Civil courts are possibly one of the most well-known types of court cases to have. Civil courts cover a huge umbrella of cases involving but not limited to such things as tort claims, breach of contract claims, equitable claims, class action suits, and landlord/tenant issues.

FindLaw defines a Civil Court as a government institution that settles disputes between two or more entities. Typically, the function of a civil court is to determine the liability of one party for the injuries, which do not necessarily need to be of a physical nature, that is suffered by another party. Civil court cases can be complex and require not only knowledge of the law but also knowledge of court rules and procedures.

Common Types Of Civil Cases

Personal Injury Tort Claims: Personal injury claims are among civil litigation's most prevalent types of lawsuits. In personal injury claims, the plaintiff seeks restitution for losses brought on by the Defendant's conduct. The argument could center on strict responsibility, negligence, or willful misconduct. Among the claims made are for motorcycle and auto accidents, medical malpractice, fraud, personal injuries, animal attacks, and many others.

Contract Disputes: When a person or organization doesn't uphold their end of the bargain, a breach of contract claim is made in civil court by the aggrieved party. The plaintiff demands compensation for the breach of the contractual contract. Business agreement violations and non-delivery of purchases are just a couple of the issues tackled.

Equitable Claims: The aggrieved party may ask the court to order a person or entity to stop doing something or to take a certain action. In the majority of cases, the plaintiff asks for a temporary injunction or reprieve against the offender.

Class Action Lawsuits: A civil litigation attorney represents a large group or class of persons who are suing an organization for damages or injuries they have suffered. Class action lawsuits can result in significant awards of compensation but are challenging to litigate. 

Property Disputes: Disagreements over property ownership and boundaries are common in property cases. The court may impose restrictions on the trespasser in addition to monetary restitution.

Why You Should Hire a Civil Attorney

When working with a civil litigation attorney, you should trust them to manage all of the case's key components. This is true regardless of your position as the plaintiff or the defendant.

A civil lawyer can help with the discovery process right away during the pre-trial phases of a dispute. This procedure could involve any of the following, but not limited to:

  • Making necessary witness depositions;
  • Bringing in qualified witnesses as necessary;
  • Planning a discovery strategy;
  • Serving the opposite party with discovery requests; and
  • Submitting paperwork to the court.

You should anticipate that your civil lawyer will advise you of all of your settlement or resolution choices. Additionally, you should anticipate an honest evaluation of your odds of success in court. Lastly, when it comes to billing, a civil lawyer should inform you of their fee schedule and charge you accordingly.

What is a Plaintiff and Defendant

In civil cases, there are two main parties. The claimant or also known as the plaintiff once the lawsuit starts, and the Defendant. The term plaintiff, which means "complaining," dates back to 1278 and is derived from the Anglo-French word pleintif. A plaintiff is a person or entity who is injured and files a lawsuit. The word plaintiff can refer to an individual, an organization, or a business. The Defendant, on the other hand, during a civil lawsuit, is the party that is responsible for the claimant's injury, and in civil cases, defendants usually make their first court appearance voluntarily in response to a summons.

Stages of a Civil Lawsuit

Most jurisdictions have set their own rules in place for how a court should flow, but we have listed below the most common way that a civil court will be structured.

  1. Pre-filing stage - The conflict develops at this point, and the parties start to gather data, try to negotiate a settlement, and get ready in case a court case becomes necessary.
  2. Pleading stage - The court case is initiated by one party filing papers (a complaint), and the other party responds in some other manner (a motion).
  3. Discovery stage - During this stage, both sides exchange information and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the other side's case.
  4. Pre-trial stage - The parties now begin the trial preparation phase. They organize their witnesses and evidence, participate in settlement negotiations, and possibly submit court papers to settle the dispute or focus the issues for trial.
  5. Trial Stage - The judge or a jury hears the case at this point. Depending on how difficult the issue is, this could go on for a few hours or a few months. After interviewing witnesses and presenting evidence, the matter is ultimately resolved, and a judgment is rendered.
  6. Post-trial stage - During this phase, the winning party may attempt to collect the judgment that was entered, or one or both parties may decide to appeal the verdict from the trial.

How are Civil Courts and Criminal Courts Different?

Civil court cases and criminal court cases are different in many ways. For example, the punishments and the burdens of proof will vary differently in each style of court.

The primary distinction between the two is that criminal cases are often pursued by state officials, whereas civil cases are conducted between plaintiffs or private individuals or organizations. Secondly, the overall processes are different, as is how defendants are ultimately found guilty (criminal court) or liable (civil court). Criminal and civil cases have various legal ramifications as well. In civil cases, monetary damages or an injunction are frequently awarded. Whereas, in most criminal cases, jail time and sanctions are involved.

