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6 Areas of Law to Know

Published May 4, 2021

At the core of any lawsuit, there is a plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff is the party that brings forth charges against the defendant in attempt to right a wrong or seek compensation for damages. The defendant is therefore the party who, depending on the judge’s ruling, may be required to fulfill the plaintiff’s wishes and/or suffer the subsequent penalties and punishments. Let’s take a look at the roles of each in these six areas of law:

Civil Law

There are two bodies of law in the United States, one of which is Civil Law. Civil matters involve any behavior or action that constitutes injury to another party (may be an individual, private corporation, etc.). Injury, as defined under civil law, doesn’t have to be physical. Here, injuries include acts such as breach of contract, defamation, selling defective products, and negligence.

The most common incidents that lead to civil litigation include: contract disputes, torts (damage to personal property, emotional harm, assault), Class Action, property debates, and complaints against the city.

Criminal Law

Criminal is the second body of law in the United States. Unlike civil cases, criminal cases deal with behaviors that offend the public, society, or the state by way of harmful actions such as murder, robbery, assault, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Another key difference between civil and criminal law is that only the state or federal governments can initiate cases involving criminal matters (they are the plaintiffs here). Criminal defendants are more likely to face severe punishments too.

Education Law

This body of law covers all legal issues pertaining to the school system – teachers, students, school boards, special education programs, and even officials in higher education. The U.S. Department of Education oversees the nation’s public education systems, but management of such systems, including private institutions, are handled at the state level.

The goal of this legal system is to promote equal opportunity to education and to standardize academics.

Issues pertaining to Title IX, discrimination, and special education are among the most common concerns in education law.

Family Law

As its name denotes, family law handles family relationships. Family law cases involve adoption, marriage, separation, alimony, child custody, and everything in between. Family law matters are known to be complicated as attorneys and judge are not only concerned about the well-being of the plaintiff, but of their family members as well.

Uncontested cases, be it an adoption or divorce, are typically quite smooth and involve less money, time, and stress than contested matters. Family law also intersects with a host of other legal spheres such as Elder Law and Estate Planning.  

Read: Children & Legal Issues

Immigration Law

The federal government established a number of rules regarding immigration, namely who is allowed to enter the United States, for what purpose, and for how long. Temporary visits or work opportunities can be obtained by visas supplied by U.S. Embassies. Acquiring permanent residency, citizenship, or seeking refuge within U.S. borders involve more intricate processes that should be discussed with an immigration attorney.

Traffic Law

If your violation occurs on the road, it’s likely a traffic offense and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the traffic courts. You don’t have to be operating a vehicle to be in violation of traffic laws, though. Speeding, reckless driving, and running a red light are the most obvious traffic offenses, but you can also be summoned to court for an expired registration, missing license plate, or an overdue parking ticket.

Practicing street smarts is the best way to mitigate legal risk while on the road.

Still not sure you have a grasp on these six legal topics? When in doubt, consult with your attorney.