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Civil Lawsuit Vocab 101: Pleadings and Parties

Monday, March 27, 2017By Richard Alexander

Being involved in a lawsuit for the first time can be intimidating. Whether you’re reading about the law on the Internet or talking with your lawyer about your case, you’re likely to hear many words that you haven’t heard before. Even some words that you know have different meanings in the law.

Some of the most basic legal terminology relates to the people or companies involved in a lawsuit and what various papers are called. We’ll review some of these terms using a basic car accident case.

Let’s say that Polly is driving her Prius on the interstate when she is side-swiped by David, who is driving a Dodge. David was clearly at fault because he was looking down at texts on his phone, which caused him to swerve into Polly’s lane. Polly is badly injured and her car is totaled. She decides to bring a lawsuit against David.

Polly visits a lawyer, who agrees to take her case. Her lawyer prepares the opening document in the lawsuit, called a complaint, and files it on Polly’s behalf. The complaint sets forth the facts of the case and tells the court what Polly wants (money damages from David). Polly is known as the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

After receiving the complaint, David has a certain amount of time to file a response to it, known as his answer. In it, David will inform the court of whether he agrees or disagrees with Polly’s statement of the facts. David is known as the defendant.

Together, Polly and David are known as the parties to the case. The documents filed by Polly and David (the complaint and answer) are known as pleadings.

Others you might encounter in a lawsuit are the judge and the court clerk. The judge is the official assigned to the case to make independent decisions about disputes between the parties. The clerk is the head of the office that receives and stores documents about cases before the court.

If you are considering bringing a lawsuit, you don't have to go it alone. The experienced attorneys at the Alexander Law Group, LLP know all of the necessary legal terms and can help you understand everything that is happening in your case.

Our firm is a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury and product liability law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco with decades of experience handling civil lawsuits. We are passionate about our clients and our community. We are advocates for our clients and we invite you to read what our clients have to say. If you or a loved one were severely injured in a crash, contact us at the Alexander Law Group, LLP or call 888.777.1776. All calls are free and confidential.

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