The United States operates off a common law legal system. In systems like this, the term civil case refers to something that is not a criminal offense. As a general rule, civil proceedings tend to be focused on gaining compensation for damage or an injury.
A civil case needs at least 2 parties who have a legal dispute. There is no upper limit to the number of parties that can be involved. These tend to be a private dispute and will only directly impact a handful of parties.
The victim in civil cases is a single person or business and is referred to as the plaintiff. This party is raising a claim that they have been harmed by another party’s actions. This party is known as the defendant.
The civil case is started when a complaint is filed. This is a document that outlines the facts and legal theories to back up the plaintiff’s case.
This document is likely to include a request for damages for the harm that has been suffered. The plaintiff may also ask for an injunction.
This is a court order that either prevents the defendant from doing something or forces the defendant to do something.
Another option is to ask for a declaratory judgment. This is a court order that will clearly state the plaintiff’s rights under the relevant contract or statutes.
A judge or jury analyzes the case facts and applies the appropriate legal statutes to them. From this information, the judge or jury will make a decision on the case.
They will use this to decide what legal consequences are faced by the defendant. Alternatively, the plaintiff and defendant may reach a dispute resolution out of court. This is known as settling.
What are the 5 most common types of civil cases?
A contract dispute is one of the leading civil cases. This is when the parties have signed a contract and one or more is not living up to the obligations that they agreed to.
This can be due to poorly written contracts, but more often than not it is due to promises being made that the party cannot fulfill.
Property disputes are another common type of civil case. These tend to refer to disputes over property ownership or damages caused to property.
Property line disputes tend to make civil cases fairly often. This is when one party alleges that another party (or parties) has crossed the boundary line between the two properties.
This is almost always between neighbors and usually involves buildings or plants crossing the property line.
Torts are types of civil cases where one party claims another has caused them emotional or physical harm. They can concern matters of personal safety, the safety of your residence, or financial security.
You can also get accident and injury torts that cover assault and battery claims. As well as this, negligence cases are another form of tort.
Class action cases are fairly similar to torts. The difference is where the prosecution in a tort case is acting on behalf of an individual, in a class action case they represent a group of people.
These people must have all experienced the same issues at the hand of the same party. These cases tend to involve exposure to hazardous materials or defective products.
Complaints against the city are commonly settled outside of court but in the event they enter court they are tried as civil cases. The defense in these cases is the federal or city government.
They only really enter court when the government refuses to settle. They are concerned with harm being caused to citizens based on the city’s policies and laws.
What are the differences between a civil and criminal case?
Civil cases can be brought by anyone, and tend to be raised by a private party. The victim controls all directions that the case takes and how the case is handled.
Criminal cases are brought by a district attorney or prosecutor that represents the local government. Once the charges have been filed, the district attorney will either extend a plea offer to the defendant or decide to take the case to trial.
Civil cases have a much lighter burden of proof. This means that the defendant can be held liable for the alleged injustice with much less physical evidence, making it easier for the prosecution to win the case.
In contrast, criminal prosecutors must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt for them to be sentenced.
Generally speaking, civil cases do not end in jail time for the defendant. The court will award damages to the winner, often taking the form of financial compensation.
The losing party will need to pay these fees to the winner and that will be that. In criminal cases, if the defendant is found guilty they are convicted.
This will often lead to jail time, a probation period, a large fine, community service, or some combination of these punishments.
Can a civil lawsuit turn into a criminal one?
Criminal proceedings tend to have the main purpose of inflicting punishment for a crime or wrongdoing. They tend to involve issues that would be considered harmful or dangerous to society as a whole.
Some cases can be classed as both criminal and civil if there are multiple issues involved. A party can break the law at the same time as committing a legal wrong against a private individual.
Civil lawsuits can become criminal lawsuits if evidence is uncovered that leads to a criminal investigation being launched.
If there is any indication that one or more parties has committed a crime a criminal case will be launched. The criminal case will be separate from the civil case, meaning that 2 proceedings will be running at the same time.
Civil cases can only give out civil punishments in the form of fines. If you wish to pursue someone for criminal activity, the case must be passed through the criminal court system.