A civil action is a type of legal proceeding, which is not criminal in nature, brought by a person or an entity that has been harmed. It is usually filed in a judicial district court that has jurisdiction to hear the issue. In most civil actions, a party is seeking a legal or equitable remedy, although a civil action may also be brought to enforce or protect a legal right. Some of the most common kinds of civil actions include personal injury lawsuits, family law proceedings, civil rights violations, and breach of contract cases.
A civil action is typically brought for the purpose of resolving private legal issues that arise between people, businesses, or other entities. They can, however, extend to government agents in some situations. For example, this frequently occurs when a plaintiff believes that a government official or agency has violated his or her civil rights.
The term litigation refers to the process of a civil action. In general, the action begins when the plaintiff, who is the party seeking to recover damages, files a complaint against a defendant, who is simply the person being sued. Most jurisdictions require the plaintiff to give the defendant notice of the lawsuit by serving him with paperwork called a complaint and summons. The defendant must then file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. In his answer, the defendant can bring any counterclaims against the plaintiff if the defendant believes that he has been harmed by the plaintiff.
Prior to a trial, the parties generally engage in a process called discovery. During discovery, they exchange evidence and documents in line with the procedural requirements of the jurisdiction in which the action has been filed. Each party also forms its own theory of the case at hand, and they prepare for trial. Trial preparation may include piecing together evidence, obtaining and prepping witnesses, and drafting opening and closing statements. At trial, each party presents its side of the suit in front of a judge or jury.
At the end of the trial, the judge or jury issues a verdict, and the judge may hand down an order to the losing party. In a typical civil action, if the plaintiff wins, the defendant is required to pay monetary damages. Depending on the type of case, a court may also order an injunction, which is a requirement that a party act – or refrain from acting – in a certain way. In some civil actions, a losing party is also ordered to pay the winning party’s attorney fees and court costs.