If you were injured in an accident and need to file a personal injury lawsuit, you should know the different parties involved in a suit. At the most basic level, there’s a plaintiff and a defendant. But personal injury cases can get complicated. You might need to involve another person or business. Or, maybe someone’s trying to get involved in your in-going case. If you’re part of a potentially complicated lawsuit, talk with us at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., about parties in personal injury cases. You can reach out through our online form or call (312) 236-2900 to schedule a free consultation.
The person or business that files a lawsuit is the plaintiff. This is the party that alleges they were wronged. When you were hurt in an accident and believe someone else was at fault, you’ll file a lawsuit and become the plaintiff. You aren’t technically a plaintiff until you file a complaint. Until then, you the victim of the accident or a claimant in an insurance claim. There also can be more than one plaintiff. For example, if you and your spouse were injured in the same crash, you might choose to file a lawsuit together and not separately.
The person or business you file the lawsuit against is the defendant. This is the party you allege hurt you. You have the burden of providing evidence that the defendant was negligent or did something wrong. It’s the defendant’s job to offer up a defense. There can be one or more defendants. In many personal injury cases, we’ll name two or more defendants, such as a person and their employer. We cast a wide net to make sure anyone potentially liable is included in the lawsuit. This often gives us the best chance of winning your compensation.
Sometimes in civil lawsuits, the defendant believes they have a legal claim against the plaintiff. That defendant might file a counterclaim, which makes them the counter-plaintiff and you the counter-defendant. You also might have heard of a crossclaim. This is when the defendant blames someone else for all or part of your injuries. Because of counter and crossclaims, the defendant you name in your lawsuit can become a defendant and plaintiff at the same time.
There are several ways third parties can get involved in your lawsuit.
Joinder: A new plaintiff can join your lawsuit if they have a right to legal relief from the same accident or circumstances. Also, new defendants can join the lawsuit if they have a claim or an interest in the case. Sometimes the additional party is necessary for the judge or jury to decide the case. Other times, the new party can join the case, even if it isn’t necessary. Also, additional defendants might matter to specific parts of your case, but not all of them.
Impleader: You might blame a certain person or business for your injuries. But the party you name as a defendant might believe someone else is to blame. The defendant can bring a third party into the lawsuit. This new person or organization is called a third-party defendant. If you become a counter-defendant, you also can bring in a third party if you think someone else is at fault for the counter-plaintiff’s (the original defendant’s) injuries.
Interpleader: Someone who believes they have a claim against you, the plaintiff, arising from the same or similar issues involved in your case, can join as a defendant. This party is required to interplead when their claim would expose you to double or multiple liabilities. This usually happens when there are multiple parties involved in a case.
Intervention: Anyone will be allowed to intervene in a case if they have the unconditional right to based on a statute, the judgment would affect them, but they aren’t adequately represented in the case, or the distribution of property because of the judgment would negatively impact them. Or, the court can allow others to intervene in the case if a statute gives them a conditional right to intervene or when their claim or defense has a question of law or fact in common with the main issue of your case. If the party doesn’t have an unconditional right to intervene, then whether they can join the case is up to the court’s discretion. People and businesses who intervene in the case are non-parties trying to protect their rights.
When you aren’t sure who should be responsible for compensating you, the law allows you to name the two or more possible defendants. You can plead against them in the same count or separate counts in the alternative. You’ll determine which defendant or defendants are liable as you move through discovery.
Sometimes you get the parties wrong. You might include someone who doesn’t belong in the case, or you might leave someone out who is important. This is called nonjoinder and misjoinder. Your case won’t be immediately dismissed because of this. Instead, you have the opportunity to remove parties who aren’t relevant and add those who are before there’s a judgment in your case.
Sometimes a personal injury case is simple—it’ll be between you and one defendant. But in many other cases, the accidents are more complicated. It’s best to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer from the beginning. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the case, which might uncover several possible defendants or interested parties. We’ll include every relevant defendant. If new information comes to light, we can deal with issues of joinder, interpleader, impleader, and intervention.
To learn more about parties in a personal injury case, call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900, or contact us through our online form. We offer free consultations and accept cases on a contingency fee basis. There are no upfront fees.