Additionally, civil law operates on a "preponderance of evidence" standard, which, according to Cornell Law School, is a "more than 51-percent possibility that the plaintiff's claim is accurate," as opposed to criminal law's "beyond a reasonable doubt" level of proof.

Lastly, civil law focuses on interpersonal connections among members of a particular community or society, whereas criminal law was created to safeguard the welfare of the state against conduct judged as threatening or detrimental to its general safety.

What is Preponderance Of Evidence? 

A party must demonstrate its claim or position by a preponderance, which is described as dominance in weight, force, importance, etc., in the majority of civil cases/lawsuits as well as administrative hearings. A preponderance of evidence, as used in personal injury and breach of contract lawsuits, denotes that a party has demonstrated that its version of the facts, causes, damages, or blame is more likely than not the accurate one. Unless otherwise stated by law, this standard is the simplest to achieve because it is applicable to all civil disputes.

The preponderance of evidence standard is applied when the plaintiff meets the burden of proof by providing proof that their claims have a higher than 50% possibility of being true. The burden of evidence is satisfied if a claim can be shown to have a greater likelihood of being true than false. Cases involving civil law are typically subject to the preponderance of evidence standard.

To hopefully paint a better visualization for you. Imagine a scale symbolizing the burden of proof, with the trays on either side of the scale holding the entirety of the evidence given by either party, with one side of the scale dipping lower, symbolizing the amount of evidence that one side has over the other. Hopefully, through this illustration, you will be able to better comprehend the concept of "preponderance of the evidence."

Burden Of Proof

The plaintiff is the party that brought the issue to court, so they will be faced with the burden of proof to prove their case is true. The burden of proof is often said to consist of two distinct concepts: burden of production and burden of persuasion.

Depending on the jurisdiction in The United States, the burden of proof might include, but is not limited to: 

  • Beyond reasonable doubt in criminal law.
  • Clear and convincing evidence of fraud in will disputes.
  • The preponderance of the evidence in most civil cases. 
  • Probable cause for obtaining a warrant or making an arrest.
  • Reasonable belief as part of establishing probable cause. 
  • Reasonable suspicion in cases involving police stops and searches. 

The burden of proof in a legal context is very important to a case's outcome. Determining who is in charge of presenting evidence that supports or refutes a claim is a requirement under the law. It also establishes how much proof is required to reach that objective.

How is The Burden of Proof in a Civil Lawsuit Different from a Criminal Lawsuit?

In civil lawsuits, it is the plaintiff's responsibility to prove their case. The plaintiff must establish both the truth of the accusations and the defendant's or the other party's liability for the damages. The burden of proof for the plaintiff in a civil case is often a preponderance of the evidence. This suggests that the likelihood of the other party harming or damaging the plaintiff is greater than zero. However, more serious civil suits might call for clear and persuasive proof or evidence that has a good chance of being true.

On the other hand, a criminal defendant is presumed innocent until the prosecution proves their guilt. Almost always, the prosecution has the burden of proof, and the accused does not have to establish their innocence. Even so, there are circumstances in which a person may wish to demonstrate their innocence, such as in cases involving allegations of insanity or self-defense. In the majority of cases, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. There is a greater standard of proof when the defendant's freedom is at risk.

In general, the burden of proof rests with the party making the claims. Except in limited circumstances, the law does not require defendants to undertake this burden of proof. Remember that when it comes to the burden of proof, the quality of the evidence is just as important as the quantity.

Additional Areas You Can Sue For In Civil Court

Civil court covers a vast amount of things in the law landscape. Civil litigation includes, for instance, disagreements between a landlord and a tenant or property disputes between neighbors. Other common cases include but are not limited to, personal injury, medical malpractice, premises liability, and civil sexual assault. 

Premises Liability

A premises liability claim holds a property owner accountable for any losses brought on by an injury sustained on their property. It is a legal requirement in every jurisdiction for properties to take reasonable steps to keep guests safe. A "premises liability claim" is brought about by failing to make the property secure for guests.

Rules governing who can sue for premises liability and under what circumstances vary by state. Some states consider the visitor's status when determining whether liability by the owner of the property is warranted. In those states, a visitor's status is typically one of trespasser, licensee, or invitee. Premises liability lawsuits frequently result from the following circumstances:

  • Animal and Dog Bites
  • Slip and Fall Accidents
  • Dangerous Property
  • Negligent or Inadequate Security
  • Swimming Pool Injury
  • Inadequate Maintenance
  • Children Playing on Property
  • Retail Store Liability
  • Restaurant Liability

Often, premises liability cases aren’t as dramatic or noticeable as car accidents, but they can still cause the same type of significant injuries or wrongful death. Many of our clients deal with the pain and suffering from their injuries for the rest of their lives.

