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LEGAL TERMS GLOSSARY

A

Affidavit: Sworn statement or declaration made under oath, used as evidence in legal proceedings.

Allegation: Claim or assertion made by one party in a legal case, often stated in a complaint or pleading.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Methods such as mediation or arbitration used to resolve legal disputes outside of court.

Amendment: Modification or change made to a legal document or pleading, such as a complaint or contract.

Appeal: Process of seeking review of a lower court’s decision by a higher court.

Appellate Court: Court that hears appeals and reviews decisions made by lower courts.

Arbitrator: Neutral third party appointed to resolve disputes through arbitration.

Assignment of Benefits (AOB): Legal transfer of insurance benefits from a policyholder to a third party, often in healthcare or property claims.

Assumption of Risk: Legal doctrine where a plaintiff voluntarily accepts a known risk or danger, reducing liability for the defendant.

Attorney: A licensed legal professional who represents clients in legal matters, provides legal advice, and advocates on their behalf in court. Attorneys handle a wide range of legal issues, including drafting legal documents, negotiating settlements, and conducting trials.

Attorney-Client Privilege: Legal protection of communications between an attorney and client from disclosure.

Automobile Accidents: Cases involving injuries or damages resulting from car, truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian accidents.

B

Birth Injuries: Cases involving injuries to newborns or mothers during childbirth due to medical negligence.

Breach of Contract: Failure to fulfill obligations or terms of a contract, leading to legal action.

Burden of Proof: Responsibility to provide evidence and prove allegations in a legal case.

C

Cause of Action: Legal grounds or basis for filing a lawsuit, such as negligence or breach of contract.

Case Manager: A professional responsible for coordinating and managing various aspects of a legal case, particularly in personal injury and healthcare-related matters. They assist with gathering and organizing evidence, communicating with clients, coordinating medical treatments, and ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to support the client’s case effectively.

Case Resolution: The conclusion or settlement of a legal case, either through a court judgment, settlement agreement, or other means. Case resolution can occur at any stage of the legal process and aims to resolve the dispute between the parties involved.

Cease and Desist: Legal order to stop a specified activity or behavior, often used in cases of harassment or infringement.

Certified Copy: Official copy of a document certified as accurate and authentic by a legal authority.

Class Action Lawsuit: Legal action filed on behalf of a group or class of individuals with similar claims.

Collateral Source Rule: Legal doctrine limiting the defendant’s ability to reduce damages by payments from other sources, such as insurance.

Common Law: Body of legal principles and precedents established through court decisions, rather than statutes or regulations.

Comparative Negligence: Legal doctrine determining liability based on the percentage of fault attributed to each party in an accident.

Complaint: Initial legal document filed to initiate a lawsuit, outlining the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant.

Compensatory Damages: Financial compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit for actual losses or injuries.

Construction Accidents: Injuries sustained by workers or bystanders at construction sites due to unsafe conditions.

Construction Defects: Claims against builders or developers for defects in construction leading to injuries or property damage.

Contingency Fee Agreement: Legal fee arrangement where the attorney’s payment is contingent upon the outcome of the case, typically used in personal injury cases.

Contract: Legally binding agreement between parties, outlining rights, obligations, and terms.

Counterclaim: Claim made by a defendant against the plaintiff in response to the original complaint.

Court Reporter: Professional responsible for creating verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings, such as depositions or trials.

D

Damages: Financial compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit for losses or injuries.

Default Judgment: Judgment entered in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to respond or appear in court.

Defendant: Party being sued or accused in a legal case, responding to allegations made by the plaintiff.

Deposition: Sworn testimony taken outside of court, recorded and used as evidence in legal proceedings.

Discovery: Process of obtaining information, evidence, and documents from the opposing party in a lawsuit.

Discrimination: Unfair treatment based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, or disability.

Dismissal: Court order ending a legal case or claim, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Dog Bites: Cases involving injuries caused by dog attacks or animal-related incidents.

Docket: List of cases scheduled for a court session or hearing, including dates and details.

Drop: A legal action that an attorney decides to discontinue or withdraw before it reaches a final verdict. This may happen due to insufficient evidence, uncooperative clients, conflicts of interest, or strategic legal reasons. When a case is dropped by the attorney, it is no longer pursued in court.

Due Process: Legal principle ensuring fair treatment and procedural rights in legal proceedings.

E

Elder Abuse: Claims for mistreatment or neglect of elderly individuals, including financial exploitation.

