What shouldI do if I am being sued in civil court for damages claimed from an alleged assault?

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What shouldI do if I am being sued in civil court for damages claimed from an alleged assault?

I punched someone in self defense and I was also hit. A month later I received a civil summons with a judgement against me for $2500. Can I have a lawyer represent me in this case? Do I prepare my own defense? During the trial can the judge arrest me for battery and turn it into a criminal case?

Asked on June 28, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, New Mexico


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

1) Civil and criminal cases are totally separate. That's not to say that the victim might not press charges or the police otherwise take an interest, but if that happens, it has nothing to do with the civil case.

2) The victim could, IF you were at fault, sue you for medical costs, lost wages, and if they suffered significant injury, possibly for  pain and suffering. But they can't just arbitrarily make up a number--for a court to award them damages, there must be some basis for it.

3) Self-defense is often a legal defense to assault, but it really must be defense--i.e. you were attacked. Being harassed, mocked, etc. doesn't justify an attack.

4) Even if you are liable, you can challenge the numbers you're being sued for, per 2) above.

5) Getting a lawyer when sued for a few thousand dollars is always a good idea; yes, you can defend yourself, but an attorney will drastically improve your odds of success.

Goo luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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