Building from the ground up: What is Civil Law?

December 16, 2014
Building from the ground up: What is Civil Law?

In our first Law Education Series post, we differentiated between civil and criminal cases. In this post, we will define civil law in an effort to further develop your knowledge regarding the scope of civil law cases.

If you have read our first Law Education Series post, you know the purpose of civil law and the civil justice system is to handle disputes between individuals and/​or organizations in which one party, the plaintiff, files a claim stating they have incurred a loss as a result of another party, known as the defendant.

A civil lawsuit begins when the plaintiff files a claim stating they have incurred a loss. The plaintiff has two specific goals:

  1. To seek damages for injuries or incurred loss 
    • Damages seek monetary compensation to restore the plaintiff back to their original state of being prior to the incident in question.
  2. To seek an injunction against the defendant to restrain the continuance of the wrongdoing. 
    • Injunctions are court orders requiring a person to do or cease doing a specific action (ie. temporary & permanent restraining orders).

The law cannot turn back time and undo a harm that way, so generally the only remedies that are available are money and a court order to do (or not do) a particular thing.

A civil case is decided by either a judge or jury based on a standard of proof called preponderance of evidence. For a decision to be made in favor of the plaintiff, the fact finder must be convinced that it is more likely than not that the defendant was at fault. The fact finder can rely on a variety of evidence to make this determination — photographs, tangible items, demonstrative exhibits, the testimony of the plaintiff, defendant, witnesses and experts. The attorney’s job is to try and persuade the fact finder that his client’s evidence is more reliable and persuasive than the opponent’s.

Civil law is an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of underlying components. This post is simply the basic definition and goal of civil law cases. Keep checking back with your friends at Ball Eggleston for additional informative and educational posts as a part of our Law Education Series.

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Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.