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What Does It Mean To Sue Someone?

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For most people, the legal system can be both complex and intimidating. Yet, to adequately protect yourself in today’s world, it is essential to have at least a basic understanding of how the courts work.

At Richard J. Hollawell & Associates, we believe that not only do the best lawyers defend their clients, but they also educate them on important topics such as civil suits, criminal charges, and small claims court. That’s why our team has put together this brief guide explaining what it means to sue someone.

What’s the Difference Between Suing and Pressing Criminal Charges?  

It’s easy to confuse and misinterpret the two, particularly if you’ve never been involved in a lawsuit. To that end, it is important to understand the definitions of suing someone and pressing criminal charges to avoid confusion.


What Does it Mean to Press Charges?

When you press charges against an individual, you accuse them of committing a crime. Any court action that arises from pressing criminal charges will not result in financial compensation from the other party. Instead, the punishment would be a fine and jail time administered by a law enforcement agency. It is important to note that law enforcement will only press charges on your behalf if they believe a crime has occurred, usually after an investigation has taken place.

Unless you have been involved in a lawsuit, it’s very easy to misinterpret definitions. To this end, people often confuse suing another party with pressing criminal charges. 

What Does it Mean to Sue Someone?

“Suing” an individual is rooted in the word lawsuit. It means to bring a lawsuit against an individual or an entity. When you sue someone, you file a civil lawsuit with the courts in hopes of getting some form of financial compensation. As such, the person sued will not go to jail if you sue them, but they may be ordered by the court to pay you a large sum of money if they are found to be liable. If you feel that you have been wronged, you can sue a person, organization, or business for compensation.

Civil Case Vs. Small Claims Court Cases

Another area of misinterpretation in the law exists in confusion between civil cases and small claims filings. While you can sue an individual in either small claims court or civil court, the parameters surrounding the process are quite different.

A person will sue an individual in small claims court to recover a smaller sum of money. The limit on how much an individual can sue for in small claims court varies from state to state. For example, in Maryland, the limitation on a small claims court lawsuit is $5,000, but in other states, it can be as low as $1,000.

While it is certainly your right to hire an attorney to represent you in a small claims court case, it doesn’t usually make much financial sense. Small claims courts are set up to allow the plaintiff the opportunity to easily file a suit on their own, without assistance from an attorney. In addition to being easier, filing a case in small claims court is usually faster and more affordable than filing a lawsuit in civil court.  

Filing a civil court case is the most common way to sue someone. While small claims courts are designed for speedy outcomes, civil cases can last months and, in some cases, even years. Civil cases are the appropriate legal route if you seek large amounts of money as compensation. Please note, however, that while you can be rewarded money in civil cases, these cases can be expensive and complex. Due to the overall complexity of a civil lawsuit, it is recommended that you hire an experienced civil lawsuit lawyer when suing someone in civil court.

What Does Insurance Have to Do with Suing Someone?

In certain instances, an insurance company will get involved in civil lawsuits. This involvement typically relates to the defendant’s reliance on the company for specific insurance packages pertaining to liability coverage and umbrella coverage.

You have probably already heard the term “liability coverage” when dealing with auto insurance companies. In essence, liability coverage keeps you protected if you accidentally harm another person. While auto insurance packages are the most popular type of liability coverage, people can also sue you if they are injured in your home or business. In these cases, your homeowner’s insurance or business insurance liability coverage will cover certain costs in the event of a lawsuit.

Umbrella coverage is another common insurance term related to civil lawsuits. Umbrella coverage is purchased by individuals who seek to guard their assets and finances against potential lawsuits. Umbrella policies are standard among those in the healthcare industry who are susceptible to medical malpractice lawsuits. In the most basic terms, umbrella coverage will protect an individual if they are sued for more than their liability plan will cover. Certain umbrella plans may also cover court costs associated with a civil lawsuit.

Types of Civil Lawsuits

As we mentioned earlier, a civil lawsuit is typically filed against someone who has brought some harm upon you, usually resulting in personal injury. In these cases, the injured party is seeking financial compensation, whether for reimbursement associated with medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

Here are just a few of the reasons why someone might bring a lawsuit in civil court:

      • Medical Malpractice: Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional causes injury or harm due to negligence.
      • Reckless Prescribing and Marketing of Opioids: Pharmaceutical companies and doctors are finally being held accountable for decades of over-prescribing highly addictive opioids.
      • Wrongful Death: When someone dies because of another person’s actions, it may be grounds for a wrongful death claim.
      • Car Accidents: Reckless, distracted, negligent drivers and roadwork maintenance crews can cause serious accidents that leave people with serious injuries.
      • Truck Accidents: Truck accidents can be catastrophic due to the sheer size and weight of the truck. Most truck accidents occur due to driver error or drivers being on drugs or alcohol.
      • Premises Liability: These cases cover a wide array of scenarios. You might have a claim if you were injured due to a property owner’s or business’s negligence.
      • Slip and Fall Injury: Unfortunately, most people will suffer a slip and fall or trip and fall at some point in their lifetime, and some people will be very seriously injured.
      • Catastrophic Injury: Catastrophic accidents can happen at any time without warning and can lead to permanent, life-altering injuries.
      • Defective Product Injury: Dangerous and defective products cause thousands of injuries every year.
      • Work-Related Accidents: If you are injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation.
      • Nursing Home Neglect/Abuse: If a nursing home, home care, or assisted living facility fails to provide adequate care, residents can suffer severe physical and psychological trauma.


At Richard J. Hollawell and Associates, we understand that the legal system is intimidating. Lawsuits can be expensive and take time, so it is crucial to partner with the right lawyer. If you believe you have grounds for a civil case, you should contact an experienced lawyer to get their opinion regarding your best course of action. Small claims court will sometimes be enough to get your problems solved. However, certain cases, such as injury cases brought against your city will require civil suits that need a skilled personal injury lawyer to navigate the case properly.

Contact Us with Questions

Richard J. Hollawell has fought and won over $50 million for his clients. As one of the top personal injury lawyers in Pennsylvania, he and his team will thoughtfully advise you on the best course of action for civil suits.

Call us at 1-800-681-3550 or fill out our form for a free consultation.


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