Civil law is most commonly known as the process when someone sues someone else. It has been around for hundreds of years and the United States is one of the most litigious countries in the world. Unlike criminal law, civil law does not have any penalties attached to it and the person cannot go to jail. Civil law is a way that you can get money out of someone who you believe owes you that money. The most common lawsuits started as business transactions but later turned into what we call personal injury. Personal injury, is when one person hurt someone else, either intentionally or unintentionally and then the one party sues them to recover any money they believe they are owed. The most common personal injury type case that comes to mind is a car accident. If someone is hit by a car and they have injuries, they will often attempt to bring the action to court so that they can recover for what happened.
It is very rare for civil cases to ever go to court and some attorneys practice their entire careers without even stepping foot in the courtroom. It is more common to go back and forth with the two parties and try to come to a resolution or what is called a settlement in order for the case to be over. If the case is not resolved outside of court then one party called the plaintiff will file a lawsuit and the court process will begin. The defendant then has a right to respond to the claims and file a motion called a summary judgment motion, which means that they believe the case has no merits and instead of going to trial, the judge should just dismiss the case right then and there. In civil law, much like criminal law, a lot of the court appearances before trial are focused on settling the case. They have settlement conferences where both parties and the judge are involved and they see if all parties can come to an agreement.
If the case cannot be settled it goes to a jury trial and a jury of peers will decide whether or not the defendant is liable for these claims. In some cases there are regular damages but the plaintiff can also ask for punitive damages. Punitive damages mean that the plaintiff believes that this was done intentional and that they should get money to from the defendant in order to punish them for their conduct. In most states the jury decides on damages including punitive damages but the judge can also adjust the amount if needed. If you have any sort of civil law issue please reach out to an expert in your area for more information.