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In Civil Law, an “answer” is the first formal response given by the defense to a complaint filed with the court by the plaintiff. This opening written statement will admit or deny the allegations, or demand more information about the claims of wrongdoing.

Related Terms:

Complaint – The first formal action to initiate a lawsuit and begin a civil case, the complaint is a written document filed with the courts by the plaintiff as part of the pleading and contains the claims and accusations that must receive an “answer” from the defense. The complaint also outlines what specific damages are demanded by the plaintiff to restore justice and sets the tone for the issues involved and at stake in the case.

Pleading – Stage one of a lawsuit begins with the pleading, requiring the plaintiff to file a written complaint and for the defense to file their written “answer” to that complaint. The defense may also submit a counterclaim to demonstrate how they also have been harmed by the plaintiff and what damages they are seeking.

Default Judgment – Failure to take action can result in this binding judgment by a court in favor of the other party. Example: If the defense fails to respond to a complaint and does not provide an answer in a certain timeframe, the plaintiff may take an additional step: filing a motion for default judgment. Once the motion is filed, the court may then choose to issue a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, since the defense failed to take the required actions.

How To Answer a Complaint

When a plaintiff decides to begin legal action by filing a complaint with the courts against another party, the answer to a complaint from the defending parties should be written and submitted to the courts in a very specific manner.

According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, these guidelines below should be used by the defense in an answer:

Rule 8. General Rules of Pleading

(b) Defenses; Admissions and Denials.

  1. In General In responding to a pleading, a party must:
    A – state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it; and
    B – admit or deny the allegations asserted against it by an opposing party.Denials—Responding to the Substance. A denial must fairly respond to the substance of the allegation.
  2. General and Specific Denials – A party that intends in good faith to deny all the allegations of a pleading—including the jurisdictional grounds—may do so by a general denial. A party that does not intend to deny all the allegations must either specifically deny designated allegations or generally deny all except those specifically admitted.
  3. Denying Part of an Allegation A party that intends in good faith to deny only part of an allegation must admit the part that is true and deny the rest.
  4. Lacking Knowledge or Information A party that lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief about the truth of an allegation must so state, and the statement has the effect of a denial.
  5. Effect of Failing to Deny. An allegation — other than one relating to the amount of damages — is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not denied. If a responsive pleading is not required, an allegation is considered denied or avoided.
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30-Sec Audio Clip With Attorney Darryl Isaacs On Answer Meaning:

Legal Answer: Let’s Break It Down In, Layman’s Terms

Julia was badly injured in an auto accident when the driver of a big rig truck slammed into her sedan. Since she’s claiming the driver was texting and therefore acted negligently, Julia is taking it to court in order to seek payment for her loss of work, medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering damages.

She contacted her lawyer and together they submitted a formal written complaint to the courts, outlining the accusations against the trucker and insurance company, and the compensation she demands. The trucker’s attorney filed an answer to the courts, denying wrongdoing for each of the accusations, and requiring more information before moving forward.

This back and forth written exchange sets the case in motion and the process of uncovering all evidence, known as the discovery phase, now begins.

You might hear “answer” used like this, here’s what it means:

“We’ve already filed suit, now we just need to wait for their answer, which will probably be a standard denial.”
The plaintiff has already started the case by filing a complaint, initiating a lawsuit. Now they are waiting for the defense to respond with the answer, and since it’s common for allegations to be denied, that is the expectation here as well.

“I would advise adding a counterclaim to our answer, we have cause to seek damages.
Yes, they have filed a lawsuit against us, but despite their claims, we have grounds to seek compensation and justice for how you have been injured from this event.

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