What is Civil Litigation? How to find a Civil Litigation Lawyer

Civil Litigation

What is Civil Litigation?

All law in the United States falls into two categories: civil and criminal. Civil litigation refers to civil cases that go through the court system. They form the majority of the cases in the United States, accounting for anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of all court activities, depending on the state.

Civil litigation itself refers to litigation involving the disputes of organizations and individuals as well as any other combination of these. The court hears the case and determines the necessary form of compensation. Jail time is not one of the options. Fines, restorative actions, restitution, and restrictions all form the primary remedies. With a few statutory exceptions, civil law cases must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard means that the plaintiff must prove beyond a 50 percent probability that the claim did or did not happen.

Governing Law

Because civil litigation encompasses such a broad spectrum of the law, it is informed by all possible areas of law. Statutory codes do not play as large a role in civil litigation as they do in criminal law, but they still contribute a significant role. Most state use case law as their basis for civil litigation. In fact, when it comes to tort and property law, some of these laws draw directly from old English law. For certain areas of civil litigation such as property and contract law, it's not uncommon for business customs and industry practices to inform some of the interpretations as well.

Reasons for Hiring an Attorney

Civil litigation is one of the areas of law where the court will not assist you in finding an attorney. You will have to pay for the attorney on your own unless you can find one who is willing to donate his time. The reasons that you might need an attorney range from insurance claims to contractual disputes to battery. Remember that you can have dual criminal and civil suits. A civil suit involves the individual pressing charges whereas the criminal suit involves the state pressing charges.

You can represent yourself in most civil matters, but the laws for civil litigation are as complex as the laws for criminal. In fact, if you are the defendant, you are more at risk for losing a civil case than a criminal case because the burden of proof is significantly lower. All of the rules of evidence apply, and so you will want to hire an attorney to assist you with developing the theory of the case as well as launching your defenses.

What to Look for in a Civil Litigation Attorney

Civil litigation does not exist as an isolated specialization. Instead, you will need to find an attorney who is either in general practice or who specializes in the specific area of law involved. At the very least, the attorney must be licensed to practice in the state in which the suit will be heard. Ideally, you will want an attorney who has experience with cases similar to yours. The more serious the case, the more on point his former experience should be. Related experiences may also be enough. An attorney may specialize in business contract law, but he may also be able to assist you in a will dispute if it involves a business trust.

Search the AttorneyTribe directory for a qualified attorney with training and certification in your particular area of legal need. If you cannot find a match, ask for a referral. Most attorneys within a county will be glad to refer other attorneys who specialize in a particular area of law.