Apart from legislation granting a right to sue for a specific harm, personal injury law generally consists of tort law and the civil procedure for enforcing it. This article discusses the civil procedure for enforcing tort law.
Filing a Lawsuit
The general method provided by civil procedure to enforce the rights and duties provided by tort law is for persons and organizations who believe that any of their rights have been violated to “sue” the persons and organizations whom they allege have failed to do their duty as provided by tort law. To “sue” refers to the initial act required to formally enforce the law, which is to file with a court a group of documents that notify the court and the alleged violators of the alleged violation or violations of tort law. The group of documents is known as a suit, and so the whole process is known as a lawsuit. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the filers have been harmed under tort law and that they are entitled to satisfaction — usually money — from the persons or organizations against whom the group of documents were filed. The court declaration is important because anyone who fails to obey the court’s declaration ordering satisfaction is potentially subject to punishment by the court for their failure to obey the court’s declaration.
The Threat of a Lawsuit
Sometimes it is not actually necessary to file a lawsuit to enforce tort law. Sometimes the threat of the successful use of civil procedure encourages and prompts persons and organizations who have failed to obey tort law to settle the substantive law matter out of court.
Words Used in a Lawsuit
A person or organization who has had one or more of its rights under tort law violated may be known as a victim. The victim is said to have suffered a wrong. The person or organization who has failed to obey one or more of its duties under tort law may be known as a perpetrator, tortfeasor, violator, or wrongdoer.
As a general rule, a person or organization that files a lawsuit is known as a plaintiff. As a general rule, a person or organization that responds to a lawsuit is known as a defendant. A victim or alleged victim is usually known as a plaintiff or potential plaintiff. A perpetrator, tortfeasor, violator, or wrongdoer, or an alleged perpetrator, tortfeasor, violator, or wrongdoer, is usually known as a defendant or potential defendant.
It is also possible for a person or organization that is sued, a defendant, to counter-sue the plaintiff or plaintiffs. For the sake of clarity, the parties to a lawsuit retain their initial designations as plaintiff or defendant, even though the result of the lawsuit may be a finding that the real victim, if any, is a defendant on the defendant’s counter-suit and not a plaintiff on the plaintiff’s initial suit.