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What is a civil suit in simple terms?


Civil means common people or common citizens of a country. When we say a civil suit, it means the disagreement between two people—the disagreement leading to a dispute that can be legally resolved.

The legal structure of the United States consists of the criminal justice system and civil justice system. Among the two the criminal justice system deals with the criminal cases that may cause damage to life and property and society as a whole whereas in the civil cases the involving parties are only found to be affected.

What is a Civil suit?

Civil suits involve civil cases that deal with the dispute of any two-person or any two institutions in the civil court of law. So, the civil lawsuit does not involve criminal charges or penalties. In a civil suit, non-criminal disputes are held in which the plaintiff may seek compensation or any other damage recovery from the defendant.

Various reasons differentiate a criminal suit from a civil lawsuit. But you need to understand what is a civil suit in the first place. If you have been looking for information essential for understanding what a civil lawsuit is, you must read below.

The term which is mostly used in a civil suit is mediation versus arbitration. In mediation, the civil suits are resolved by the parties when both of them tries to resolve the matter at their end, and in arbitration, someone decides based on proof, evidence, circumstances, and the damage.

Civil litigators are the lawyers or the attorneys who have specialization in civil litigation cases and represent the case of the defendant or the plaintiff in the whole process.

Who is involved in a civil lawsuit?

A civil case is usually logged by a person or a party/ business who has suffered damage due to another person or a party’s harmful or wrongful act. In a civil suit, the party has logged the complaint and needs compensation and accountability from the liable person.

The Attorney who fights a civil lawsuit is called a civil attorney. The person who registered the case is called a plaintiff, and the person accused of the damages is known as the defendant.

The Process of a Civil Lawsuit

For a civil lawsuit to be registered, the plaintiff must first submit a petition in the court seeking justice for any damages caused by the defendant. A compensation demand will be placed by the plaintiff seeking to recover the damage costs.

An attorney is hired by the plaintiff to register the case in court and fight the civil suit. The plaintiff has to be certain about pressing charges on the defendant. A defendant is also allowed to hire an attorney to present his/her side of the case. To present counter-evidence and also cross-question the witnesses in the case.

For the dispute to be resolved, the court allows the plaintiff and the defendant to settle the case before the trial’s beginning. It is a settlement request, so both parties consider resolving issues before a problem that may struggle to determine evidence and witnesses’ reliability. Therefore the court decides to have the matters settled through either of the two ways.

  1. Mediation 
  2. Arbitration

What are the processes involved in Civil suits?

A civil suit begins as the plaintiff files the complaint, well there are many steps involved in the process. The court may rearrange the steps according to the circumstances and the case involved.

  • Scheduling Order:

    As the defendant files the answer to the complaint, the judge of the court issues deadlines, and important dates for the case and the dates for filing the document, motion, presenting evidence, and the trial date as well.

  • Investigation:

    The attorneys involved investigated the claims and collect the evidence in support of the case may be by visiting the site of the accident, taking photographs, asking questions to the witness informally, and recording their statements. The attorney evaluates every side of the case and takes the steps accordingly.

  • Discovery:

    It is the longest process in which both parties that is the plaintiff and the defendant, exchange information, share proofs, documents, witness, and evidence. Basically, in this step both the parties know the strengths and weakness of each other and oneself. This step is also the determinant for whether the case will be won or lost.

  • Mediation:

    In this step, both the defendant and the plaintiff parties meet and try to have a settlement in presence of a neutral third party. In mediation versus arbitration, mediation is always the best option as it involves both party agreement and is also helpful in avoiding the expenses and time that may be consumed in arbitration.

  • Filing Motion:

    After being entered into a negotiation or mediation either of the party may file like Motion to compel, motion to dismiss, motion for summary judgment. This step helps narrow the issues of the trial.

  • Trial:

    Many of the civil suits are resolved before the trial process that is through negotiation and settlement. The unsolved cases reach the trial stage. In this, the judge or the jury hears the case witness and evaluates the evidence, and based on it, the decision is taken.

  • Settlement:

    After taking the facts and evidence into consideration the judge decides the settlement for the case.

  • Appeal:

    If any of the parties is not satisfied with the decision of the court then the attorney on behalf of the client may file an appeal.

  • Judgment Enforced:

    The last step of the civil suit and after appealing whatever may be the decision of court it is enforced and both the parties have to follow that. 

Understanding what is a civil suit can sometimes be confusing as there are many steps and processes involved but in simple words, it can be said that a civil suit involves civil disputes between two parties, two people, or organizations. 

What is Mediation Versus Arbitration?

In a mediation, the process involves communication in which a mediator helps both the parties reach an agreement, understanding, and reconciliation. In this case, the mediator does not play the role of a lawyer by accusing the parties. He/She explains to the plaintiff and the defendant how easily a case can be resolved without going to court. Hence playing a neutral role in this case.

Whereas in an Arbitration, an arbitrator, usually, the judge will weigh the evidence and witnesses on each side of the case outside the courtroom. Listen to the petition and make a decision about the deposition or find a resolution for the dispute. The arbitrator is the decision-maker in this case. He/ she looks at the right and wrongs in the disputed case and makes a decision. The disputants may agree with the arbitrator or may seek to further take the chance on trial.

A civil suit trial

When the parties cannot decide between Mediation versus Arbitration, the case is then taken under a court trial. Unlike any other court case, the civil case has a similar procedure. The key differentiators between a civil and a criminal case are:

  • The burden of proof is low in a civil case and higher in a criminal case.
  • Most of the civil cases resolve when they decide between Mediation versus Arbitration.
  • The penalties for a civil case are usually compensation and community service, wherein in a criminal case, there is a hefty fine and prison sentencing.
  • Civil suits do not take much time when they hit trial. Criminal cases may go on for months and even a few years.

A court reporter keeps a record of all the proceedings during the trial. A deputy clerk holds a record of witnesses who testify evidence presented such as documents, videos, photographs, or other items.

Examples of the Civil Suits:

After knowing what is a civil suit, here are some examples of the civil suit:

  • Cases of divorce
  • Breaching of contract by the members
  • Accidents, example: car accident, motorcycle accident, etc
  • Premises liability
  • Medical malpractice
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Emotional distress, fraud, defamation, etc.


Each party gives closing testimonies in the trial. What is a civil suit in front of a jury? A jury trial where the jury determines based on the

  • opening statement
  • evidence
  • and witness and the closing statement whether the defendant harmed the plaintiff.

In a civil suit, the plaintiff must convince the jury by “Preponderance of the evidence.’’ The judge or the layers always suggest the disputed parties seek a route. Mediation versus Arbitration, either of which can be easily resolved. A ‘ Bench trial’ is a trial that occurs in front of a judge

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