Who should I name as a defendant in a civil lawsuit?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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When you file a civil lawsuit, you may do so for any violation of the law that has caused you physical or economic harm. One of the most important steps in filing your lawsuit is naming all of the defendants responsible for your injury. If you are considering filing a civil lawsuit, speak with an experienced litigation attorney prior to taking any action.

Remedies In a Civil Lawsuit

Monetary remedies are the most common result of lawsuits. Damages to a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit are translated into dollars the defendant must pay to fairly make the plaintiff whole. Although less common, a court may also force a defendant to take action or cease taking action should that be appropriate. When considering a civil lawsuit, be sure to properly identify all the parties that have caused you damage, what damages they have caused you, and how that harm translates into dollars they owe.

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Who to Sue in a Civil Lawsuit

Who you name as a defendant will depend on the circumstances surrounding your claim. Civil lawsuits may be used to resolve disputes that arise between two individuals, such as between you and the roofing contractor, or two drivers who are involved in an auto accident, or a couple contemplating a divorce. You may also be bringing your legal action against a business, perhaps over a defective product, a service, or lease of property. Some lawsuits may involve a dispute with a government agency. Maybe the town you live in wants to condemn a piece of your property to extend a freeway, or the state is trying to deny you a license, or the amount of taxes you owe the IRS are in dispute.

In any of these cases, you can initiate a civil lawsuit against any defendant who has harmed you by filing the proper paperwork with the court. You have to keep in mind when naming a defendant that you must have standing to sue someone. This means you must have suffered some type of legal, actionable wrong at the hands of the person you are suing and that you must have incurred damages for which you can be reimbursed. If you do not have standing to sue a defendant, then the law has found that the defendant has not committed a legal wrong or you have not been harmed by the defendant’s actions.

Getting Legal Help when Naming Defendants

If you are concerned about whether or not you have a legal right to sue a person you believe has wronged you, consult with an experienced litigation attorney to find out what your options are for bringing legal action. Naming the defendants in your civil lawsuit is an extremely important step because if you miss out on a defendant, then you lose out on the remedy you are fairly owed for your injury or loss. Consult a litigation attorney prior to filing any civil lawsuit.

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