Making a personal injury claim can be complicated, time-consuming, and confusing for anyone who isn’t a personal injury lawyer. If you’re currently going through a personal injury lawsuit, we have complied a list of legal terms with their meanings that can help you to understand what is happening with you case:
Complaint: A complaint is the initial step to filing a lawsuit. When you want to file a personal injury claim in court, you file a complaint with a court clerk, pay a filing fee, and then begin the lawsuit process. The complaint will contain specific information, such as allegations about what happened, a demand for compensation, and a request to go to trial.
Plaintiff: The person who files the lawsuit against the defendant. When you file a complaint or petition, you will include your name as plaintiff. If there are multiple people who have been injured, there might be more than one plaintiff involved in any case.
Defendant: The person being sued. Upon filing a lawsuit, that plaintiff will have to identify who he or she believes is responsible for the damage they suffered. If more than one person or organization is responsible, the plaintiff will name several defendants in a single lawsuit.
Party. A party is someone involved in a lawsuit. A party can be either a plaintiff or defendant.
Negligence: Negligence describes when someone fails to act reasonably. People have a standard duty to act reasonably when dealing with others. If you fail to act with reasonable and prudent care, your actions might be negligent. If someone suffers a harm or injury because of your negligence, you might have to pay that person damages in the personal injury case.
Damages: Damages is another term for money. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you ask that a court find in your favor and order the defendant to pay damages. There are several different types of damages that can arise in a personal injury case, such as pain and suffering damages, compensatory damages, and even punitive damages.
Torts: Torts are a specific type of lawsuit that involves one person (the defendant) committing a civil harm against someone else (the plaintiff).
Tortfeasors: A tortfeasor is simply the person who caused the other person injuries, or who performed the act that lead to the lawsuit. All personal injury lawsuits involve torts and tortfeasors.
Liability Coverage: The basic insurance coverage of the tortfeasor which we will attempt to attain compensation for your injuries from. This is your basic auto-insurance coverage. Usually this coverage is broken up so that it covers a certain amount per person and sets a cap on how much is covered per accident, regardless of how many people are injured. So if you here your attorney say something like “Your coverage is 25/50” he means $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
Medical Payment Coverage: This is provided by your auto-insurance provider and allows you to have your accident related medical bills paid by your auto-insurance or if your bills have already been paid by your health insurance you can have the check sent directly to you. Upon final settlement of your claim you are required to pay 2/3 of the amount back.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: This is also provided by your auto-insurance provider and can be drawn from if you are hit by an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver. States require a minimum amount of coverage be provided unless you explicitly waive it, which we do not recommend.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage: This is also provided by your auto-insurance provider and can be drawn on if you are hit by an insured driver who has less coverage than you. For instance if you are hit and the tortfeasors insurance policy provides for $25,000 in coverage, but your insurance policy provides you with $50,000 in coverage, you can collect the $25,000 from the tortfeasor and then collect another $25,000 from your insurer under the underinsured motorist coverage.
Discovery: Discovery is the legal process of investigating the facts surrounding a case. The discovery process typically begins after you file the lawsuit. Discovery includes a variety of methods that each side can use to determine what happened, such as interrogatories, requests for production, and depositions.
Affidavit: An affidavit is a document that contains a written statement of facts. The person making the affidavit and stating the facts it contains is known as an affiant. In order to make an affidavit, you have to make your written statement of facts under oath or affirmation that they are true. You typically do this in the presence of a licensed public notary. Affidavits can contain almost any facts relevant to your case, and can be made by almost anyone as long as that person is a mentally capable adult.
Interrogatory. An interrogatory is a list of questions that either side involved in a case sends to the other side, or to witnesses or experts involved in it. The questions ask for specific information about the facts surrounding the case.
Deposition. A deposition is when a witness gives testimony about the case outside of the courtroom and before a trial takes place. A deposition is simply a way to get someone to give testimony without the necessity of having to go before a court. Depositions are part of the discovery process, and can involve almost anyone related to a case.
Preponderance of the Evidence. In personal injury cases, the person who files the lawsuit (the plaintiff) has to provide evidence to show that the other party (the defendant) injured the plaintiff based on a preponderance of the evidence. This simply means that the weight of the evidence presented by the plaintiff makes it more likely than not that the defendant caused plaintiff’s injury. In other words, you have to have evidence that shows the defendant acted wrongfully, and that evidence has to be convincing.
Judgment. Most personal injury cases settle before going to trial. However, if the case goes to trial, a court will have to make a determination about the outcome. This decision is known as a judgment. If the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor, the judgment will include a determination of the type of damages to which the court believes the plaintiff is allowed. In other words, judgment says how much you win if you win your personal injury case.