What Is a Plaintiff

In the State of Florida, a plaintiff is defined by Statute 45.011 to include any party who is seeking relief from the court. This can include individuals or companies who file court claims, as well as counter-claimants, cross-claimants, and third-party plaintiffs.   

Seeking relief means trying to obtain a legal remedy, such as compensation for personal injury, compensation for breach of contract, compensation for employment discrimination, an injunction, or declaratory relief. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that over a one-year period, plaintiffs won more than half of all civil trials which were concluded within state courts.

Plaintiffs initiate civil lawsuits by filing a claim in a court with jurisdiction over the particular issue for which the plaintiff seeks relief. For example, if a plaintiff is seeking compensation for a motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff would generally file a claim in one of the 67 county courts located in each of Florida’s 67 counties. The claim would likely be filed in the county where the accident took place. In some cases, plaintiffs file lawsuits in federal court if their lawsuit arises out of a federal question or if more than $75,000 is in controversy and the plaintiff and defendant are from different locations.

Plaintiffs must state legal grounds for their claim. In most situations, a plaintiff has a burden of proving the claim against the defendant. This means the plaintiff must prove the right to relief. There are different requirements for what a plaintiff must prove, depending upon the type of case filed. In a product liability case, for example, a plaintiff would have to prove that the product caused injury or damage when used in a manner intended by the manufacturer.

The burden of proof for plaintiffs in civil cases is a lower burden of proof than is required of prosecutors in criminal cases. However, plaintiffs still must be prepared to present evidence to convince a judge or jury to make a decision in their favor.