What is a Civil Background Check? What's included?

04/12/2023 09:29 AM By renezawale

What is a Civil Background Check?

A civil background check in pre-employment screening is such a check that looks up records in courts for records of claims, judgments, and lawsuits. Employers conduct this check to identify a person’s general nature based on the cases they’re involved in. This check provides additional insights to a candidate's personality and behavior to make ideal hiring decisions. 

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What is a Civil Record?

A civil record consists of an individual’s disputes, claims, and judgments in civil courts maintained mainly by the court clerks. Mostly, such documents are readily available online for public access by request through email or fax. 

What shows up on Civil Background Checks?

All the records except criminal records show up on civil background checks. Most of the states in the US divide local cases into lower and upper courts depending on various factors. Based on the severity of these cases, federal courts are involved. 

County Courts Civil Record Searches

A US state is divided into counties which consist of county-level courts. Civil court records maintained at such county courts are called county court civil records. They can include minor cases such as contract disputes, eviction, personal injury, car accidents, motor damage, minor financial disagreements, etc. depending upon the state laws which are all shown on a civil court background screening. 

Personal issues such as divorce, child custody cases, estate disputes, and child support cases are also shown. 

Federal Courts Civil Record Searches

Generally, a candidate is less likely to have federal civil court records as federal courts come into play under specific cases where a federal civil law is violated. A federal court is involved only in cases where a person's constitutional rights are under threat. However, it is the duty of a civil court background screening company to look into it just in case there’s something. 

Cases such as tax disputes, financial violations, and federal violations are shown as federal court civil records. 

Difference between a Civil and Criminal Background Check

When a company conducts a background check, both criminal and civil background checks are done. Usually, employers refer to a civil and criminal background checks as the same, however, there are some key differences between the two. 

Nature of the check

Criminal background checks gather crime reports and possible pending cases on a candidate. Crime reports can include felonies, convictions, and incarcerations. Meanwhile, civil background checks collect information about cases brought to the court by an alleged party. 


A criminal case is followed by severe punishments such as hefty fines or significant jail time which is something an employer should be strictly aware of. Whereas, a civil case usually results in small fines and minor punishments. They can be overlooked when hiring, however, it is helpful to know the nature and frequency of the civil cases. 

How often should you conduct a Civil Background Checks?

Generally, the frequency at which these tests should be conducted is based on the size and industry of the organization. After the background checks are done before hiring, it is a good practice to do follow-up checks once a year. 

There can be employees that are able to keep their personal issues and such records to themselves really well. Some of them might be too shy or embarrassed to share them. As an employer, it is good to stay on track with them and discuss them in a proper manner. 

Why are Civil Background Checks important?

Civil background checks analyze a candidate’s personal habits and work behaviors. It shows their accountability to given responsibilities both at the workplace and in their personal life. Such information helps in making optimal decisions and breaks ties between two employees of similar academics and work experience. 
  • Better Hiring Decisions
Having detailed information about a candidate helps in making informed decisions to hire them or not. 
  • Hire Qualified Employees
A person's past court records determines their behavior at work and personal life. It determines their efficiency in the workplace and solidify their qualifications. 
  • Protect Company Assets
Candidates with clean records do not create difficulties in the workplace by efficiently utilizing company assets and help preserve them for longer usage. 


Will a civil lawsuit show up on a background check?
Yes. A background check shows your identity and your court records that include your civil lawsuits. All relevant dates of the case, location of the court, case number, case name, and nature, all of these data will show in a background check. 
How far back can a background check go?
In general, a background check goes up to 7 years back. However, severe cases such as bankruptcy or tax fraud can go up to 10 years or more.