Common examples of civil cases include child custody, child support, contract violations, personal injury, property damage and divorce. A civil case settles a personal or business conflict when an individual or group feels wronged by a defendant or cannot come to an agreement on an existing legal matter. A plaintiff files a civil complaint, or a formal request asking the court to intervene, often leading to a lawsuit.
In civil cases, a plaintiff is responsible for providing sufficient evidence that a defendant is guilty of wrongdoing. Plaintiffs may seek monetary compensation to cover expenses related to the complaint, such as attorney fees, property repair, lost income and medical bills. When necessary, the court may order a defendant to fulfill obligations owed to the plaintiff. In cases where defendants are deemed accountable for some form of needlessly harmful or malicious conduct, courts may also reward punitive damages to the plaintiff.
In contrast, a criminal case involves an alleged violation of public codes, such as robbery or murder, and the complaint is filed by a government entity. Civil trials don’t involve criminal prosecution, but they may settle civil complaints related to a criminal act. For instance, a defendant may face criminal charges filed by the local government for drunken driving and be involved in separate civil cases for injuring plaintiffs or destroying their vehicles.