California law protects the rights of those who suffered injuries due to another person or entity’s negligence or wrongdoing. Those who sustained severe injuries because of another’s carelessness can take legal action. They can hold those who caused their injuries responsible through personal injury lawsuits. 

When you take legal action against someone who harmed you, that person becomes the defendant in the case. The defendant is the person who responds to the claims and defends themselves in court. 

While you seek to prove that the defendant was negligent, the defendant typically presents legal defenses attempting to shield themselves from liability. In many cases, defendants will agree to settle to avoid the ordeal of a trial. 

The Definition of Defendant 

The Definition of Defendant 

The Law Dictionary defines a defendant as the person defending or denying the allegations. The defendant is the party against whom relief or recovery is sought in an action or suit. 

Defendant and Plaintiff 

Plaintiff and defendant are terms referring to parties in a lawsuit. 

The plaintiff is the person or entity who files the lawsuit. This person is also known as the claimant. In a personal injury case, the plaintiff is often the person who experienced an injury. 

You are the plaintiff if you seek to recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff sues the defendant. 

The defendant is the person who responds to the lawsuit. If you are pursuing compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant is the person or entities you aim to hold accountable. 

Case names reflect the relationship between the parties. The plaintiff’s name precedes the defendant’s name. The case name appears as the plaintiff’s name v. the defendant’s name. 

For example, suppose a case is called Smith v. Jones. In this example, Smith is the plaintiff, and Jones is the defendant. 

What Is the Difference Between Respondent and Defendant? 

Another word related to the legal term defendant is respondent. The word respondent can be synonymous with the word defendant. The person being sued might be called the respondent. 

In California, you could encounter the term respondent in place of the word defendant in several instances. 

Family law cases, such as divorces, commonly use respondent to refer to the person answering the claim. 

The term also refers to defendants in administrative law matters. This includes hearings before government agencies or regulatory bodies. In these cases, respondent can describe the person facing the administrative action or complaint. 

In personal injury cases in California, the defendant is the person responding to the action. If you are involved in a California personal injury case, you’re more likely to encounter the term defendant than respondent. 

Civil and Criminal Defendants

Defendants are people answering civil or criminal charges. Understanding the distinction between the civil and criminal justice systems and civil and criminal defendants is important for those seeking to pursue personal injury claims.

A criminal defendant faces prosecution by the state. The state takes the plaintiff’s place in a lawsuit, so criminal cases in California appear as State of California v. Defendant. 

Suppose Jones is the defendant in a criminal case in California. The case is known as California v. Jones. 

If the jury convicts the defendant in a criminal case or the defendant accepts a plea bargain, the defendant gets a criminal sentence. The purpose of the sentence is to punish the individual for violating the law.

Even if the person who committed a crime caused an injury, the victim would not receive compensation because of a criminal conviction. Victims must take action through the civil system to obtain payment from those that harmed them. They can obtain monetary relief from defendants in civil cases but not criminal cases. 

Personal injury cases take place in civil court. A civil defendant in a personal injury case does not face imprisonment. 

Rather, if the court finds the individual negligent or the individual agrees to a settlement, the result is having to pay monetary damages to the victim. Some damages compensate victims for their financial losses, whereas punitive damages punish the defendant.                                

Contact a Qualified Chula Vista Personal Injury Attorney for Help With Your Case

If you are the victim of another person’s negligence, you could bring a personal injury claim against the person or entities responsible. With the help of a Chula Vista personal injury lawyer, you could identify the defendant in your case and pursue compensation for the financial, emotional, and personal toll of your injury. 

At Mission Personal Injury Lawyers our experienced attorneys can help you with your case. Please contact us today at (619) 777-5555 for a free consultation, and take the first step toward protecting your rights as an accident victim.