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Plaintiff Vs Defendant – What’s The Difference?

3 September, 2021


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Did you ever feel utterly confused when you went to take your lawyer’s advice for the first time? Well, I did. There are so many terms that make English sound like a foreign language. If you ever need to visit a lawyer, the first two terms you need to wrap your head around are plaintiff vs defendant.

It’s better if you take a look at these two terms beforehand because these are the most fundamental legal terminologies. So, in this article, we will talk about the definition of plaintiff vs defendant and their legal considerations. 

Plaintiff vs Defendant Definition

A plaintiff is a person who accuses someone and files a lawsuit against them. On the contrary, a defendant is charged in a case or being sued in the process. These two terms are the most commonly used in civil lawsuits.

If you want to know about the burden of proof between plaintiff vs defendant, let us tell you a plaintiff has more responsibility. He has to submit proof of the charged allegations against the defendant so that the purpose of his lawsuit holds relevance.

In addition, however, the defendant has to be prepared with counterclaims that can negate the plaintiff’s accusations. 

Let’s Look At An Example

If you want to grasp the concept of plaintiff vs defendant, let us take you down the road with an example. 

‘Martin was driving his car while he was texting someone. He accidentally overlooks the red light and forgets to stop. As a result, he hits one of the passers, Rob. Now, Rob is seriously injured, and he files for a lawsuit against Martin.’

So, what do you think, who is the plaintiff here, and who is the defendant?

If your answer is Rob is the plaintiff, and Martin is the defendant, you are absolutely right. Since Rob is the plaintiff, in this case, he has to draft the complaint. The document must have a legal and factual basis to lodge the claim.

His lawyer will send the complaint draft to the defendant. Now, if the defendant decides to pay the compensation, he can do it outside the court. But, if he feels like not paying, he can fight Martin in court.

Since Rob lodged the complaint and filed the lawsuit, the burden of collecting proof lies on his shoulders. First, he has to prove that Martin was texting while driving. Martin does not have to establish any evidence but simply defend himself from the plaintiff’s allegations.

Therefore, in the argument of plaintiff vs defendant, the plaintiff has a more challenging role to play.

Plaintiff vs Defendant-How To Remember The Difference?

Unfortunately, if you get tangled in a lawsuit, will you still remember the difference between plaintiff vs defendant. Well, we are giving you some simple tricks to remember even during tough times.

Plaintiff-How To Remember The Difference?

The word ‘plaintiff’ comes from the old French word ‘plaintive.’ Plaintive means someone expressing their suffering. So, in a nutshell, a plaintiff has an issue and likes to resolve it.

So, when a person files a lawsuit, that means he has a complaint against the other person, and that’s why he has filed the case. So, who files the claim is the plaintiff.

Defendant-How To Remember The Difference?

Remembering the defendant is actually pretty easy. The literal translation of ‘defendant is ‘someone defending something’. So, if a plaintiff files a lawsuit against someone, that person has to defend himself. Therefore, in a case, the person who is accused of a crime is the defendant. 

Plaintiff vs Defendant Court Cases

In the Blind Vs. Target Corporation [2006] case, the Blind community was the plaintiff, and Target Corporation was the defendant. Now, the website of Target Corporation was not accessible for blind people, and it was discriminatory.

However, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff because Target Corporation claims the equal enjoyment of goods and services to all people. As a result, the company had to partner with the NFB to ensure that the blind people on the internet can also access their website.

In the State of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson [1994] case

In the State of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson [1994] case, Simpson was charged with two murders, one of his ex-wife and another of his friend. He was the defendant in this case.

After 11 months of trial and extensive media coverage, the court finally found the defendant not guilty of the crime. After that, however, he ruled in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff had to withdraw the case. 

So, here we have discussed two real-life court cases so that you can understand the difference between plaintiff vs defendant better. 

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

If you have already grasped the difference between plaintiff vs defendant, we implore you to ignore this section. However, if you still have some questions, please take a look below;

1: Does The Defendant Come First, Or The Plaintiff?

Ans: Since the plaintiff is the person who files the complaint, his name always comes first in court. But, if the case is appealed for a petition, then the appellant’s name comes first. Once the terms of the plaintiff or the appellant appear, the defendant and the respondent’s names come.

2: Is A Plaintiff Same As The Prosecutor?

Ans: Even if both these titles look the same appearance, there are some differences. A plaintiff is someone who accuses someone else in a civil lawsuit. But, a prosecutor is someone who tries to prove someone guilty of a crime and establishes him as guilty in court.

3: Who Is The Appellant In A Case?

Ans: If you have an excellent idea about plaintiff vs defendant, you need to know who an appellant is. An appellant is already convicted of a crime in court and appeals again to the court for reconsideration. So there’s a different court for dealing with the appellant cases. 


Are you still with us? If so, then you must have got a good idea of plaintiff vs defendant by now. We have also mentioned a few other legal terms here so that you can get advanced knowledge. If you have further queries regarding this subject, please post them in the comment section.

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