Civil law: what it is and how it affects you

Civil law is one of those subjects that a lot of people don’t know much about (no, watching those court television shows is not a substitute for actually learning what civil law is) and yet it affects them every day. If you are ever involved in litigation, you may need to hire a civil attorney.

What is civil law anyway?

Civil law deals with the resolution of disputes. This covers a wide range of specific areas, and civil lawyers (also known as litigants) generally specialize in one or two practices. A civil defense attorney can be found in the courtroom representing a defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit and the next day they could deal with a dispute related to environmental law.

Think of it this way: many centuries ago, you may have witnessed two champions, each selected by someone involved in a dispute, fighting each other. The champion who won the fight essentially won the dispute for the person who hired him. These champions, assuming they survived, could have worked for someone else who had a completely different dispute to resolve.

Today’s litigants act in a very similar capacity, but without the literal bloodshed and clang of guns on shields. Please note that civil law refers to matters that do not include criminal charges such as murder, armed robbery, arson, etc. That is the field of the criminal lawyer.

Under what circumstances should I hire a civil defense attorney?

Before you start calling and emailing, it’s best to try to understand exactly what a civil law attorney does at work.

Civil attorneys represent clients in trials rather than criminal trials. In general, an attorney will not practice both civil and criminal law. A victim has to retain their own civil attorney, which means that they do not have the right to an attorney provided by the court in a civil case.

If your litigation involves money at stake, you need a civil attorney. You won’t go to jail if you lose a civil lawsuit, so stick with a litigant. (Speaking of which, a civil attorney can represent both defendants and plaintiffs.)

You may have heard the term “insurance defense attorney.” This refers to an attorney who specializes in representing defendants in civil cases involving insurance claims. They are often hired by insurance companies to represent a business or individual that has been sued for a claim covered by an insurance policy.

If you are looking to fight a court order, a court order that prevents a defendant from engaging in a certain activity, you will want to hire a civil law attorney.

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