A civil court is a court of law that handles various civil cases, as opposed to criminal cases. Civil lawsuits involve one person (the plaintiff) filing a complaint against another person or party whom they feel has injured them in some way or has caused them property damages. The plaintiff is usually requesting for damages (monetary payment) or an injunction (a court order instructing the defendant to take some action).
For instance, in a car accident case, a person might file in a civil court of law under personal injury laws. They may be seeking compensation for bodily injuries, damage to their car, lost work wages, and other costs.
Civil courts commonly hear legal issues in many major areas of law such as:
- Personal injury disputes
- Family law issues
- Property and real estate issues
- Contracts, business, and intellectual property disputes
Criminal courts are different from civil courts in that criminal cases are filed by the state for violations of criminal laws (such as criminal murder laws, theft cases, etc.). In comparison, civil lawsuits involve disputes between two private parties.
Also, there are differences between the two with regards to:
- Burden of proof: the burden of proof in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt) is usually higher than in a civil case ("preponderance of evidence" in most instances).
- Legal consequences: Civil cases usually result in damages or an injunction; criminal cases generally involve jail time plus some fines.
Lastly, there may be various constitutional protections that apply to criminal defendants which are not always applicable in a civil court of law (such as the right to a lawyer). Some types of violations can be tried as under criminal laws, civil laws, or both. For instance, there are criminal assault laws in addition to civil assault laws.
Unlike criminal cases, each party in a civil case must obtain and hire their own lawyer. You may need to hire a civil lawyer if you have any issues involving personal injury, real estate, or any other civil matter. Your attorney can help explain how the laws in your region might be affecting your issue. Also, your lawyer can be on hand during trial to represent you in court.