What is an Answer? What does it do? And how does it impact my case?
You may have read our blog about complaints, the document which formally starts a lawsuit. After a plaintiff has filed a complaint, the defendant in a case normally files an “answer.” An answer is a pleading which literally answers a complaint. An answer normally includes the following sections: (1) the parties and jurisdiction, (2) the factual allegations, (3) affirmative defenses, and (4) counter or cross claims. Note, there may be some cases where a defendant may decide to file a “motion to dismiss” before filing an answer, but that is a topic for another day.
The Parties and Jurisdiction
One of the first things a defendant does in an answer is let the Court and Plaintiff know whether it agrees with the Plaintiff’s description of the Parties (the people suing and being sued), the jurisdiction (is this the right area to have this lawsuit), and venue (is this the right court within this area to have this lawsuit). In the Answer, a defendant will admit or deny the allegations regarding jurisdiction and venue that are listed in the Complaint.
This section is the meat and potatoes of both the Complaint and the Answer. As you may recall, in the Complaint, the Plaintiff lists out all or some of the allegations the Plaintiff believes give him/her the right to sue the defendant. In the Answer, the Defendant responds to those allegations. For example, a plaintiff may say something like, “On 12/4/18, Mr. Defendant was driving his Chevy Tahoe down Main Street.”
This is an allegation which may or may not be true. The Defendant then has three options. It may admit the allegation which would demonstrate that both sides agree that Mr. Defendant was driving his Chevy Tahoe down Main Street on 12/4/18. It may deny the allegation, which means that fact is in dispute. Or, the Defendant may say that it doesn’t have enough information to admit or deny the allegation. This process then repeats for all of the allegations, at which point the parties should know at least some of the facts that will be fought over and some of the facts that everyone agrees about.
After answering all of the Plaintiff’s allegations, the Defendant will then usually list out some affirmative defenses. Affirmative defenses can cover lots of different topics, but generally an affirmative defense states that even if the Plaintiff’s allegations are true, the Plaintiff still shouldn’t win, or he/she shouldn’t win as much money. For example, a defendant may list an affirmative defense of “comparative fault or negligence.” This means that the defendant is saying “even if the plaintiff is injured, the plaintiff was at least partially at fault for his/her own injury.” Or a defendant may assert an affirmative defense of “failure to mitigate damages.” Failure to mitigate just means that a plaintiff didn’t try to minimize their damages. There are dozens of affirmative defenses that may apply to any given case.Counter or cross claims
Finally, after answering all of the allegations and listing affirmative defenses, a defendant may file a counterclaim against the Plaintiff or a cross claim against another party. For example, if a plaintiff sues a defendant for breach of contract, the Defendant may file a counterclaim against the Plaintiff stating that it was actually the Plaintiff who didn’t follow the contract. Or, in some cases, the Defendant may decide to sue a third-party who it alleges was the reason it had to breach the contract.
“What is an Answer?” We hope our blog has helped you answer that question. Lawsuits in injury cases are sometimes unavoidable. If an insurance company is not offering you fair compensation, a lawsuit may be the only way to recover what you are owed. If someone else injures you, it is important to understand the ins and outs of going to court. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car crash, call one of the lawyers at CGH today. Life happens. We can help.