A “defendant” is someone who has been sued in court. In personal injury cases, the defendant is usually the person or company the plaintiff says caused them harm. The defendant’s role is significant, as the outcome could greatly affect their life.
In personal injury lawsuits, the defendant is the party accused of causing harm. This could mean they’re being blamed for a car accident, a slip and fall at a store, or something else that caused injury. The person who got hurt is called the “plaintiff,” and they initiate the lawsuit.
The following are examples of people or entities that can be defendants:
- Regular people: Most often, it’s everyday folks who find themselves as defendants. For example, if you were driving and got into a car accident, you might be the defendant in a case.
- Businesses: Stores, restaurants, and other companies can also be sued. If someone slips and falls in a store, that store might be the defendant.
- Hospitals and doctors: Medical professionals can be defendants too, especially if someone thinks they made a mistake during treatment.
Understanding the defendant’s role is crucial as it can significantly impact a personal injury case.
Who Has to Prove What?
In a personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant did something wrong. This is called the “burden of proof.” The plaintiff must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the plaintiff has to make it clear that it’s more likely than not that the defendant is at fault. This is easier to prove than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases.
The following are examples of evidence that can be used to prove that a defendant was at fault:
- Witnesses: People who saw what happened can be important. Their stories can either help or hurt the defendant’s case.
- Photos and Videos: Pictures and videos taken at the scene can say a lot about what really happened.
- Medical Records: These can show how badly the plaintiff was hurt and can help to prove that the injury was because of the defendant.
The defendant can also provide evidence to establish doubt about whether or not they were at fault for the accident.
How Do Defendants Defend Themselves?
When you’re a defendant, it’s not just about sitting back and waiting to see what happens. You can also take action to protect yourself.
The following are common defenses that are used:
- Shared fault: Comparative negligence allows the defendant to argue that the plaintiff is not entirely innocent and shares some of the blame. For instance, in a slip-and-fall case, the defendant might claim that the plaintiff was not paying attention to where they were going. The plaintiff’s level of fault could significantly reduce the amount of compensation they receive.
- Knew the fisk: Officially termed “assumption of risk,” this strategy is especially prevalent in personal injury cases involving recreational activities or sports. Here, the defendant asserts that the plaintiff was well aware of the inherent risks involved but decided to proceed nonetheless. For example, if you get injured while skiing, the resort may argue that you knew the risks and chose to ski, thereby relinquishing their responsibility for your injury.
- Too late: Also known as the “statute of limitations” defense. This strategy revolves around time. Louisiana law dictates that a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within one year. If the plaintiff misses this window, the defendant can petition the court to dismiss the case, potentially escaping any liability.
- No direct link: This defense questions the “causation” aspect of a personal injury claim. The defendant may argue that their actions were not the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, suppose a defendant is sued for a car accident. In that case, they may argue that the plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing or that an unforeseen third party was actually at fault.
- Pre-existing condition: Often used to challenge causation, this defense claims that the plaintiff’s injuries existed before the event that is the subject of the lawsuit. Here, medical records can become crucial evidence. The defendant aims to prove that they are not responsible for the pre-existing injuries and should not be held liable for the damages related to them.
Some defendants have insurance that helps if they get sued. This insurance can pay for a lawyer and may cover some or all of the money the court orders them to pay. But, insurance has limits, and a defendant might have to pay out of pocket if the cost is too high.
Contact a Lafayette Personal Injury Attorney
Being involved in a personal injury case is a big deal. It can get complicated with many steps and rules. That’s why it’s so important to have a good lawyer who can guide you through it. A lawyer can help you understand your options and what’s the best course of action for you.
Contact the law firm of Kenny Habetz Injury Law at (337) 399-9000 for a free consultation with our experienced Lafayette personal injury lawyer. Our legal team can discuss your legal options and further explain a defendant’s role.