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Definition of Civil Lawsuit

A civil lawsuit is the action a victim or plaintiff can bring against another person or defendant for causing physical or emotional injuries. Civil lawsuits can be initiated regardless of whether the defendant is found criminally responsible or guilty of a crime.

Civil cases are brought by the plaintiff (injured party) against the defendant (potentially negligent party). Civil lawsuits can be won if the plaintiff proves their case through a preponderance of evidence rather than the higher legal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" which is needed to win a criminal case.

Civil defendants are not generally punished with incarceration but are required to provide compensation to the plaintiff which attempts to re-establish them to the level they were at prior to the injury. Compensation for a civil lawsuit can include medical expense compensation, lost wage compensation, and pain and suffering. For some civil lawsuits, if the court finds there is gross negligence, they may force the defendant to pay punitive damages. Civil cases must be filed within a specified time frame which varies by state and the type of injury. Failure to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations eliminates the claimant's right to compensation.

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