Even though personal injury cases are common, not everybody knows what to do when thrust into that situation. If they are the victim, they are understandably focused on the immediate physical pain and the impact those injuries will have on their ability to work, care for their children, and handle daily activities. Then there is the aftermath for both parties — finding a lawyer, understanding their rights, and navigating a legal process riddled with terms that most people simply do not hear every day.
With that in mind, our personal injury lawyers have compiled a list of common personal injury terms you need to know.
Common Personal Injury Terms
Accident report — Documentation from the scene of an accident formally recorded by a police officer or hospital staff member.
Adjudicate — To resolve a legal case.
Act of God — Refers to an accident or event deemed a direct result of natural causes. In other words, any party could not have prevented it in a potential personal injury case. Examples include floods, earthquakes, or storms.
Answer — When a plaintiff files a complaint, the defendant can file a formal response. This is the defendant’s way of stating their position regarding the allegations.
Appeal — A formal process that allows a party to request that the case be reviewed to see if there is a legal reason to change the previous ruling. Not every appeal is granted.
Arbitration – Each party presents its position to an impartial third party who renders a verdict.
Assumption of risk — When you are aware of the potential risks involved with an activity, and if you were to get hurt — whether it is your fault or not — you will not try to sue anyone for damages.
Bodily injury — Any physical damage to a person (burns, cuts, broken bones, nerve damage, etc.) because of an accident, someone’s negligence, or an intentional act.
Burden of proof — This burden falls on someone who brings a case to court, and the person is responsible for producing sufficient evidence to support their claim. Burden of Proof is required in practically every court case, and the amount needed depends on the case.
Claim — A claim is a formal request to an insurance company submitted by the injured and insured party requesting coverage and payment for damage or injury.
Claim Adjuster — The person who acts as a liaison between the insured party and their insurance company when a claim is filed. Their job is to investigate and oversee the claim on behalf of the insurance company and, if necessary, approve further action.
Class-action lawsuit — A suit filed by plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and as representatives of others who were injured. These types of lawsuits typically happen in product liability cases.
Clear and convincing evidence — Proving that a particular fact is more likely to be true. In other words, there is a higher probability that what you are saying is true and can be backed up by evidence or through expert testimony. This standard is relied on for many civil cases.
Compensable injury — Any injury that workers’ compensation will likely cover since the injured party was injured while at work.
Complaint — This is how a lawsuit is initiated; it is the formal expression of your grievance. The plaintiff (person bringing the case before a court) files the complaint with the appropriate court.
Concussion — A traumatic brain injury resulting from a violent blow to the head, such as a serious car accident. Concussions often cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and other issues.
Contingency fee — Refers to a fee structure where a personal injury lawyer only collects their payment if they secure compensation for their client.
Corroborative witness — A corroborative witness has intimate knowledge of a situation and is willing to testify on your behalf and corroborate (or “back up”) your story. They are there to play a role in ensuring you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Damages — The sum of money paid to an injured party as compensation for loss or injury. Juries can award multiple types of damages, including compensatory and punitive damages.
Damages (compensatory) — These are actual damages, the money awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for injury or another incurred loss, such as medical and hospital bills, pain and suffering, emotional distress, increased living expenses, and physical therapy.
Damages (punitive) — The idea behind punitive damages is to punish the offending party for egregious conduct. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show the defendant’s actions were intentional. If awarded, punitive damages may be in addition to any compensatory damages.
Default judgment — An automatic ruling in favor of the other party in the event you do not show up for court-ordered action on the specified date.
Defendant — A defendant is a party in a civil or criminal case who has been accused or charged with committing an offense against the plaintiff. Just like it is the plaintiff’s job to prove their case, defendants must defend themselves against the formal accusations brought against them. Respondent is an alternative term for defendant used in family law cases.
Deposition — A term used to describe a sworn statement or testimony (such as from a witness) during the discovery phase of a trial that may later be used for court purposes.
Discovery stage — Refers to the timeframe before a trial where a lawyer gathers as much information as possible to understand all factors of the case and the parties involved. This stage is typically where lawyers will introduce interrogatories.
Distracted driving — Refers to driving a vehicle while engaging in another activity (texting, eating) that takes someone’s focus away from the road and common driving tasks.
Docket — Another name for a list of cases for trial or currently pending cases.
Duty — Refers to the obligation someone has to provide a certain standard of care. Should this person or entity fail to meet this obligation and cause someone to be injured, they could be found guilty of negligence.
Expert witness — Unlike someone who was present during an accident and can speak to what happened, an expert witness is someone such as a scientist, neurologist, etc., who can speak with authority about a particular subject or injury during a personal injury case.
Fault — An act or error that causes injury to another person.
Hazard — External conditions that can increase the likelihood of damage or injury, such as inadequate lighting on a roadway or in a hallway or a spill in the aisle at a grocery store that causes a slip-and-fall accident.
