The Difference Between Lawsuit and Civil Suit in Connecticut

Sep 26, 2023

The Difference Between Lawsuit and Civil Suit in Connecticut

Legal matters can be complex and intimidating, particularly when it comes to understanding the various terminologies used. Two terms often used interchangeably, but with subtle differences, are “lawsuit” and “civil suit.” In the state of Connecticut, these terms have distinct meanings and implications. Understanding the differences between a lawsuit and a civil suit is important, especially if you are currently considering legal action or potentially have legal action being brought against you.

What is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is a broad legal term that encompasses all types of legal disputes, including both civil and criminal cases. In essence, a lawsuit is a legal action initiated by one party (the plaintiff) against another party (the defendant) to resolve a dispute or seek a remedy. Lawsuits can pertain to a wide range of matters, such as personal injury claims, contract disputes, family law issues, and more.

A lawsuit in Connecticut can either be a civil lawsuit or a criminal case. The nature of the case determines whether it falls under civil or criminal law.

The primary purpose of a lawsuit is to provide a legal forum for resolving disputes, seeking compensation, or pursuing justice. Lawsuits are designed to enforce legal rights and responsibilities.

What is a Civil Suit?

A civil suit is a specific type of lawsuit that falls under civil law. Civil suits involve disputes between individuals, organizations, or entities, where one party (the plaintiff) alleges that another party (the defendant) has caused harm or breached a legal duty. Civil suits in Connecticut are typically centered around issues like personal injury claims, contract disputes, property disputes, divorce, and more. The purpose of a civil suit is to seek a remedy, usually in the form of compensation (damages), an injunction, or specific performance, rather than punishment. These cases aim to compensate the injured party or impose contractual obligations.

In a civil suit, the standard of proof is usually “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the plaintiff must prove their case is more likely true than not. However, if it can’t be proven then the plaintiff will be ordered to pay the damages they’ve suffered from the negligent act.
For example, a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a car accident is a type of civil suit. Personal injury lawsuits are a specific category of civil suits where one party (the plaintiff) alleges that they have suffered physical, emotional, or financial harm due to the actions or negligence of another party (the defendant). The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is to seek compensation or damages for the injuries or losses incurred because of the defendant’s actions. So, to clarify, a personal injury lawsuit falls under the broader category of civil suits. Other types of common civil suits can include:

– Money and debt-related issues
– Property ownership disputes
– Housing – such as eviction, foreclosure, or poor living conditions
– Marriage and children – such as divorce, child custody, child support, or guardianship

While civil lawsuits occur when individuals have a disagreement involving what legal responsibilities they may or may not have to each other, criminal lawsuits involve felonies and misdemeanors with punishment attached.

What is a Criminal Lawsuit?

A criminal lawsuit is initiated by the government (typically through a prosecutor) against an individual or entity that is accused of committing a crime. The purpose is to punish the defendant for violating a criminal law and to protect society by deterring criminal behavior.

In a criminal lawsuit, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a high standard, and the prosecution must convince the jury or judge that the defendant is guilty with a high level of certainty.

In a criminal lawsuit, the parties involved are the government (prosecution) and the defendant. If the defendant is found guilty, the punishment may include fines, probation, imprisonment, or other penalties imposed by the state.

Common criminal lawsuits include:

– Drug-related offenses
– Domestic violence
– DUI, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct
– Assault and battery
– Property crimes such as shoplifting, theft, grand larceny, and damage to property

Civil and Criminal Lawsuits Differ in the following categories:

Penalties. In criminal cases, offenders receive punishment via jail time and fines. In civil cases, monetary compensation is the most common penalty. The court can also order someone to do something (like pay child support) or stop doing something (like harassment).

Burden of proof.
For someone to be convicted in a criminal case, his or her fault needs to be proved “beyond reasonable doubt.” This is because the penalties for criminal cases are much more severe. For civil lawsuits, however, the standard of proof is lower: by “the preponderance of evidence.” In other words, a lawyer must prove the party’s responsibility is more likely than not.

Trial type.
Most criminal cases involve a trial by jury. While some civil cases require a jury, most civil cases are resolved through settlement negotiations, not through the court system.

Defendants in a criminal case are guaranteed to have a lawyer provided for them by the state if they can’t afford one. In civil courts, there’s no such guarantee and the defendant must hire a lawyer or represent him or herself.

In Connecticut, understanding the difference between a lawsuit and a civil suit is crucial for anyone involved in legal matters or seeking legal assistance. While a lawsuit is a broader term encompassing both civil and criminal cases, a civil suit specifically deals with civil disputes and aims to provide remedies and resolutions for individuals and organizations. Knowing the distinction between these terms can help individuals navigate the legal landscape with clarity and confidence.

Contact our personal injury lawyers in Waterbury and New Britain to help you file either type of claim. Remember, a personal injury claim is considered a civil claim rather than criminal. Our personal injury lawyers assist people who’ve been injured in an accident to file a personal injury claim and begin the negotiations process with the insurance companies.

Call us today at (203) 663-3695 to speak with an attorney who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Or you can schedule your free consultation at

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