One thing I try to do as an attorney is to remember that non-lawyers shouldn’t be expected to know about the law.  It’s no different than if I went to a doctor or a mechanic. I shouldn’t be expected to know how they do their jobs.

This thought comes up multiple times a week. I will get calls from people wanting to know if their case is civil or criminal.  Those are fairly generic terms, but it comes up so much that I thought it was worth discussing.

A criminal case means that someone has been arrested.  That is the only time you need a criminal defense lawyer with the possible exception of an order of protection case. You may feel that someone has stolen from you or wronged you and it’s possible they need to be arrested. But if you are the victim, you don’t need a criminal lawyer because that’s not what criminal attorneys do.  Criminal lawyers defend people.  State’s Attorneys who are Government employees prosecute cases and represent victims when charges have been brought.

Every other case would be considered a civil claim.  Looking for a civil attorney for the most part means you are looking for every non-criminal attorney.  Medical malpractice is civil. Suing your contractor because they didn’t finish a project is civil.  Filing a case against the person who punched you in the face would be civil. Car accidents are handled by civil litigation attorneys.  Class actions, consumer fraud, real estate litigation, etc all are too.

So looking for a civil lawyer, in general, isn’t really looking for what you need. It’s like searching for a doctor without listing a specialty of what you are really going through and what results you are looking for.

Again, this is not the type of thing we would expect you to know.  And for some cases, it’s hard to even know what type of lawyer you should be looking for or who has experience with your issue.  That’s partly why we exist.  If you want to talk to an Illinois attorney for free you can call us any time or fill out our contact form and we will call you.