Civil law is the area of laws and justice that affect the legal status of individuals. Civil law, in this sense, is usually referred to in comparison to criminal law, which is that body of law involving torts (such as accidents, negligence, and libel), contract disputes, the probate of wills, trusts, property disputes, administrative law, commercial law, and any other private matters that involve private parties and organizations including government departments.
The objectives of civil law are different from other types of law. In civil law there is the attempt to right a wrong, honor an agreement, or settle a dispute. If there is a victim, they get compensation, and the person who is the cause of the wrong pays, this being a civilized form of, or legal alternative to, revenge. If it is an equity matter, there is often a pie for division and it gets allocated by a process of civil law, possibly invoking the doctrines of equity. In public law the objective is usually deterrence, and retribution.
Civil law in common law countries usually refers to both common law and the law of equity, which while now merged in administration, have different traditions, and have historically operated to different doctrines, although this dualism is increasingly being set aside so there is one coherent body of law rationalized around common principles of law.