Going to court is often perceived as an overwhelming experience by most people. At the onset, fancy titles, old Latin jargon speak and unfamiliarity of the process is enough to bewilder anyone. With a few basic terms and concepts, you can shake off the nervousness and feel more comfortable during the situation. As broad of a scope the legal system is, in its simplest form, there are two types of cases, Civil and Criminal. If you decide to sue another person, an organization or a business, your case is a civil case. Your attorney will do their best to assist you through the process as comfortable as possible.
Civil Court is where people and companies use the legal system to settle disputes. Often these lawsuits, filed either by individuals or companies (called the plaintiff), against individuals or companies (called the defendant), involve efforts to collect damages for injuries or for failure to comply with contracts. Private individuals, businesses or the government can sue other people and organizations. No one is Guilty or Innocent in civil court. Note that there is no prosecutor in a civil case. Both the plaintiff and the defendant are also referred to as “parties” or “litigants.” When a decision is reached, the findings shall be read “in favor of the plaintiff” or “in favor of the defendant”. People usually sue for an amount of money to make up for the injury or loss they have suffered. Civil cases do not result in prison terms.
There are numerous specialties within the law, each with their own nuances and protocols. Be it a matter of contract, constitutional, personal injury, tax or divorce, it is important to choose a lawyer or legal firm that is suited to the specifics of your situation. While civil court is not as sexy as criminal court, the real heart of the nature of things in our lives stem from these proceedings. Remember that even the outcome of presidential elections have been affected by the results of civil cases. The following situations are some examples of civil suits.
- A homeowner who has hired a contractor to remodel a bathroom sues the contractor when the bathroom is poorly built and has to be fixed or replaced.
- A person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident sues the driver of the other car.
- A staff member sues his employer after the employee hurts their back at work and can never work again.
- A company sues another over patent-infringement.
You may remember a recent high profile example of company against company in the Apple v. Samsung case. Apple filed suit against Samsung on February 8, 2012, accusing it of infringing several patents. Samsung then filed counterclaims against Apple. In Apple’s original suit, the company said Samsung “has systematically copied Apple’s innovative technology and products, features, and designs, and has deluged markets with infringing devices in an effort to usurp market share from Apple.” In the end, it was determined that both companies were liable in some aspects but not in others. The trial included about 52 hours of testimony, three hours of opening arguments, and four hours of closings. It covered everything from the invention of the technology at issue in the case to what damages should total. Apple argued throughout the trial that its case was about Samsung, not Google, and that Samsung copied Apple out of desperation. Samsung, meanwhile, argued that Apple’s suit was about hurting competition and Android.