What Is A Civil Case?
A civil case is a dispute over civil or private rights. In a civil case, one party injured another party by way of negligence or by failing to uphold a certain responsibility.
Individuals or entities can seek a solution to the dispute through a civil lawsuit.
Civil Case Examples
- Breach of contract
- Property damage
- Custody disputes
- Defamation (slander or libel)
- Negligence resulting in an injury or death
Many youth and religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, have been sued in lawsuits over negligence related to child sexual abuse. Similarly, companies such as Lyft, Uber, Airbnb and Grubhub have faced negligence claims related to sexual assault and physical attacks associated with their services.
What Is A Criminal Case?
By definition, a criminal case is a crime against the government. This is true in all criminal cases, despite the fact that many criminal offenses are committed against individuals.
By allegedly victimizing an individual, the accused broke the law. Thus, state or federal prosecutors will bring criminal charges against the accused.
Criminal Case Examples
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Possession of a controlled substance
Main Differences Between A Civil And Criminal Case
There are several major differences between civil and criminal cases:
How Cases Are Initiated
Prosecutors representing the state or federal government initiate the criminal case.
A private party, otherwise known as the plaintiff, initiates a civil case. The plaintiff is often the injured party or the victim of a crime.
How Statute Of Limitations Apply
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime or civil dispute, and the intended legal action.
Some crimes will fall under criminal and civil law. In these instances, there is often a separate statute to file a civil claim versus pursuing criminal charges for the same crime.
For example, in the state of New York, survivors of child sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against an abuser until they reach 55 years of age. However, for the same exact crime, state prosecutors must bring felony criminal charges against the abuser before the victim turns 28 years of age.
Right To An Attorney
The defendant in a criminal case has a right to an attorney. The state must provide the defendant with an attorney if the defendant is not able to afford one.
The defendant in a civil case does not have the right to an attorney. If a defendant can’t afford legal representation, they have to represent themselves.
Burden Of Proof
In either case, the accuser must establish proof of the claims, otherwise known as the burden of proof.
In a criminal case, the prosecution is responsible for proving the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Because a criminal case can result in a greater punishment, the burden of proof is higher than what is required in a civil case.
In a civil case, the standard of proof is relatively lower than in a criminal case.
Put simply, the plaintiff in a civil case must prove the claim against the defendant is more likely to be true than untrue.
How Cases Are Decided
A jury typically decides the outcome in a criminal trial.
A civil court judge typically decides the outcome in a civil case.
Legal Protections Available To The Defendant
A criminal defendant is legally protected against actions by the police or prosecution that break the defendant’s constitutional rights.
A defendant in a civil case is not afforded the same legal protections as someone facing criminal charges.
Depending on the crime, a convicted criminal may face prison time, probation and/or a monetary fine.
Punishment in a civil case is typically a monetary penalty. A civil case may also result in an injunction or an order to change behavior.
If a defendant is found guilty in a civil proceeding, they do not serve jail time unless they were found guilty in a related criminal case.
Some Acts Lead To Civil Lawsuits And Criminal Charges
Some criminal acts can lead to a civil and a criminal case. For example, many Catholic dioceses have been sued for their role in the priest abuse scandal.
In many of these cases, a priest or clergy member sexually abused a minor. Rather than report the crime, many dioceses and church officials covered up the abuse. Thus, they are also negligent for the crime.
Many of these civil cases against negligent Catholic dioceses have resulted in settlements or payouts for victims.
An experienced, knowledgeable lawyer can help victims determine if a civil lawsuit can be filed following a crime.
Some personal injury attorneys, such as The Meneo Law Group, will work on a contingency basis. This means the client will only pay their legal team if a settlement or monetary award is secured.
Free, Confidential Case Evaluation.
If you or a loved one have suffered from the physical, mental and emotional effects of institutional sex abuse, you’re entitled to legal representation and possible financial compensation.
Receive your response in 24 hours
American Bar Association. (N.D.) Civil Right to Counsel. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
Duignan, B. (N.D.) What Is the Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law? Britannica. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
Erstad, W. (2018, October 29). Civil Law vs. Criminal Law: Breaking Down the Differences. Rasmussen University.
Legal Information Institute. (N.D.) Clear and Convincing Evidence. Cornell Law School. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
Legal Information Institute. (N.D.) Preponderance of the evidence. Cornell Law School. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
The Mississippi Bar. (N.D.) The Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo
Ron Meneo is the managing partner of The Meneo Law Group. With more than 40 years of experience, he represents clients across the country on a variety of complex legal matters, including personal injury due to institutional sexual abuse, unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and other practice areas. He is a recipient of Martindale-Hubbell’s prestigious AV® Preeminent Rating. He has also served as an editor and contributor for several legal journals.