What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Lawsuit?

What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Lawsuit?

by / Thursday, 19 December 2013 / Published in Goodwin & Scieszka

Consider this a very cursory, simplified lesson about the difference between civil and criminal lawsuits.

Civil Lawsuits:

This is the area of law that our Southfield, Michigan personal injury law firm specializes in. A civil lawsuit is a private lawsuit between private parties. Someone has been injured, and it is up to that injured person to initiate the cause of action.

Remember, the government can be a named party in a civil lawsuit: just because the government is involved does not mean that the suit is taken out of the civil realm and put into the criminal realm.

What are common types of civil lawsuits?

Slip and fall accidents
Dog bites
• Negligence claims
Car, motorcycle, bus, snowmobile collisions
Birth trauma
Medical malpractice

This area of law is also commonly referred to as tort law. What is a tort? A tort is a civil lawsuit, other than a breach of contract claim, which the law has a remedy.

Criminal Lawsuits:

A criminal lawsuit is initiated on behalf of the people of a state, generally. There are federal crimes, but let’s keep this simple. A criminal lawsuit is a suit that’s initiated by a prosecutor.

For example: I rob a bank and I am caught. I am taken to the police station and charged with attempted robbery. The prosecutor brings a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Michigan (via their taxes) and attempts to prosecute me for trying to rob a Michigan business.

The standards of proof are very different between civil and criminal lawsuits. What are standards of proof?

Standards of proof are the burdens that must be met to win a lawsuit. Generally speaking, civil actions only need the jury to find by a preponderance of the evidence that someone was injured as a result of the defendant’s conduct. Criminal cases have a much greater burden that the prosecutor must prove: beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest burden in our legal system. Failure to prove that burden would mean that a defendant is not guilty.

What are common types of criminal lawsuits?

• Robbery
• Murder
• Assault and battery
• Domestic violence
• Rape

We hope that you now have a clearer understanding of the differences between both criminal and civil lawsuits.

Goodwin & Scieszka is a Michigan personal injury law firm located in Southfield. We use our blog as a place to update you about Michigan’s laws, talk about the services that we offer, and provide tips for you to avoid potential liability. Stay tuned. We are continually updating.

And remember, if you’ve been injured, our firm is here for you.

If you have been injured in any type of accident, contact us immediately by phone or email. You pay nothing until we take your case to trial or settle. With over 30 years of litigation experience representing the “little guy” against the largest insurance companies, corporations, and hospitals, we’ll get you the money you deserve.

Visit our website to find out more information on the services we provide and why we have been named Michigan Super Lawyers for the last six years and Dbusiness’s Top Lawyers for the last three. Whatever your accident or injury, we are ready to Win Your Case!

Call us at 1-888-GOODWIN (466-3946)

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