Civil cases typically involve a dispute of some kind between people or organizations. A criminal case pertains to an action that violates laws designed to protect communities from harm, and usually involves a person or an organization and the government. Therefore, the motivation behind the different case types and their outcomes are quite different.

Civil cases begin when a person or organization (the plaintiff) believes they’ve been wronged by another (the defendant). This can include everything from broken contracts to accidents to failure to respect constitutional rights. The plaintiff often seeks monetary compensation. Common civil cases involve landlord/tenant disputes, child custody, personal injury, and property disputes. In civil cases, verdicts are usually handed down by judges, unless one of the parties elects to have a trial by jury instead.