There is a big difference between civil law and criminal law. In criminal law, it is the government that is taking action against an accused wrongdoer. Being charged with a criminal offense can result in an individual facing punishment from the government, including community service, jail time, or fees. In civil law, a private individual (such as an injury victim) seeks compensation for the supposed harm that a defendant caused on the basis of tort law. In fact, the word ‘tort’ is derived from a Latin term that signifies a twisting or a wrongdoing.
Personal injury cases, in particular, are usually connected to the doctrine of negligence. The basic idea behind this doctrine is that every single member of society has the responsibility to live and to act in a way that avoids putting others at risk of injury. If a person chooses not to act in a responsible way, and as a result someone is injured or killed, the doctrine of negligence then says that the person who caused the injury or fatality should be held financially responsible.
Some accidents simply happen, however, and people do get hurt because of other factors besides negligence. To prove that the defendant is financially liable, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant engaged in actions that a reasonably prudent person who was in the same position as the defendant would have avoided. Some examples of negligence include things like drunk driving or medical malpractice.