Assault occurs when one person intentionally causes another person to believe that he is in imminent danger of being the victim of harmful or offensive contact, in other words, the person must fear that he will be the victim of a battery. But no physical contact actually occurs.

What are the elements of an assault case?

A plaintiff must show two elements in an assault case:

  • Intentional conduct—simple fighting words are not enough
  • The conduct must place the plaintiff in apprehension of imminent harm


Person A and Person B bump into each other while walking down the street. Person A says, “I’m going to kill you,” and continues walking. Person B becomes afraid for his life. There is no assault, because Person A kept walking, despite making a threat of bodily harm.

Person A and Person B bump into each other while walking down the street. Person A says, “I’m going to kill you,” while pulling out a knife and waiving it at Person B, causing Person B to become afraid for his life and run away. Person A chases Person B for a while and then stops and walks away. By combining a knife and chase with a verbal threat, Person A has committed an assault on Person B.

What if a person intentionally threatens harm, but was acting in self-defense?

There are several defenses to allegations of assault, including consent, self-defense or defense of others, protection of property.

Example: Person A breaks into Person B’s house in order to rob it. Gun in hand, Person B confronts Person A, telling Person A, “I’m going to shoot you if you don’t get out of here.” Person B is defending himself and his property and has not committed an assault.

I am the victim of an assault:

  • Seek medical attention
  • Document your claim
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact an experienced personal injury lawyer

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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