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Definition - What does Defendant mean?

A defendant is the party or person who is accused of committing a crime or the person in a civil case who has injured another person and is being sued. To initiate a civil case against the defendant the plaintiff or injured party must file a complaint and serve the complaint to the defendant. If the case goes to court or trial the judge or jury will review the evidence.

Unlike a criminal case where the prosecution must prove their case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil lawsuit the plaintiff must prove their claim through a preponderance of evidence which proves the defendant is legally at fault for their injuries. The defendant may also present their own evidence to rebut testimony from the plaintiff.

If the court does not believe the defendant is liable for the injuries to the plaintiff, they will find for the defendant. If the plaintiff has proven their case through a preponderance of evidence damages may be awarded to them. Damages can include monetary payments for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Defendants and legal defenses

There are several valid defenses used by defendants to avoid payment in a civil case. For instance, in some states the defendant may win their case if they can prove the plaintiff contributed to their own injuries through their own negligence. In states which employee the law of contributory negligence plaintiffs cannot recover damages even if they are 1% at- fault. In other states defendants can win their case if they can prove the plaintiff was 50% or less at-fault or 51% or less at-fault.

Another common defense is assumption of risk. Under some conditions a party may shift the blame wholly to the plaintiff if they can prove the plaintiff engaged in a dangerous activity and assumed the risks associated with this activity. Finally, a defendant may win their lawsuit if they can prove a contract existed between the two parties which limited the defendant's liability for injury.


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