A Small Business Guide to Errors and Omissions

Chapter 1: Malpractice Lawsuits: The Basics
Part 3: Errors and Omissions Lawsuits: Civil, Not Criminal

If your business ever faces an errors and omissions lawsuit, it will likely be tried as a civil case, as opposed to a criminal one. What's the difference, you ask?

Civil cases are brought to the court by someone (the "plaintiff") who says that another party (the "defendant") caused them an unfair loss. For example, one of your clients could claim your photography studio ruined his wedding day by not capturing certain moments. In order to "get even" for this perceived loss, the plaintiff usually asks for money or some other kind of restitution.

On the other hand, criminal cases involve crimes. Those cases are used to regulate and reinforce the social laws that prevent us from threatening the safety, health, or welfare of others. When a defendant is found guilty in a criminal case, they're punished, possibly with prison time.

Think about the difference between criminal and civil cases this way: criminal cases lead to possible punishment, whereas civil cases aim to end in conflict resolution. This is not to say that forking over your time, a $20,000 settlement, and $5,000 in lawyers' fees won't still feel like a punishment.

Now let's take a step back and see how E&O lawsuits function as civil cases.

Most errors and omissions lawsuits are civil cases, which aim to resolve conflicts.

Next: Part 4: What Kinds of Disputes Lead to Civil Lawsuits?