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What is a Statement of Defense?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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A statement of defense is a formal, written statement made in response to a claim in a civil suit. The statement discusses the allegations made in the claim, affirming or denying the facts presented, and may introduce additional facts, as well as defenses. This information is used during the course of the trial. Failure to respond to a claim with a statement of defense can expose people to legal liability, as people may argue that the lack of response constitutes an admission, or say that new facts cannot be introduced in the trial if they were not discussed in a statement of defense.

Some people write their own, while others may consult an attorney, for assistance to make sure the claim is adequately answered. For each statement in the claim, people can choose to affirm the statement or to deny it. It is also possible to affirm part of a statement while denying another section, saying that the information as presented is not quite accurate. The statement of defense will go through each aspect of the claim with a clear response.

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New facts can be introduced to put the case in context if the respondent feels this is necessary. Additionally, people can make what are known as affirmative defenses, indicating that while the facts are true, the person is not legally liable due to the circumstances. For instance, a homeowner responding to a suit about injuries sustained during a robbery could argue that the injuries were the result of reasonable self defense, admitting they occurred but denying legal responsibility.

The statement of defense is not the only response people can make when a civil suit is filed. They can also opt to respond with a countersuit, depending on the nature of the case. This tactic is sometimes used to intimidate another party or because someone genuinely believes a wrong has been committed and wishes to obtain compensation of some form.

When civil suits are filed, people should receive notice, along with a copy of the claim. They can request the forms for a statement of defense from the court and should pay close attention to the deadline for filing, to make sure the documents are filed on time. For people who are not sure about how to draft this legal document, a lawyer can be consulted to help with the statement. Attorneys can also be retained to assist with the trial as a whole, a move strongly recommended in many jurisdictions because civil suits can be complex.

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