Civil Action

Last Updated: June 28, 2018

Definition - What does Civil Action mean?

A civil action is a legal action filed to resolve a private dispute. These types of suits are not based on criminal laws or statutes. Instead, civil actions are meant to redress a wrong committed by one party against the other. In a civil suit, the plaintiff may ask for equitable relief or monetary damages. Lawsuits involving physical injuries, breaches of contracts, and tenant evictions are all civil actions.

While civil actions are usually brought by one individual or organization against another, a civil action may also be brought by an individual citizen against a government entity. A civil action may also be called civil lawsuit.

WorkplaceTesting explains Civil Action

Civil actions differ from criminal actions in several ways. In a civil action, one party is asking for compensation due to some harm caused by the other party. In a criminal proceeding, the state is acting on behalf of its citizens to seek protection from or punishment of a criminal actor.

In a civil action, the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal action. This is because a criminal action puts an individual's personal freedom at risk whereas a civil action usually involves a monetary remedy. Not all civil remedies are monetary. An individual in a civil suit may also seek injunctive relief. When injunctive relief is sought, the plaintiff is usually asking that the defendant be barred from taking a particular action. For instance, one neighbor might sue seeking an injunction to stop another neighbor from throwing loud parties or putting up a chain link fence.

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