Hold harmless — A clause in a legal contract stating that an individual is not liable for any injuries or damages caused to the individual signing the contract. This can be used in the case where one spouse owes a debt and can sign to have the other spouse held harmless in paying it back.
Insured — A person who is protected under an insurance policy.
Insurer — Another name for an insurance company that provides coverage for an insured party.
Judgment — A court’s final decision.
Lawsuit — The result of one party bringing a court action against another party with the intent of seeking compensation.
Legalese — Formal language and terms used in the legal system that is often difficult for the layperson to understand.
Legal verification — A declaration under oath or upon penalty of perjury that a statement or pleading is true. False information given in a verified legal pleading is subject to penalties for perjury.
Liability — A person’s legal responsibility to another person (example, a spouse or child) or society as a whole. Liability is enforceable on a civil basis and through criminal punishment.
Litigant — A person who is involved in a lawsuit.
Litigation — Refers to the process of taking legal action.
Loss — The value given to an injury or damage in a personal injury case.
Medical malpractice — Refers to when a medical or healthcare professional deviates from standards in his or her profession, causing injury or death to a patient.
Medicare — Another healthcare program for Americans over 65. This is also federally funded.
Mitigating circumstances — Conditions that may be used to reduce the degree of fault for an offense.
Motion — A formal request by the parties involved in a court case or their lawyer that asks the judge to rule on or make an order on a specific issue.
Negligence — This is a failure to act or behave with the level of care that should be expected. It involves being careless, which ultimately causes damage or injury to another person.
No-fault — The opposite of fault in a personal injury case. Refers to an accident occurring without fault or negligence by either party in the case.
Notice of hearing — This is a legal document that requests the presence of all parties to hear a motion. The notice will also include the time and date of that hearing.
Out-of-pocket expenses — Money that a party must pay out of their own private funds on costs associated with their injuries (medications, assistive devices, travel, etc.).
Personal injury — A specialized area of civil litigation that includes a party injured due to another party’s negligence (auto accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc.). The party causing the injury can be a person, a group of people, or a business.
Plaintiff — A plaintiff is a legal name reserved for a person or group of people in a civil case who initiate a lawsuit in a court of law against an individual or business. It is the plaintiff who is seeking legal recourse, and if successful, a judge will rule in their favor. Petitioner and Complainant are alternative terms for plaintiff used in family law and criminal cases, respectively.
Pleading — Refers to when a party in a case responds to allegations against them.
Premises liability — When landowners and tenants are held responsible for someone getting hurt while on their property. Premise liability claims are usually based on negligence. An example would be a slip and fall claim at a grocery store because the owner did not take reasonable precautions to ensure the floors were clear or that warning signs were present in the area.
Preponderance of the evidence — A party has to show that something was more likely to have occurred when compared with the evidence from the offending party. In other words, the evidence from one side carries more weight, even if there is only a 51 percent likelihood that it is true.
Product liability — When a product is deemed defective, a merchant, business, or manufacturer can be held accountable for injury or property damage.
Punitive damages — Additional damages awarded to a personal injury victim that are meant to punish a defendant.
Respondent — A party who has had a petition filed against them.
Replacement cost — The cost it would take to replace a piece of property.
Settlement & Release Agreement — A straightforward document that allows parties in a potential case to settle their dispute outside of the courtroom.
Statute of limitations — Limits how long you have to bring a claim against another person. If you wait too long to file a claim, a judge has no choice but to throw the case out.
Strict liability — When a defendant is held liable for causing harm to someone else regardless of their intent or level of care.
Suit for damages — This suit allows a party in a case to seek an award, typically money, for damages they incurred from the offending party. An example is in a superior right of possession case, where a parent can seek monetary relief from the at-fault party for the financial expenses incurred from seeking legal help.
Trial — A legal proceeding where a jury determines the outcome of the case.
Tort — Refers to a private wrong or injury committee against another person, such as injuries from negligence.
Underinsured motorist coverage — A provision in your auto insurance policy that covers you in the event damages are incurred by a motorist who does not have enough insurance coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage — Another provision that covers you in the event damages are incurred by a motorist who does not have any insurance coverage.
Verdict — The final decision made in a civil or criminal court case by a judge.
Workers’ compensation — Compensation provided to a worker from his or her employer as a result of an accident or illness that happened while the employee was at work.
Wrongful death — This is a term used in a civil action in which damages are sought against one party for causing a death, either through negligence or as a result of an intentional act. Examples of accidents that lead to wrongful death cases include car accidents as a result of reckless or distracted driving, road defects, delayed and improper treatment, surgical errors, etc.
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Having a lawyer in your corner to answer any questions about the legal process is critical. That is what Nelson Law Group, PC in Flower Mound, Texas, is here to do for our clients. Give our knowledgeable staff here at Nelson Law Group, PC, a call if you have any further questions regarding the terms above or any specific legal issue you may be facing.
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