If you’re looking for an experienced premises liability lawyer to help you pursue justice and obtain compensation for your injuries, please contact The Cochran Firm today at (1-800-The-Firm) for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Civil Sexual Assault

It is important to note that there are two forms of sexual assault, civil sexual assault and criminal sexual assault. These incidents of sexual assault each have extremely diverse circumstances that will influence not just the possible punishments that could result from the case but also how much power the alleged accuser will have over how the case develops.

In a civil sexual assault lawsuit, the accuser (often as represented by their attorney) is in charge of handling the case and has the authority to choose the case's course, including the kind of evidence to be used and the amount of damages to be claimed. The goal of a civil case is to decide if the Defendant is more likely than not responsible for the damages, and the accuser simply needs to demonstrate that the Defendant is at least 51 percent to blame for the harm. In a civil case involving sexual assault, the accuser formally files a lawsuit for accusations such as Assault, Battery, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, or False Imprisonment rather than suing for "sexual assault."

In some ways, civil sexual assault cases can be faster to prosecute than criminal ones because the burden of proof in civil sexual assault cases is merely a preponderance of the evidence. In civil court, sexual assault lawsuits may be more challenging to defend for the same reason. Accusers frequently work extra hard to settle the case or request monetary damages when the accused is wealthy or well-known.

In any event, sexual assault and abuse claims are severe charges with complicated concerns that may call for the expertise and understanding of devoted sexual abuse attorneys who are familiar with the specifics of such cases and are able to offer tenacious tactics that safeguard the rights of the victim.

The attorneys at The Cochran Firm have extensive experience representing victims of sexual abuse. We understand that sexual abuse is life-altering and can cause severe psychological pain to the victim. The Cochran Firm strives to fight for you, and we will be by your side throughout the legal process. Our sexual abuse attorneys remain dedicated to helping our clients during such life-altering times.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is defined as carelessness in a medical setting that puts a patient's health and safety in danger. In addition to failing to give patients the attention they require in a hospital or care facility, this also includes performing surgeries incorrectly, dispensing unnecessary medication or treatment, disregarding symptoms, and diagnosing illnesses incorrectly.

Injunctions or monetary damages are frequently sought in civil lawsuits against the opposing party. The most frequent medical malpractice claims include patients who received a delayed or incorrect diagnosis. Injuries sustained during childbirth, drug errors, anesthetic errors, and surgical errors are examples of further medical malpractice cases.

At The Cochran Firm, the leadership of our Medical Malpractice section and many of its section members are Board Certified in Medical Malpractice. All of our medical malpractice attorneys have the experience and expertise to help you screen and prosecute your medical malpractice case. And we often bring a team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys from several of our office locations to handle our cases at no additional charge to our clients.

If you’ve suffered a devastating personal injury as a result of a medical professional’s error, you should speak to our medical malpractice attorneys immediately. Please contact The Cochran Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long is a lawsuit from start to finish? 

A: If it is to be handled properly, the order and progression of the potential lawsuit's investigation, as well as the first filing of the case, should that become required, unfortunately, cannot be completed in a short amount of time.

Q: How do I know if I have a legitimate civil lawsuit? 

A: Consult with a lawyer who has knowledge in that field to assess whether you have a strong claim. He or she will be better able to assess your situation and decide whether to accept your claim.

Q: What is contract law?

A: Contract law is the area of civil law concerned with interpreting agreements between parties and resolving any disputes. All business transactions, from purchasing a bus ticket to trading stocks, are governed by contract law.

Q: How long do I have to file a civil claim? 

A: All civil actions are subject to a statute of limitations, which may bar a case from being brought to trial, regardless of how good a case it was. 

Why The Cochran Firm is for You

Founded over 50 years ago, The Cochran Firm is one of the nation's premier personal injury, truck accident, and medical malpractice law firms. The Cochran Firm is a national firm with regional offices throughout the United States. Our firm has on hand a diverse group of highly skilled and experienced lawyers dedicated to bringing quality representation to injured people and their families.

At The Cochran Firm, our attorneys and trial lawyers are dedicated to providing the highest quality legal representation for people and their loved ones. Our successes and results have been recognized nationally by legal publications and professional legal associations. We're here to help answer your questions. Judicial matters can be complicated; our experts are on hand to help inform you of every aspect of your topic. We take great pride in using our expertise for you and look forward to hearing from you. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, please contact us today. We maintain offices throughout the United States, better enabling us to fight tirelessly for the rights of injury victims in all areas of the country.