What Is a Civil Lawsuit?
Generally speaking, a civil lawsuit starts a process in a court of law. The kind of civil lawsuits handled by Dennis and King involve our firm representing an injured person seeking to hold a negligent person responsible for harming or wronging them. When we successfully represent a client in a civil lawsuit, a judge or jury will award our client compensation for any harm or injury the defendant (the person that caused the harm) caused. A civil lawsuit can be brought over a contract dispute, a residential eviction following a broken lease, injuries sustained in a car accident, and countless other harms or disputes. Civil lawsuits can also be brought by and against businesses as well as other entities.
Dennis and King specializes in representing people injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Unlike a criminal case, which is looking to punish the wrongdoer for a crime, a civil case is meant to compensate the person harmed (usually in the form of monetary “damages” paid from the defendant to the plaintiff).
How is a Civil Case Different from a Criminal Case?
Civil court differs from criminal court in many critical ways:
Anyone can bring a civil suit. A private party usually starts a civil case by filing a complaint that claims he/she has suffered harm or damages. On the other hand, only a prosecutor representing the state or federal government can bring forward a criminal case.
It takes less proof in a civil case to find the defendant responsible than in a criminal case. Most people have heard the term “ burden of proof .” In a civil car wreck case, this phrase encompasses what an injury victim (the plaintiff) must prove, based upon a preponderance of the evidence, in order for the jury to hold the defendant civilly responsible. In a criminal car wreck case, this phrase is what a prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, for the jury to hold a defendant criminally responsible for a crime. Proving a defendant’s criminal guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a much tougher standard to meet than proving a defendant civilly responsible based upon a “preponderance of the evidence.”
The defendant in civil cases brought by an injured person pays monetary damages and, unlike the defendant in a criminal trial, does not go to jail. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff is asking a jury to decide if the defendant caused her injury and the money value of the injury. In a criminal case, if the defendant is convicted of a crime, he or she is usually facing jail time, probation, the payment of a fine, compelled performance of community service, or some combination of the above.
Personal Injury Lawsuits Are One Type of Civil Suit
A personal injury lawsuit starts in Tennessee by filing a personal injury complaint in the circuit court or general sessions court located in the county where the accident happened or where the defendant lives. In Georgia, a civil lawsuit starts by filing a complaint in the superior court, the state court, or the magistrate court of the county where the accident happened or where the defendant lives.
The great majority of people with a personal injury never file a personal injury complaint in court. This is because the great majority of these cases are settled before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. Instead, the plaintiff reaches a negotiated settlement with the defendant or his insurance company. Learn more about the timeline of a personal injury case and when to expect a personal injury settlement.