CIVIL LAW

 

"Civil" cases are cases in which private citizens (or companies) sue each other in court and it involves the part of the law that deals with business, contracts, estates, domestic (family) relations, accidents, negligence and everything related to legal issues, statutes and lawsuits, that is not criminal law.  There are many different kinds of cases in civil court:

·         Malpractice: If you are suing for medical malpractice, or some other type of professional negligence, the law says you need to prove that (1) the doctor or other professional breached (broke) the duty of care owed to you and (2) you suffered damages as a direct and proximate cause of the breach. These legal requirements are very hard to prove, and you will need expert witnesses to do it.  First, expert witness fees are very expensive. If you have a lawyer representing you on a “contingency” basis (meaning the lawyer only gets paid if you win), the lawyer will usually hire and pay for the expert witness upfront, so you will not have to reimburse the lawyer until the case is over. If you are representing yourself and do not have a lawyer to advance these costs, you may not be able to afford the experts you need to prove your case.  Also, getting an expert witness and establishing to the court that he or she is an expert can also be very complicated and should be handled by a trained and experienced lawyer.

·         Real Estate:  Real estate cases that allege someone committed fraud, like cases in which there is competing title to real property, are usually too complicated for a person without a lot of legal training and experience. Also, even if you win, if you make a mistake in writing up the final order (in civil cases, the court generally does not prepare orders, it is up to the parties to do it), the title insurance company may not insure title, in effect preventing you, as the property owner, from selling or refinancing.

·         Wrongful Termination or Employment Discrimination:  If you are suing your employer for employment discrimination or wrongful termination, you most likely will need a lawyer. Proving these cases is complicated and the employer’s lawyers usually fight these cases vigorously. To win this type of case, you must have a lawyer skilled in direct and cross-examination of witnesses and the rules of evidence.

·         Administrative Writs & Appeals:  Cases appealing a final decision by an administrative agency or hearing officer are extremely complicated and limited in the type of review the court can make. A lawyer can tell you if you have a sufficient basis in the record for an appeal and discuss other options with you.

·         Construction or Product Defects: Construction defect cases often depend on expert witnesses to prove or disprove the allegations of the complaint. This may not be true of a small case in which the property owner hired a handyman or contractor to perform a single job on the property and 1 person performed all the work.  For example, if you hired a roofing contractor to install a new roof, and the new roof leaked, you may be able to sue the roofing contractor without a lawyer or expert witnesses because you may be able to prove on your own that (1) you hired the contractor to install a new roof, (2) you paid the contractor, (3) the roof leaked, and (4) the leaks caused damage.  But if you had several people working on your house (like an architect, a structural engineer, and a general contractor who, in turn, hired subcontractors and purchased supplies from different suppliers), proving who is at fault when something goes wrong becomes very difficult, and you would probably need an expert witnesses to determine fault and explain it to the court.  Also, while construction experts are usually not as expensive as medical experts, they can still cost a lot, especially if you need many experts in different specialties. Expert costs for these types of cases can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

·         Class-Action:

·         Personal Injury/Wrongful Death:

·         Breach of Contract:

·         Fraud:

·         Intentional Torts:

·         Assault & Battery:

·         False Advertising:

·         Defamation:

·         Trespassing:

·         Nuisance:

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·         Other:  There are other types of cases that are difficult or impossible for non-lawyers to win because the law or procedure is extremely complex or because the cost of bringing the case to trial is high.

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t is always best to consult with a lawyer before filing a lawsuit to make sure that the case is one you can bring with some chance of success. 

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​Civil cases

"Civil" cases are the cases in which private citizens (or companies) sue each other in court.  Civil cases are not about breaking a criminal law. 
There are many different kinds of cases in civil court.  This website has separate sections for the most common kinds of civil cases. For more detailed information, you can go to our home page and click on the topic that interests you. 
There are a lot of different kinds of cases in civil court:
·         Small claims cases, which are lawsuits between individuals or companies for $10,000 or less, and where no one is allowed to have a lawyer.
·         General civil cases, usually involving suing someone for money in disputes over things like contracts, damage to property, or someone getting hurt.
·         Family law cases such as divorce, child support, child custody, and adoptions.
·         Landlord/tenant cases, where a landlord is trying to evict a tenant from a rental property or a tenant that has moved out is trying to get ore of his or her security deposit back from the landlord.
·         Probate cases, which are generally about taking care of people and their personal affairs (like wills) and conservatorships for people who cannot take care of themselves or handle their own finances.
·         Juvenile cases, which involve children under the age of 18 and are separated into 2 main categories: juvenile delinquency (for minors who have broken a criminal law) and juvenile dependency (for children who have been removed from the home or care of their parents).
·         Other types of cases like name changes, elder abuse, civil harassment, and many others.
Unlike in criminal cases, there is no right to a court-appointed lawyer in most civil cases. This means that, if you cannot afford a lawyer and you cannot get a legal aid or pro bono (volunteer) lawyer, you have to represent yourself.  Click if you want more information about being your own lawyer and Representing Yourself.
Some civil cases are decided by judges or by commissioners, like family law, small claims, probate, or juvenile cases. Other civil cases are decided by juries, where it is only necessary that at least 9 of the 12 jurors agree on the verdict.
Standard of proof
In most civil cases, the judge or jury has to make a decision about which side wins based on a standard called “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that, if you win, your side of the story is more likely than not. It does not mean that one side brought in more evidence than the other side. It means that one side’s evidence was more believable than the other's. 
In some cases, the standard for reaching a decision is “clear and convincing evidence.” This means that, for you to win, you have to prove that your version of the facts is highly probably or reasonably certain, or “substantially more likely than not.”   
BUT neither of these standards is as strong as the standard in criminal cases, which requires the state to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime he or she is being charged with beyond a reasonable doubt.