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What Is a Cause of Action?

Before an individual or party files a civil or criminal claim in a court of law, the litigant must present a cause of action, otherwise known as a justification. The cause of action is the basis of the suit filed and contains information that justifies a plaintiff’s right to demand relief from the defendant. A cause of action can also be referred to as a claim.

A plaintiff files a complaint that contains all the necessary and relevant facts. This in turn proceeds into a lawsuit where the plaintiff will prove that the cause of action was justified. A cause of action encompasses the legal theory, which refers to the legal violation committed, and the relief or remedy, which resolves it.

There are various kinds of causes of action. Types of causes of action range from torts to equity suits to statutory causes of actions. Elements of a cause of action are necessary to prove by a plaintiff in order to win the court case. These elements depend on the type of cause of action filed by the plaintiff. If the plaintiff filed a claim for wrongful death, the prosecution must prove the elements involved in a wrongful death—that there was some form of negligence or an action that resulted in the death of another individual.

When a plaintiff files a cause of action against the defendant, the defendant must reply by filing an answer wherein he or she admits guilt or innocence, or by filing a counterclaim against the plaintiff.

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