer] was excellent. 

Gordon

Glengowrie

Excellent service. Professional. Clear advice and instructions. Prompt actions. Overall 10/10!

Phillip

Ingle Farm

Overall, I was happy with my outcome and my lawyer, would definitely recommend [my lawyer].

Janet

Adelaide

[My solicitor] was excellent at helping us through preparing our wills which were particularly challenging as they involved assets in multiple countries. She was professional and knowledgeable and spent time tailoring the wills to our needs.

Jonathan

Greenwith

[My solicitor] was very helpful, respectful and polite. She made sure I understood the process and documentation of our wills.

Rachel

Greenwith

Professional. Smooth Transaction. 

Luke

Largs North

I found the whole experience from Receptionist to Solicitor excellent. They completely put us at our ease.

Ethel

Smithfield

This was a new experience for us and didn’t have a clue what to do. [Our solicitor] on our first visit put us at ease, explained what will happen, pointed out there was a strong case. [Our solicitor] was genuine in her approach, kept us well informed, explained actions several times with patience and understanding. Overall very happy with the service we received.

Stephen

Elizabeth Vale

[My lawyer] was very reassuring in her approach to my case. I felt that every possibility in terms of evidence to provide and possible outcomes were explained to me, The result of the case was the best possible outcome I could have expected.

David, Belair

 

With no previous dealing with the criminal justice system, [our solicitor] gave us excellent advice and guided us through a nightmare to achieve a just and correct outcome. [Our lawyer] was both forthright and compassionate in her handling of our case.

Malcolm, Belair

[My lawyer] explained all the legal terms in language I could understand – she was very easy to talk to.

Cameron, Munno Para

I felt confident knowing my matter was in good hands. Very professional!

Shravan, Christie Downs

Initial phone call was fantastic and the role of an executor was fully explained.

Penny, Henley Beach

The service I received was efficient and promptly finalised. The solicitor clearly explained the details and I was happy with how easy it was.

Dale, Fairview Park

[My lawyer] was exactly the lawyer I needed in a serious matter. The outcome was as predicted which was a fantastic result. I received prompt professional and personal service at all times. Capable and supportive in a very stressful period.

Jason, Munno Para West

I had any of my concerns answered to my satisfaction and understanding.

Valda, Ingle Farm

[My lawyer] is an excellent professional lawyer who assisted in achieving a great positive outcome/result. I sincerely thank you and your great staff for your assistance and guidance throughout my claim. Would highly recommend [my lawyer], staff and Websters Lawyers. Kept fully informed and guided, professionally throughout the matter.

Rena, Northgate

Our work was dealt with very efficiently and speedily. Our lawyer was very professional, at the same time as being approachable. Communication was great.

Christina, Highbury

My experience with Websters Lawyers was far beyond what I expected. From the moment I spoke to [my lawyer] she made me feel very comfortable and eased my stress. In my case I had a court appearance the day before we were scheduled to fly to Spain, Considering my first appointment with her was only 2 weeks before the court hearing, she was able to obtain the police statement and thoroughly work on my case within that limited time frame. She was very knowledgeable, understanding and confident which greatly relieved so much pressure from me and my family. At court, she explained everything thoroughly and advised me of all the possible outcomes. Price, service and result, very highly recommended. Thank you Websters Lawyers.

Rafael, Davoren Park

I have high expectations and they were met. Websters service was swift, courteous, professional and met the agreed budget. I will recommend Websters to my family, friends and colleagues. Thank you.

Peter, Forestville

I would recommend Websters Lawyers, especially for [my lawyer's] dedication and exemplary attitude and advice. She is the epitome of a good lawyer. The service was impeccable.

Pamela, West Lakes

[My lawyer] was very professional and I was made comfortable to understand.

Gregory, Penfield

I was very pleased with the end result and how well [my lawyer] conducted herself.

Sonya, Glanville

Very professional.

Jesse, Morphett Vale

[My lawyer] has been very prompt , reliable and provided a high level of communication.

Peter, Parkside

My experience at Websters was very positive. The stress was taken from me and I could not be happier with the outcome. [My lawyer] at Websters was professional, personable, available and caring. Thank you for making the experience stress free.

Magda, Holden Hill

Found my lawyer upfront and reliable – I would highly recommend Websters Lawyers.

Lee, Evanston Park

 

Top bunch of solicitors and admin staff. Very friendly and to the point service.

Bradley, Hallett Cove

Websters Lawyers were very professional in their service, I would be happy to recommend them.

Carole, Tea Tree Gully

We would not hesitate in recommending Websters for any legal matter. They are professional and courteous at all times and call back when they say they will.

David and Dianne, Lockleys

 

I fully recommend Websters Lawyers. This was the 3rd time myself & my family have used Websters Lawyers. In these stressful times we have found them to answer and guide us through the process needed to accomplish the legal requirements in a timely and courteous manner.

Dianne, Lynton

Solid, to the point, no hustle. Highly recommend.

George, Windsor Gardens

Contact us

Adelaide Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8231 1363
F: ( 08 ) 8231 5529

Ridgehaven Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8395 8000
F: ( 08 ) 8395 8222

Smithfield Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8487 0150
F: ( 08 ) 8395 8222

© Copyright WebstersLawyers.com 2017 All Rights Reserved
Website By A to Z Marketing