What’s the Difference between a Plaintiff and a Defendant?

Apr 1, 2022 Business law

Lawyers are well known and even ridiculed for using the overly-technical English language. To most people, when an atone is speaking in the court, they find themselves left behind due to technical terms like plaintiff, the burden of proof, prima facie, and many more. And so, in today’s article, we will be discussing a couple of these terms, which include Plaintiff vs. Defendant and the burden of proof.

So, let’s get started by determining the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant.

Difference between a Plaintiff and a Defendant

These may seem like elementary discussions for some of you, and I understand that. However, the fact is there are plenty of people out there who don’t know the difference between defendant and plaintiff. So, let’s help these readers be able to differentiate a defendant from a plaintiff. 

In a court of law, a plaintiff refers to a party who files litigation or initiates a lawsuit against another party (which can be a business, individual, or group of people). Therefore, the main job of a plaintiff is to file a case and seek legal recourse. A plaintiff also needs to provide evidence and proof to back up his/her allegation. With enough evidence or being able to successfully convince the judge or jury will see the plaintiff win the case as the judge will rule in their favor.  

On the other hand, a defendant refers to a person or a group of people who are being charged or accused of committing a crime against the plaintiff. Therefore, in a civil case, the job of a defendant is to defend himself or themselves against all the accusations brought forward by the plaintiff. They need to launch a counterclaim and plead or prove their case; otherwise, they will lose the case.   

What is a Plaintiff?

According to the United States Department of Justice, the term plaintiff  refers to “the person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.” A plaintiff is basically a complainant seeking judgments to wrongdoing committed against them.

What is a Defendant?

A defendant “in a civil suit, the person complained against; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.” This definition is also according to the United States Department of Justice’s Legal terms glossary. A defendant has to counterclaim the accusations or seek a petitioner to help them appeal the case, or they will have to pay for damages they’ve caused.

Understanding the Burden of Proof

What is the Burden of Proof?

It is essential to note that the burden of proof is generally on the plaintiff’s side when distinguishing plaintiff vs defendant. And so, basically, this means that the plaintiff has to or must prove the allegations he is filing against the defendant. However, that’s not all. The fact is all other parties involved in a civil case still have to contribute the burden of proof with relevance to their side of the story. This means “the burden of proof is a party’s responsibility to prove a disputed charge, allegation, or defense”.

Understanding the Burden of Proof

Generally, the burden of proof comprises of two main components: 

  • The burden of persuasion, and 
  • The burden of production

The burden of production

This component refers to each party’s obligation to present their evidence to the jury or judge.

The burden of persuasion

After The burden of production comes persuasion, and in this stage, each party involved in a criminal trial is expected to convince the jury or judge to a ‘certain standard.’ The term ‘certain standard’ actually refers to certain extremes like, for example, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Besides these two components, there is another burden, but this one doesn’t revolve around defendant vs plaintiff. The burden of proving the case is basically the plaintiff or prosecutor’s task.

Tricks to Remember the Difference

Since we have now discussed what is plaintiff vs defendant, here are some of the essential tricks that can help you remember the difference. 

  • Keep in mind that the term defendant has the word defend, which means defendants are burdened with the task of defending against any allegations.
  • The terms plaintiff and the verb complain are related. This, therefore, means that a plaintiff is a party (person, group of people, business) filing complaining. 

With these two simple tricks, you can easily determine the difference between defendant and plaintiff.

Final Verdict

Besides Plaintiff vs Defendant and burden of proof, there are other legal terms that you should also know, and you can find them at Legal Terms Glossary.

Now,  we know you discovered that the defendant is the opposite of the plaintiff, which is where the main difference between defendant and plaintiff presides. 

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