A civil case relates to private disputes between individuals, organisations or the State for example regarding a breach of contract, a road traffic accident, a trip and fall, an accident at work or medical negligence.
By way of contrast, a criminal case involves prosecutions brought by the State against people accused of anti-social behaviour ranging from petty theft to murder.
In civil cases, the Plaintiff (i.e. the person who takes a civil action) sues the Defendant (i.e. a person or organisation someone against whom a claim is brought) for compensation for the wrong caused. That compensation is usually money.
In any civil case, the parties may opt to settle out of court either in advance of during the hearing or if a settlement if not possible, they can go to hearing following which an award will be made by a Judge.
A settlement agreement is a full and final settlement. Usually, the terms are confidential between the parties. This means that either party cannot come back at a later stage if for example the injuries worsen or even if new information comes to light. The reason for this is that it provides finality to all parties.
Therefore it is always important that you and your Solicitor investigate your case in full and consider all options prior to accepting any settlement. Often for example in the weeks following a road traffic accident, the full extent of any long-term injuries may not have come to light.
It should be noted that there has been a number of reports and comments in the media recently regarding settlements received by victims of sexual harassment.
These civil settlements were final and these victims cannot now seek more money, even if they learn that other victims may have received more.
Criminal cases are different and if new information comes to light, a case can be reopened.
*Orla Kelly is a Partner in Cantillons Solicitors of 38/39 South Mall, Cork an award-winning law firm practising in all areas of litigation. Since the firm was founded in 1980, they have been involved in precedent making cases, amongst them Best V.
Wellcome, Louise O’ Keeffe v. Ireland and most recently Costello V. HSE, a medical negligence claim in which they achieved damages of €17.8 million, the highest ever award in Irish personal injury litigation to date. Cantillons Solicitors received the award of Munster Law Firm of the Year (Over 5 Solicitors) at the AIB Irish Law Awards 2016.