Is the respondent the plaintiff or defendant?

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Is the respondent the plaintiff or defendant?

Legal question? FREE call (800) 734-4134LOG IN ADD YOUR FIRM

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  3. Plaintiff vs. Defendant  Learn the Difference

Plaintiff vs. Defendant  Learn the Difference

The difference between the legal terms plaintiff and defendant
  • What's the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant?
  • Remembering the difference
  • The burden of proof
  • Other terms to know

Lawyers are often ridiculed for their apparent aversion to plain English. To some people, it seems like lawyers are speaking a foreign language. This overly-technical language even has a name: legalese.

Though many have advocated for the abolishment of legalese (including the Harvard Business Review, among other publications), there are 2 fundamental legal terms that are here to stay and its in your best interest to know what they mean and how theyre used.

These two words are: plaintiff and defendant.

Whats the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant?

In a civil case, the person or entity that files the lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person or entity being sued is called the defendant.In a civil case, the defendant is the person or entity being sued and the plaintiff is the person or entity filing the lawsuit.
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Lets look at an example.

John is stopped at a red light. Linda is driving behind John and texting on her cell phone. As a result, Linda doesnt see Johns car and she rear-ends him. John is seriously injured and he files a car accident lawsuit against Linda to recover additional damages that arent covered by insurance. In this example, John is the plaintiff and Linda is the defendant.

Because the plaintiff files the lawsuit, the plaintiff is responsible for drafting the complaint. The complaint is the first document filed in court for the case. The complaint states the factual and legal basis for the plaintiffs claim. A copy of the complaint is served to the defendant and the defendant is required to file an answer. The answer is simply the defendants response to each allegation in the complaint.

How can you distinguish the plaintiff from the defendant just by looking at a complaint or hearing a case name? The plaintiff is generally named first in the case caption and the defendant is named second.

Heres a quick example:

Oliver Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

In the above example, Oliver Brown is the plaintiff and Board of Education of Topeka is the defendant.

Remembering the difference

If youre involved in a lawsuit, youre likely thinking about a million different things at once. So, how are you supposed to remember which party is the plaintiff and which is the defendant?

The word plaintiff comes from the Old French word plaintive, which means to express or suffer woe  generally an accurate description of a plaintiff!

The word defendant contains the word defend, which is exactly what a defendant is doing.

The burden of proof

One of the critical differences between a plaintiff and defendant in a civil case is that the plaintiff is generally charged with the burden of proving the allegations.

In other words, if John sues Linda for car accident damages since she was texting and driving, its not up to Linda to prove that she wasnt driving distracted. Rather, its Johns responsibility (or burden) to prove that Linda was in fact distracted.

Other terms to know

There are a couple of common situations where the parties involved in a civil lawsuit are referred to something other than plaintiff and defendant.

  • Appeals. When a case is appealed, the terms plaintiff and defendant are seldom used. An appeal is a written petition to a higher court to modify or reverse a decision of a lower court. The party that appeals a ruling (regardless of whether its the plaintiff or defendant) is called the appellant. The other party responding to the appeal is called the appellee.
  • Counterclaims. If a defendant is sued by a plaintiff, the defendant can turn around and assert a claim against the plaintiff. This is called a counterclaim. In this situation, the defendant may be referred to as the counter-claimant or counter-plaintiff. Similarly, the plaintiff may be referred to as the counter-defendant.

Its not always easy to follow along with what a lawyer is saying. A good attorney will take the time to explain legal terms so that you have a good understanding of whats going on in your case. Read more about how to choose the right lawyer for your case.Enjuris tip: Confused by legal jargon? Check out our Personal Injury Glossary for a list of commonly used terms and their definitions.Downloads:Free personal injury guides for download to print or save. View all downloads.


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Plaintiff vs. Defendant  Learn the Difference

The difference between the legal terms plaintiff and defendant
  • What's the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant?
  • Remembering the difference
  • The burden of proof
  • Other terms to know

Lawyers are often ridiculed for their apparent aversion to plain English. To some people, it seems like lawyers are speaking a foreign language. This overly-technical language even has a name: legalese.

