It’s not a secret that the world of law is full of highly technical concepts and jargon that can seem foreign to the average civilian. After all, that’s why lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals spend years of their lives studying their field of specialization and putting what they learned into practice.
However, even if the civilians can be guided by their lawyers through the complex legal processes they go through, it doesn’t help that they can still get lost because of the legalese. Understanding the legal jargon may seem like an additional effort on your part, but it may help you better when you’re dealing with a civil lawsuit. Here is some common jargon that you should know:
Plaintiff and Defendant
There will always be two parties involved in a lawsuit in a typical courtroom setting — the plaintiff and the defendant. The party filing the lawsuit and claiming to be wronged is called the plaintiff. Meanwhile, the party on the receiving end of the case and proving their innocence is called the defendant.
If you’re the one filing a lawsuit against another individual, organization, or business enterprise, then you will automatically be the plaintiff. You’ll have the duty of informing the defendant by serving them the summons and making sure that they are informed of the lawsuit before the deadline is up.
However, if you’re the defendant, you’ll have the duty of responding to the summons within the allotted time. You can either contest or accept the claim before you can move forward to the next step. Should you choose to deal with the case as quietly and quickly as possible, you’ll have to negotiate the settlement.
Most civil lawsuits are dealt with out of court through a settlement negotiation. This is because civil cases are made to hold the defendant liable for the harm or wrongdoing inflicted on the plaintiff. And if the plaintiff is successful, they can be awarded the compensation negotiated during the settlement.
Instead of settling the matter at hand through a trial, many lawyers will recommend settlement negotiations to their clients because these are much cheaper. In the talks, both parties will have to decide on a reasonable amount of compensation based on the severity of damage inflicted on the plaintiff and reach an agreement.
There is a possibility that both parties will not agree on the settlement amount. This is known as an impasse. When both parties cannot agree, it could result in a renegotiation through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods or, in the worst-case scenario, a court trial.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Since civil law cases usually end with one party paying compensation to the other party, they rarely involve jail time. That’s why civil lawsuits are commonly solved through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods instead of in a court trial. But the latter situation can still happen on the off chance that the parties can’t reach an agreement.
However, if both parties are willing to negotiate a settlement to solve the issue, they can do so with arbitration and mediation services. These are two popular types of ADR that have helped countless other people get through their litigation process outside of the courtroom.
In arbitration, an arbitrator will be present who will hold a hearing to decide the outcome of the conflict between the plaintiff and the defendant. So, instead of a judge, the arbitrator will serve as the hearing officer and help both parties reach an agreement without going to court.
On the other hand, mediation is a type of ADR that mainly involves negotiating in the presence of a neutral third party. The mediator will serve as the facilitator of the negotiations that will happen in mediation, and hopefully, can help both parties reach an agreement regarding their issues.
Burden of Proof
Unlike in a criminal case where the defendant has to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, all a plaintiff needs to win their case is to meet the requirements for the burden of proof. This means that the plaintiff has to present enough evidence to prove that their claims are more likely to be true than not true.
This legal standard of proof is also known as the preponderance of the evidence. The burden of proof in a civil lawsuit will always fall on the plaintiff’s shoulders, which is why they should keep all documents, receipts, testimonials, tapes, pictures, and other pieces of evidence that can support their claims.
You can get a massive headache from trying to understand all the concepts and jargon that you’ll hear during the litigation, especially if you have no previous knowledge of this legalese at all. So, if you want to understand what’s happening around you, consider familiarizing yourself with the terms often used during a civil lawsuit.