Personal Injury Law – Multiple Parties – Q & A

Q.   I was in a multi-vehicle personal injury accident. The accident was not my fault. Although my lawyer says I might be partially at fault.  I had a passenger in my vehicle and the other vehicle that caused the accident also had a passenger.  My lawyer said our personal injury lawsuit will likely have multiple parties to the case but I am unsure what this means. Can you explain?

A. Sure. The party that brings the lawsuit claiming damages as the result of another person’s wrongful conduct, usually negligence, is called the plaintiff. That is you. The party against whom you believe is legally responsible for the accident is called the defendant.

In a personal injury lawsuit, there may be multiple plaintiffs and multiple defendants. Each person named in the lawsuit, whether a plaintiff or a defendant, is considered a party to the action.

Cross And Counter Claims – May Change The Status Of The Party To The Action

You mentioned that you had a passenger in your vehicle. If it is determined that you may be partially at fault for the accident, you may become a defendant in the action as well. This can happen if your passenger’s lawyer determines it is necessary to protect his/her client, your passenger, by making you a defendant as well, just in case you are later found to have had some fault in the accident. In many states, your passenger’s lawsuit is considered a cross-claim and you are the cross-defendant – even though you are on the same side. In certain jurisdictions, the legal response to a cross-claim is called a “reply” and functions much the same way as an answer.

A counterclaim is comparable to a cross-claim except that it is a claim against an adverse party in the lawsuit, not a party on the same side of the lawsuit.

Your passenger’s lawyer will also sue the other driver who is the primary defendant in the case. The passenger in the other vehicle that was driven by the primary defendant will likely be a plaintiff as against the driver and will likely file a lawsuit against you making you a defendant as well as the primary plaintiff.

As you can tell, determining the status of a party to a lawsuit can get complicated fast, but most experienced personal injury lawyers have a good sense of pleading practice.

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