Emotional Distress: Psychological harm or suffering resulting from an injury or traumatic event.

Environmental Injuries: Cases involving injuries or illnesses due to exposure to hazardous substances or environmental factors.

Evidentiary Hearing: Court proceeding where evidence is presented and arguments are made on specific legal issues.

Expert Witness: Qualified professional with specialized knowledge or expertise who testifies in court on technical or complex matters.

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F

Federal Court: Court system established under federal law, handling cases involving federal laws, constitutional issues, and disputes between states.

Fraud: Intentional deception or misrepresentation leading to harm or financial loss.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Federal law allowing access to government records and information, subject to certain exemptions and restrictions.

H

Hearing: Formal proceeding before a court or administrative body to present arguments and evidence.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): A federal law enacted in 1996 designed to protect the privacy and security of individuals’ medical information. HIPAA establishes standards for the handling, storage, and sharing of health information, ensuring that personal health data is kept confidential and secure. It also provides individuals with rights over their health information, including the right to obtain copies of their medical records and request corrections.

I

Injunction: Court order requiring or prohibiting specific actions or behaviors.

Insurance Bad Faith: Claims against insurance companies for unfair practices or denial of legitimate claims.

Intentional Tort: Wrongful act committed with intent to cause harm or injury, such as assault or defamation.

Interrogatories: Written questions exchanged between parties in a lawsuit, requiring written responses under oath.

J

Jurisdiction: Authority of a court or legal system to hear and decide cases within a specific geographic area or subject matter.

Jury: Group of individuals selected to hear evidence and render a verdict in a legal case.

L

Legal Aid: Legal services provided to individuals who cannot afford private representation, often offered by nonprofit organizations or government agencies.

Liability: Legal responsibility or obligation for an injury or damages caused.

Liens: Legal claims or holds on property as security for a debt or obligation.

Lien Negotiation: Process of negotiating the reduction or settlement of liens on property or settlements.

Litigation: Legal process of resolving disputes through court proceedings, including trials and hearings.

Litigation Risk: The chance of winning a personal injury lawsuit in court, as assessed by your attorney. Factors such as unpredictability in court proceedings, like the judge’s disposition, witness presentations, surprises from the defendant, or late evidence, contribute to the risk. Opting for court proceedings entails inherent uncertainties.

Loss: The monetary assessment of injury or damage in a personal injury claim, encompassing aspects like pain and suffering, past and future income, future medical needs, home care, and current medical expenses.

Loss of Consortium: A legal claim for damages that a spouse or close family member can make due to the negative impact on their relationship with the injured party. This can include the loss of companionship, affection, support, and sexual relations resulting from the injuries sustained by their loved one.

Loss of Earnings: Occurs when an injured person must take time off work, change jobs, or cease working due to their injury, resulting in reduced or no income. This situation directly impacts their financial stability.

M

Mediation: Alternative dispute resolution method where a neutral mediator assists parties in reaching a settlement.

Medical Records: Documents and information that detail a patient’s medical history, treatments, diagnoses, and care. In legal cases, medical records are crucial evidence used to establish the extent and impact of injuries, support claims for damages, and provide a comprehensive view of the patient’s medical condition.

Mesothelioma Claims: Legal actions for individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.

Motion: Formal request made to a court for a specific ruling or decision on a legal matter.

N

Negligence: Failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person.

No-Fault Insurance: Insurance coverage where each party’s own insurance pays for their losses, regardless of fault in an accident.

Notary: An individual authorized by the state to perform legal duties, particularly witnessing signatures on documents. Their seal and signature on a document verify that the signer willingly signed and is who they claim to be.

Notice to Insurer: A written notification sent to an insurance company regarding an incident that may lead to a claim. This is also referred to as Notice to the Company.

Nursing Home Abuse: Legal actions for neglect or abuse of elderly residents in nursing homes or care facilities.

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O

Opening Statement: The initial statement presented by each attorney at the start of a trial, outlining the facts they aim to establish during the proceedings.

Out-of-Court Settlement: An agreement between the plaintiff and defendant that does not require court approval; typically negotiated by their lawyers before trial. It can occur through mediation, arbitration, or attorneys’ negotiations.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Costs related to injuries paid directly by the injured party before receiving benefits, such as travel, medications, or assistive devices. These expenses are often part of special damages and can be reimbursed in a legal settlement.

