- Civil law is a body of law that determines private rights and liabilities, as distinguished from criminal law. Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations.
- A civil lawsuit is a lawsuit based on non-criminal statutes, such as disputes involving accidents or contracts. Civil suits typically seek to recover money damages or allow/disallow certain acts, rather than to imprison or punish a person.
Civil cases are generally brought by private individuals or corporations seeking to collect money owed or monetary damages. A criminal case is brought by the local, state or federal government in response to a suspected violation of law and seeks a fine, a jail sentence or both.
Court cases that involve disputes between people or businesses over money or some injury to personal rights are called “civil” cases. A civil case usually begins when one person or business (called the "plaintiff") claims to have been harmed by the actions of another person or business (called the "defendant").
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.
What happens at a pretrial hearing in a civil case?
The meeting of parties to a case conducted before trial is called a pretrial conference. Such meeting will be held before the trial judge or a magistrate, or a judicial officer who possesses fewer judicial powers than a judge. Any party to acase can request for a pretrial conference, or it may be ordered by the court.
During the trial, lawyers present evidence through witnesses who testify about what they saw or know. After all the evidence is presented, the lawyers give their closing arguments. Finally, the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.