Common examples of civil cases are disputes over contract violations and personal injury claims filed after auto accidents, explains the American Bar Association. Family law cases involving divorce, child custody or child support are also civil suits.
A private citizen, federal agency or business entity may pursue a civil case if another private party is accused of infringing upon its constitutional rights or violating legal statutes, according to the Federal Judicial Center. In general, a civil case is a private complaint that accuses a person or organization of failing to uphold a legal obligation or exercising more authority than existing law allows. Civil cases are tried in state and federal circuits, but unlike criminal cases, they do not involve acts viewed as harmful crimes against society at large.
In civil cases, the plaintiff who initiated the suit often pursues "damages," or compensation for some form of asset loss, notes the Federal Judicial Center. In other cases, the court may order the defendant to fulfill a specific legal obligation. For example, if a manufacturer enters a contract to produce goods for a distributor at a predetermined price, the manufacturer may file a civil complaint if the distributor decides to buy from a competitor to save money. Instead of covering the cost of producing the goods and losing the sale, the manufacturer may ask the court to award an equivalent amount in damages.