P

Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress caused by an injury. This can include ongoing discomfort, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Paralegal: Legal professional who assists attorneys with research, document preparation, and other tasks, but is not licensed to practice law.

Permanent Disability: A long-term or lifelong impairment resulting from an injury that affects an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities or work.

Personal Injury: Legal claims for injuries sustained due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another party.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Insurance coverage that pays for medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs regardless of who is at fault in an accident. PIP is mandatory in some states.

Petition: Formal written request submitted to a court, seeking a specific legal action or decision.

Plaintiff: Party who initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint against the defendant.

Pleadings: Written documents filed by parties in a lawsuit, outlining their claims, defenses, and arguments.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a serious accident. Symptoms may include flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Pre-existing Condition: A medical condition that existed before the injury or accident occurred. Insurance companies and defense attorneys often examine pre-existing conditions to determine their impact on the current injury claim.

Premises Liability: Responsibility of property owners for injuries occurring on their premises due to negligence.

Product Liability: Cases involving injuries caused by defective products or inadequate warnings.

Property Damage: Damage to personal or real property resulting from an accident or injury. In personal injury cases, property damage claims often involve damage to vehicles in car accidents.

Proximate Cause: Legal principle determining whether an injury was directly caused by the defendant’s actions.

Punitive Damages: Additional compensation awarded to a plaintiff to punish the defendant for particularly egregious or malicious conduct.

R

Railroad Accidents: Legal actions for injuries or fatalities in train accidents or railroad-related incidents.

Remand: Court order sending a case back to a lower court for further proceedings or a new trial.

S

Settlement: Agreement reached between parties in a lawsuit to resolve the dispute without a trial.

Slip and Fall Accidents: Claims arising from injuries due to hazardous conditions on someone else’s property.

Statute of Limitations: Legal time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed, varying by type of claim and jurisdiction.

Strict Liability: Legal doctrine holding a party responsible for damages without requiring proof of negligence or fault.

Subpoena: Legal document ordering an individual to appear in court or produce documents as evidence.

Summary Judgment: Court decision made without a trial, based on the evidence presented in pleadings and affidavits.

T

Tort: Civil wrong or injury for which a legal remedy, usually monetary damages, may be sought.

Toxic Tort: Legal actions for injuries or illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances or chemicals.

Trial: Formal legal proceeding where evidence is presented, and a judge or jury makes a decision on the case.

Trucking Accidents: Cases involving injuries or fatalities in accidents with commercial trucks or tractor-trailers.

U

Uber/Lyft Accidents: Claims for injuries in accidents involving rideshare services like Uber or Lyft.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims: Legal actions for compensation when the at-fault party lacks sufficient insurance coverage.

V

Vaccine Injuries: Cases involving injuries or adverse reactions to vaccinations.

Verdict: Decision or judgment rendered by a judge or jury after a trial, determining liability and damages.

W

Waiver: The voluntary relinquishment or surrender of a known right or privilege. In personal injury cases, a waiver might be signed to release a party from liability for certain actions or incidents.

Wet Signature: A traditional handwritten signature made directly on a physical document with ink or another medium.

Withdrawal: The act of an attorney discontinuing or removing themselves from a legal case before it reaches a final verdict. This can occur due to various reasons, such as insufficient evidence, conflicts of interest, or strategic legal decisions. When a case is withdrawn, it is no longer pursued.

Witness: A person who provides testimony under oath during legal proceedings about what they have seen, heard, or know concerning the facts of a case. Witnesses can be crucial in personal injury cases to support or refute claims.

Workers’ Compensation: A system of insurance providing benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. This includes medical care, wage replacement, and rehabilitation services, and is often a no-fault system.

Wrongful Death: A legal claim brought by the survivors or estate of a deceased person against those responsible for the person’s death. This claim seeks compensation for the survivors’ loss, including lost wages, companionship, and funeral expenses.

X

X-Ray Evidence: Medical imaging used in personal injury cases to provide visual evidence of injuries, such as fractures or internal damage. X-ray evidence can be critical in diagnosing and proving the extent of injuries sustained.

Y

Yielding Right-of-Way: The act of allowing another vehicle or pedestrian to proceed first in traffic, as dictated by traffic laws. Failure to yield the right-of-way can lead to accidents and is often a factor in personal injury claims.

Z

Zoning Laws: Regulations governing land use and development within specific areas. While not directly related to personal injury, violations of zoning laws can sometimes lead to unsafe conditions that cause injuries, leading to potential liability issues.