Civil suits can be a nerve-wracking experience. Whether you’re a plaintiff or defendant, no one likes dealing with the ins and outs of a potential court date, nor is negotiation a particularly pleasant affair. A lot of that stress can be eliminated by knowing what you’re in for beforehand.
Don’t worry – civil law is actually a lot less complicated than you might expect. While it’s still not someting you should try navigating without a lawyer, it’s still good to go in with a bit of knowledge. That’s where we come in.
Here are a few details to make things a bit less overwhelming for you.
1.The Difference Between Civil, Criminal, Common, and Tort Law
Civil law is actually one of a wide set of different types of law. Establishing what each type is and means seems like as good a place to start as any.
- Civil Law typically addresses non-violent, non-criminal cases. Someone suing their roommate for rent owed, for example, would be a civil suit. In some situations, civil cases may also deal with injury, property damage, or theft. Civil law is also concerned with contract disputes. Wrongful death suits may also appear before a civil court on rare occasions.
- Criminal Law is exactly what it sounds like. It deals with violent crime, and cases where someone has clearly done something that might merit criminal charges. Criminal lawsuits are often applied separately from criminal charges, and criminal cases generally include punitive measures.
- Common Law is a bit more confusing, in that its main identifier is that it’s uncodified – meaning there exists no real compilation of legal rules and statutes. Instead, common law is defined by court cases and precedence.
- Tort Law is often conflated with civil law – though it can also be used to refer to any legal proceeding that isn’t criminal, such as bankruptcy, family, or administrative. With tort law, civil cases usually involve specific wrongdoing or injury suffered by one individual or another – Negligent Torts occur in lieu of malicious intent, Intentional Torts involve malicious intent, while Strict Liability Torts involve injury for which the defendant is accountable (such as a trucking firm’s driver injuring someone on the road).
2. What’s Involved In Suing Someone
If you’ve been wronged in some way, you may have the right to sue – but you need to be certain you have a case before you commit to a court date. There are also several questions you need to answer before you file a suit. You need to know who your lawsuit should target, where the defendant is located, what needs to be done before bringing the suit against them (research, for example), and in what jurisdiction they should be sued.
In some cases, determining who was responsible for a wrongdoing can be a challenge. Say, for example, you’re injured by a part-time contractor working for an international trucking agency. In such muddy scenarios, it’s usually best to contact a lawyer – they’ll be able to puzzle things out better than you can (since that’s their job).
Do note that you’ll also need to fill out several forms before you actually file a lawsuit – a lawyer should be on-hand to help you through that stage. Also note that if you decide to pursue legal action, you need to give the defendant notice within a specific timeframe – and a very narrow one, especially after the lawsuit is filed. Fail to give notice, and the case will basically be thrown out of court.
Additionally, you should also be aware of the statute of limitations. If you’re in a car accident, for example, you have two years to file your lawsuit. This varies based on the specific case and scenario – again, this is something you should discuss with a lawyer. And while the statute of limitations may not completely cripple your case, it does give the defense a powerful argument against it, as they can challenge you for not filing on time.
3. Red Flags Of A Bad Lawyer
Next, let’s talk a bit about how to spot a lawyer who’s actually capable of helping you with your case. Like any profession, there are plenty of sharks in the legal industry who are just looking to make a quick buck. They might not even care about whether or not you win, as long as they get paid – and in a worst-case scenario, they might even end up scamming you.
Mind you, scenarios like that are pretty rare. Most of the time, failure to do your homework about a lawyer means you’ll just end up saddled with someone who barely knows their way around a courtroom. Still, that’s not particularly ideal – so here’s what you can look for to avoid it.
Here are a few warning signs that should make you especially leery:
- They charge an arm and a legal simply for a consultation. Generally, consultations should be free to a certain point. Anyone who tries to charge you might just more interested in winning your wallet than winning your case.
- They speak in vague terms about your legal situation or try to obfuscate things with confusing legal terminology. This could signify that they don’t actually know what they’re doing, and are trying to distract you from that fact.
- They give you a bad gut feeling. One thing a lot of people forget about being a successful lawyer is that it generally requires some degree of charisma. If talking to a prospective lawyer sets you on edge, how is the court going to feel about them?
- They’re terrible at keeping in touch. Does your lawyer return phone calls in a timely manner? Do They respond to emails, stick to deadlines, and generally make you feel important and appreciated? If so, great! If not, find someone else.
- They’ve got a bad attitude. A lawyer should never talk down to you, and they should never be rude. A good law firm places a premium on professionalism. Any firm that doesn’t is not one you want to work with.
- They won’t provide references. If a lawyer won’t provide you with client references, you should be suspicious. That probably means they’ve left a trail of angry customers in their wake – and you might be the next in line.
- Their office looks awful. Appearances are everything in law – and if a lawyer can’t be bothered to keep their office organized and in a decent state of repair, will they really be able to handle your case?
- There’s something wrong with their staff. Do the employees at your lawyer’s office look like they’re at a funeral? Do you see a different receptionist every time you visit? Is their office simply a ghost town, with no staff members in sight? Walk away.
- They explicitly promise you a victory. A lawyer never promises a particular outcome. If one does, they may be more snake oil salesperson than legal professional.
When In Doubt, Go With Bormaster
At Bormaster Law, we have a ton of experience working with civil court cases. We know the ins and outs of the law, understand what’s involved in reaching a settlement, and are completely dedicated to securing you a win wherever and whenever possible. Better yet, consultations are free, and you only pay if you win – we’re here to help you, not stick our hand in your wallet.
Contact us today to learn more.