Does a physical altercation automatically mean one or both parties are going to jail? The difference between a physical disagreement and a violent act with significant consequences—or the separation between a fight and assault and battery—is a murky topic for most people. This distinction becomes especially important to clear up when insurance coverage comes into play, as participants or victims in fights or assaults may believe they are insured when they are not.
One memorable way to understand the distinction is through a traditional murder mystery game. Intent (motive) and tools used are the more important factors. Like a murder mystery game, there is a significant difference between holding a candlestick in the wrong room at the wrong time versus being in the conservatory candlestick at the time of the murder with the candlestick and a grudge against the victim.
Knowing this distinction is key to understanding either event’s insurance implications. In this blog, we will examine the difference between a fight and assault and battery and when assault and battery coverage comes into play.
Fights: Expected Violence
A fight can be thought of as almost a consensual altercation. The two or more parties are usually all considered at fault for a mutual exchange of blows or physical combat. These events are typically over a simple disagreement, and there is typically no genuine intention to cause lasting harm. Participants intend to settle a dispute, not to inflict permanent damage.
In the context of the murder mystery game, it’s as if two players discovered their characters had come to blows before over a perceived slight. Tempers flared, a fight broke out, and both parties moved on. It’s a clue, to be sure, and may lead to a future assault or battery, but there isn’t a clear link at that point in the game.For a fight to be covered by most assault and battery insurance policies, the altercation would require a weapon to be involved. If a gun, knife, car, or other tool is present, the policy would kick in and cover relevant costs associated with the event.
Also read: Nightclub Violence: Amplify Security
Assault and Battery: Unexpected Harm
Assault and battery differentiates itself from a fight when there is an intentional act of violence or harm inflicted by one party upon another.
A fight becomes assault and battery if one party spontaneously attacks another or after the initial altercation has ended and one party initiates it. That spontaneous, unexpected aspect determines whether a fight becomes assault and battery. If a victim is attacked seemingly out of nowhere, they have the legal right to take whatever steps necessary to protect themselves or their loved ones from harm. It’s about when a simple disagreement transforms into an intent to harm.
In the murder mystery game example, it’s akin to a motive followed by action against a victim.
Assault and Battery: What’s the Difference?
Where a fight is a mutual coming to blows, assault and battery are actions from one party inflicted on another, and the assailant is at fault.
In fact, assault and battery are two different but related crimes:
- Assault is the act of threatening or attempting to cause harm. The purpose of the law here is to prevent an assault from becoming a battery. Words or intentions alone are not enough to constitute an assault, as the intent must be followed up with imminent danger, such as an overt act that threatens battery.
- Battery is the actual physical harm inflicted. This can be as simple as a mere touch, with no minimum degree of force necessary to constitute a battery. Battery also can be indirect, such as poison or knocking away someone’s cane.
For assault and battery to be covered by insurance, a weapon must be involved. This can be anything from a gun to a rock, but without a weapon, insurance would not cover it. An assailant attacking a victim with their bare hands would result in no one being covered by assault and battery coverage.
Educating on Assault and Battery Coverage
For insurance companies, the legal distinctions between a fight and assault and battery can significantly impact the coverage they provide to policyholders.
Insurance companies should take the time to educate both policyholders and agents on the legal distinctions. In much the same way as a murder mystery game, insurance companies need an understanding of three aspects to determine coverage.
- The assailant
- The insured location
- The weapon
McGowan Program Administrators has decades of experience providing flexible, comprehensive insurance coverage. Our Active Shooter/Workplace Violence Insurance policy will ensure your establishment has the peace of mind you need to focus on creating great experiences for your guests. If you have any questions about the extent of your assault and battery coverage, please don’t hesitate to contact us.