How Does Civil Law Differ from Other Areas of Law?

Parties 

Pleadings 

Rules 

Burden of proof 

Outcome 

In civil suits, private parties sue other private parties. Unlike criminal cases, which are brought by the government against an individual, a civil case involves private issues and grievances. Although governmental agencies can bring civil suits against individuals, the point of the litigation is to enforce a right or sue for damages. There are some important terms regarding civil suits that all legal professionals should know. The person who brings a civil suit is referred to as the plaintiff. The person who is being sued is the defendant. These terms are almost exclusively reserved for civil cases. Other names are used to refer to the parties in non-civil cases. The person or business filing for bankruptcy, for instance, is referred to as a “petitioner.” In criminal cases, the government brings an action against an individual or corporation to enforce statutes. The government is not referred to as a plaintiff in such a case. Instead, the government is simply termed the “state,” “the people,” or “United States” (among other terms).

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