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Who Are the Parties in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Updated March 11, 2024 | By Emily Chimenti

If you’re venturing into the legal world for the first time, you will likely encounter an entirely new lexicon. From insurance adjusters to the judge and jury, it’s easy to lose track of who’s who in the courtroom. But it’s important to know who everyone is so that you understand what’s happening throughout your case.

We will break down the parties you’ll meet during a lawsuit so you can feel informed and confident throughout the process.

Criminal Vs. Civil Cases

There are two main types of courtroom cases: criminal and civil. In a criminal case, such as a robbery, one person committed a crime against someone else and may be punished for their actions. In a civil case, such as a car accident, the defendant has injured the victim and is seeking compensation.

There are some differences between criminal and civil cases. For example, in a criminal case, a prosecutor or district attorney—not the victim—brings the case against the defendant. In a civil case, the victim pursues the claim.

Because a personal injury lawsuit is a civil case, we will focus on describing the parties involved in civil cases.

Plaintiff

In a personal injury case, the victim who experienced the injury is called the plaintiff. If you are the one filing a lawsuit, then this is your role. You will work with your attorney to tell your story and gather evidence to prove you suffered because of the other party’s negligence. In a civil trial, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, meaning they must come up with enough evidence to make their case.

For example, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient who was misdiagnosed is the plaintiff. The plaintiff wants to recover damages from their doctor, who acted negligently. The patient must present enough evidence against the doctor to prove their case.

Defendant

The defendant in a civil lawsuit is the party being accused of causing an injury. They must “defend” themselves against your claims. They can provide documentation, expert witness testimony, and other evidence to show that the plaintiff’s version of events is untrue or that they (the defendant) acted appropriately.

In the medical malpractice example, the doctor is the defendant. To win the case, the doctor must show that they complied with the standard of care. For example, the doctor may call an expert witness to testify that he or she acted appropriately and ran the correct tests.

Insurance Company

Sometimes, one or more insurance companies will be involved in a lawsuit. Let’s look at the roles they might play.

Defendant’s Insurance Company

A defendant’s insurance company has a stake in the trial’s outcome because they may be responsible for paying any damages. For example, doctors carry malpractice insurance in case a patient sues them. Drivers carry car insurance in case they cause injury or property damage while driving. And businesses carry premises liability insurance in case someone is injured on their property.

Plaintiff’s Insurance Company

A plaintiff’s insurance may also be involved in litigation. In car accident cases, for example, the plaintiff’s insurance company may be involved if there is a claim for uninsured/underinsured coverage.

Attorneys

Most plaintiffs and defendants in a lawsuit will hire an attorney to represent them in negotiations and, potentially, in court. They will help you gather evidence, create a strong case, and argue on your behalf. Their job is to understand the legal system and applicable laws to represent their client fairly before a judge or jury.

When hiring your attorney, it’s important to choose one with a background in cases like yours. If you are pursuing damages after a car accident, for example, you can find a lawyer who has handled many car accident cases. A general practice lawyer may not be prepared for the intricacies of a personal injury case.

Plaintiff’s Attorney

Your attorney’s job is to help you recover the best settlement possible for your injury. When you hire an attorney, they will guide you through the process from the initial consultation to the settlement agreement or final verdict. Although other parties, such as an insurance agent, may offer to help you settle your case, they have their company’s best interests at heart – not yours. By hiring an attorney, you can ensure that you get the best results in your case.

Paralegals

When you hire an attorney, you will gain a team of support professionals and research experts. You will likely interact with a firm’s paralegals more often than other members of the legal team. Paralegals work closely with your attorney, helping them conduct research, acquire evidence, and manage your case. At WKW, our paralegals will often serve as the main point of contact. They can answer your follow-up questions, help you gather documents, schedule depositions, and much more.

Legal Assistants

Our legal assistants work hard behind the scenes, providing administrative assistance when needed. Legal assistants keep everything organized and running smoothly.

Defendant’s Attorney

Like the plaintiff’s attorney, the defense attorney is there to represent their client’s best interests. The defense attorney represents the defendant, and their job is to negate the plaintiff’s allegations. They may provide their own evidence, invite their own witnesses and experts, and provide a counterclaim—a claim against the plaintiff for something the defendant thinks they did wrong.

In some ways, the defense attorney’s job is simpler than the plaintiff’s attorney. The plaintiff has the burden of proof, while the defense attorney must convince a jury that their version of events is more likely true. This is why it’s important for the victim to choose the right attorney for their case.

Medical Professionals

In an injury case, medical professionals will likely serve as witnesses. Two main types of professionals may testify during your case.

Treating Physicians

The physicians or medical professionals treating your injury are most qualified to discuss your condition. Depending on your case, you may involve the original doctor who treated you in the emergency room and specialists who provide ongoing care, such as physical therapists or surgeons. These witnesses can explain to the judge and jury how your injury has affected your health and how it may affect your quality of life going forward. The testimony of a treating physician can be critical in proving the severity and impact of your injuries.

For example, the physician who treated someone after a car accident can explain to the jury that their brain injury will prevent them from returning to work and that treatment options are very limited. The patient’s quality of life will never be the same as it was. This will help the jury understand the severity of the injury, even if it isn’t evident by the victim’s appearance.

Expert Medical Witnesses

In addition to physicians who personally treated you, either side may also invite an expert medical witness to testify broadly about your condition and its likely cause. For example, suppose a plaintiff has suffered an injury due to medical malpractice. They may call an expert medical witness in the same field to testify that the defendant acted against the standard of care. They can explain to the jury what the defendant should have done instead.

Similarly, a defendant might call an expert medical witness to testify that the plaintiff’s injuries were not so serious or that the defendant’s actions could not have caused them.

Judge

When you file your case, it is assigned to a judge. The judge’s job is to ensure that both parties follow the appropriate laws and legal guidelines. The judge makes decisions on legal issues and facilitates the process.

Jury

When a case goes to trial, a jury will hear the evidence from both sides and render a final decision. They will try to be impartial in their verdict.

Other Court Personnel

In addition to the judge and jury, you will see other essential individuals in the courtroom.

Clerks

A clerk’s job is to maintain court records. They also assist with administrative tasks so that your case runs smoothly.

Bailiffs

The bailiffs are present to ensure the safety and security of the courtroom. If there is any animosity between the two parties, the bailiff’s job is to keep them separated and ensure safety.

Court Reporters

Court reporters type everything said during a trial so there will be a clear record. The jury can review this record to ensure they don’t miss any important information.

Contact an Injury Attorney Today

Are you ready to pursue your injury claim? The attorneys at WKW will explain every step of the process while they work to secure the damages you deserve. Contact our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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