Though many have advocated for the abolishment of legalese (including the Harvard Business Review, among other publications), there are 2 fundamental legal terms that are here to stay and its in your best interest to know what they mean and how theyre used.

These two words are: plaintiff and defendant.

Whats the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant?

In a civil case, the person or entity that files the lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person or entity being sued is called the defendant.In a civil case, the defendant is the person or entity being sued and the plaintiff is the person or entity filing the lawsuit.
Tweetthis

Lets look at an example.

John is stopped at a red light. Linda is driving behind John and texting on her cell phone. As a result, Linda doesnt see Johns car and she rear-ends him. John is seriously injured and he files a car accident lawsuit against Linda to recover additional damages that arent covered by insurance. In this example, John is the plaintiff and Linda is the defendant.

Because the plaintiff files the lawsuit, the plaintiff is responsible for drafting the complaint. The complaint is the first document filed in court for the case. The complaint states the factual and legal basis for the plaintiffs claim. A copy of the complaint is served to the defendant and the defendant is required to file an answer. The answer is simply the defendants response to each allegation in the complaint.

How can you distinguish the plaintiff from the defendant just by looking at a complaint or hearing a case name? The plaintiff is generally named first in the case caption and the defendant is named second.

Heres a quick example:

Oliver Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

In the above example, Oliver Brown is the plaintiff and Board of Education of Topeka is the defendant.

Remembering the difference

If youre involved in a lawsuit, youre likely thinking about a million different things at once. So, how are you supposed to remember which party is the plaintiff and which is the defendant?

The word plaintiff comes from the Old French word plaintive, which means to express or suffer woe  generally an accurate description of a plaintiff!

The word defendant contains the word defend, which is exactly what a defendant is doing.

The burden of proof

One of the critical differences between a plaintiff and defendant in a civil case is that the plaintiff is generally charged with the burden of proving the allegations.

In other words, if John sues Linda for car accident damages since she was texting and driving, its not up to Linda to prove that she wasnt driving distracted. Rather, its Johns responsibility (or burden) to prove that Linda was in fact distracted.

Other terms to know

There are a couple of common situations where the parties involved in a civil lawsuit are referred to something other than plaintiff and defendant.

  • Appeals. When a case is appealed, the terms plaintiff and defendant are seldom used. An appeal is a written petition to a higher court to modify or reverse a decision of a lower court. The party that appeals a ruling (regardless of whether its the plaintiff or defendant) is called the appellant. The other party responding to the appeal is called the appellee.
  • Counterclaims. If a defendant is sued by a plaintiff, the defendant can turn around and assert a claim against the plaintiff. This is called a counterclaim. In this situation, the defendant may be referred to as the counter-claimant or counter-plaintiff. Similarly, the plaintiff may be referred to as the counter-defendant.

Its not always easy to follow along with what a lawyer is saying. A good attorney will take the time to explain legal terms so that you have a good understanding of whats going on in your case. Read more about how to choose the right lawyer for your case.Enjuris tip: Confused by legal jargon? Check out our Personal Injury Glossary for a list of commonly used terms and their definitions.Downloads:Free personal injury guides for download to print or save. View all downloads.


Tell your story:Tell your story - What would you want others to know? Tell us what happened in your accident, and how life has changed for you.


Find an attorney:Search our directory for personal injury law firms.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.Find an attorney

Representatives answer calls for attorney services. Dial 800-734-4134
Do I need a lawyer?
  • What does a personal injury attorney do?

Forms and worksheetsPost-accident diary
Attorney interview checklist
Damages/expenses worksheet
View All Free Downloads
Law Student Resources

Learn how to get ahead in your studies and the career field, as well be a guest contributor to our blog and apply for one of our scholarships.Student CenterAre you an attorney?Attract and convert more clients

Dramatic increase in web traffic
Genuine competitive advantage
Guaranteed territory protection
How It Works?

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