Among the many differences between criminal and civil litigation are the outcomes of their respective cases. In criminal court, a defendant is found either guilty or innocent. If guilty, the law allows for well-defined sentencing. In civil litigation, courts find in favor of either plaintiff or defendant. When plaintiffs win their cases, courts enter judgments against defendants.
The interesting thing about civil judgments is that they can take many forms. Unlike rigid criminal sentencing guidelines, civil judgments are a lot more fluid. Courts have fewer guidelines for determining the judgments they hand down. That’s why judgments can look so different from one case to the next.
Simple Debt Collection
The most basic form of civil judgment involves debt collection. This could be a scenario in which a customer fails to pay a bill, then gets sued by the company to whom they owe money. It could be a scenario in which one roommate sues another for failing to pay their share of the rent. The possibilities here are endless.
These types of cases usually result in simple judgments requiring defendants to pay what they owe plus attorney and court costs. Sometimes interest payments are also involved. According to Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors, plaintiffs can either attempt to collect judgments on their own or hire a specialized collection agency.
Personal Injury Cases
You are undoubtedly familiar with personal injury lawyers and the cases they take on. All personal injury cases are civil cases by nature. When plaintiffs win a personal injury case, a court enters a judgment against the defendant. Such cases often wind up in judgments that include both compensatory and punitive damages.
Alimony and Child Support
Divorced parents and former spouses are known to sue in order to recover unpaid alimony and child support. These types of cases are somewhat unique in that most states have special rules in place for collection. For example, some states allow a defendant’s driver’s license to be suspended for failure to pay. That wouldn’t be an option for general debt collection.
Another unique aspect of this sort of judgment is that most states allow a higher level of wage and bank account garnishment to secure unpaid alimony and child support. States typically have a low opinion of deadbeats who don’t pay in the aftermath of divorce.
Government Regulatory Lawsuits
There are times when government agencies win court judgments after suing individuals or business entities. A recent example is a case filed by the Department of Labor against a New York horse racing operator. The case was brought on behalf of former employees who were not paid for overtime work.
The court entered a judgment against the business for failure to pay duly earned wages. The judgment included civil penalties for falsifying employment records as well as back pay and punitive damages. Furthermore, the defendant was enjoined by the court to take certain actions to guarantee the same problem did not occur again.
State Laws and Civil Litigation
The four examples listed here offer a glimpse into what civil litigation and judgments look like. The one thing to remember is that states have different laws regarding civil litigation. There are also federal laws pertaining to some types of civil proceedings, like bankruptcy. The point is that not every civil case is subject to the exact same rules.
Civil judgments come in many forms as a result of both differences in state law and individual case circumstances. Truly, there is no one-size-fits-all judgment suitable for every civil case. If nothing else, civil law and its resulting judgments are certainly interesting.