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What Is Civil Law, And How Does It Compare To Criminal Law?

What Is Civil Law, And How Does It Compare To Criminal Law

Personal Injury Lawyer

According to a personal injury lawyer, civil law is a type of law practice which is used to resolve dispute between two parties and to provide compensation to the injured party, for their physical, mental, or emotional harms. Civil lawsuits are brought by the injured person, also known as the “Plaintiff”, while the person who is being sued for compensation is the “Defendant”. This is not to be confused with criminal law, in which the state is charging someone for a crime committed, and their behavior is punished because it is deemed an undesirable act by society and goes against the  law. Additionally, in a criminal lawsuit the “Prosecution” who is the state, brings charges against the “Defendant”. These two types of lawsuits can go hand-in-hand, as the person who committed the harm can be prosecuted both criminally and civilly for the same act.

There are also different standards of proof required to win either a civil or criminal case, which are drastically different and can affect the course of a case. For civil cases, the plaintiff needs to prove their case by a preponderance if the evidence, meaning that based on the evidence presented at trial, they must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the act that is being alleged. For criminal cases, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, and therefore the standard of proof is much higher than in a civil trial, as you are now considering punishment that can last for years of a person’s life.

What are the different kinds of Civil law?

There are four main sub-categories of civil law:

  • Contract Law: This type of civil law deals with two or more parties who may be in an agreement where each side is required to hold up and stay true to their portion of the agreement. For example, if a renter of an office space is signed to a contract with the property owner and part of their contract requires them to pay their rent on a certain date, if they fail  to pay on the selected date, they have committed a breach of contract and may potentially be subject to a civil lawsuit.
  • Family Law: This kind of civil law concerns itself with marriage, divorce, annulment, custody of children, guardianship, birth, child support, emancipation, alimony, and even prenuptial agreements.
  • Property Law: This category of civil law deals with personal property someone may own, whether a material item or an actual area of land and all of the surface underneath the land itself. This can include animals, electronics, household goods, vehicles, , and even intellectual property such as copyrights.
  • Tort Law: This kind of civil law concerns itself with personal injury or property damage and can often include monetary compensation for the plaintiff. There are three kinds of torts- negligence, strict liability, and intentional torts.

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on the differences between civil law and criminal law.