24 Hour Toll Free Help

Definition of Lawsuit

A lawsuit is a court action brought by an individual, called the plaintiff, against another person, called the defendant. The plaintiff brings a personal injury lawsuit when they have been injured from the negligent actions of the defendant and suffered loss. The lawsuit allows for compensation to the victim.

If a plaintiff has been injured by the negligence of a defendant and they would like to file a civil lawsuit they must file a complaint with the court and serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint.

The complaint identifies the injury, describes the defendant's negligence and asks the court for relief, generally compensation. Judges will encourage each party to use some type of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration to reach an agreement and avoid a trial. If each party agrees often the lawsuit is resolved with an agreement called a settlement.

If not, each party can begin preparing for trial through the process of discovery. Discovery will include deposing witnesses for testimony. Each side also may file requests, or "motions." Most civil trials allow for a trial by jury, although some claimants will waive their right to a jury trial and have their case heard by a judge. In most civil cases the plaintiff must convince the jury by a "preponderance of the evidence" to receive compensation for their losses as opposed the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

« Back to Glossary

Browse Personal Injury Terms Alphabetically:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W | ALL