There are many different areas of law, but these are divided between criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases involve breaking the law with a prosecutor and a defendant. There are penalties that include jail, probation, fines or a criminal record. Civil litigation involves disputes between two parties, the plaintiff and the defendant, and the outcome involves a financial settlement or specific performance. Either type consists of a decision by a judge and possibly a jury.
Common examples of civil litigation
Civil litigation is quite varied, encompassing a wide range of disputes:
- Divorce: A vast majority of divorce or family law disputes involve mediation or negotiation outside of court, but sometimes the couple cannot reach a compromise and turn to a judge to hand down a fair solution to such disputes as dividing assets or custody.
- Personal injury: The victim seeks damages from physical or mental harm caused by the defendant’s negligence. It could be medical malpractice, a motor vehicle accident, product liability, or slip and fall injury in a store.
- Business: Businesses and clients may dispute the work done or services provided as not meeting the conditions outlined in their agreement.
- Landlord-tenant: This can involve a renter refusing to move out, not paying rent, or someone violating the lease agreement terms in some way.
- Employment disputes: This can involve wrongful termination, unfair hiring practices, refusing to provide accommodations required by law or something else tied to their employment.
- Intellectual property: The plaintiff seeks to stop the defendant from using intellectual property owned by the plaintiff, whether it is unauthorized copying of clothing, computer software, music, or anything else registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Preparing for litigation
Each case is different, but those facing the potential of litigation often find it critical to work with an attorney who understands the law. Most civil disputes do not end with a judge’s ruling. Instead, negotiation is common, and settlements happen before or during the trial when it’s clear that one side has a winning case.
Many believe it is best to avoid litigation, saying it is too expensive, time-consuming or stressful, but litigation can solve a dispute once and for all. It also shows that the client is willing to go to court when it is necessary to protect their interests, thus sending a message to others in the future who threaten legal action.