Civil Liability

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Civil liability is a legal obligation that requires a party to pay for damages or to follow other court-enforcements in a lawsuit. Different from criminal liability, which is often brought by the state to redress a public wrong, civil liability is usually brought by a private party to sue for damages or injunctions. For example, in a car crash case, the injured party can sue the driver and ask for monetary damages.

A civil liability is usually a contractual liability or a tort liability. A defendant of a civil liability is either “liable” or “not liable”. If a defendant is liable, he or she only needs to make remedies to the plaintiff, and not to face the risk of prison. The standard of burden of proof in a civil liability case is lower than in a criminal liability case. While in criminal case, the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in a civil case, “preponderance of the evidence” is usually enough.

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]