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What Are Some Common Legal Terms and Their Meanings in Personal Injury Cases?

Personal injury cases can be complex, and they often involve legal terms and concepts that may be unfamiliar to the average person.


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Understanding the legal terms and their definitions is helpful for anyone who is involved in a personal injury case, whether as a plaintiff, defendant, or witness. Here are some of the legal words and their definitions that are commonly used when a personal injury case is litigated:

  1. Negligence:

Negligence is a legal term that refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation. In a personal injury case, negligence is often the key issue, as the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's negligent actions caused their injuries. To establish negligence, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed them a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty of care, and that the breach caused the plaintiff's injuries.

  1. Damages:

Damages are the monetary compensation awarded to the plaintiff in a personal injury case. Damages can include both economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. The amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case will depend on the extent of the plaintiff's injuries and the degree of the defendant's fault.

  1. Statute of limitations:

The statute of limitations is a legal time deadline, or the period of time during which a plaintiff must file a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations varies by state and by the type of claim. If the plaintiff fails to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, they will lose their right to recover damages.

  1. Liability:

Liability is the legal responsibility for the injuries or damages caused by a person's actions. In a personal injury case, liability is typically established by demonstrating that the defendant was negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct.

  1. Contingency fee:

A contingency fee is a fee paid to a personal injury attorney only if the attorney is successful in recovering damages for the plaintiff. The fee is typically a percentage of the damages recovered, and it is intended to incentivize the attorney to work diligently on the plaintiff's behalf.

  1. Preponderance of the evidence:

The preponderance of the evidence is the legal standard used in a civil trial to establish liability. The preponderance of the evidence means that the plaintiff must show that their version of events is more likely than not to be true. This standard is lower than the standard used in criminal trials, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. Punitive damages:

Punitive damages are damages awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment for the defendant's conduct. Punitive damages are intended to deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages, and they are typically only awarded in cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.

  1. Comparative negligence:

Comparative negligence is a legal concept that allows the plaintiff's recovery of damages to be reduced in proportion to their own degree of fault. For example, if the plaintiff was found to be 25% at fault for the accident that caused their injuries, their damages would be reduced by 25%.

  1. Discovery:

Discovery is the process by which each party in a personal injury case gathers evidence from the other party. Discovery can include written interrogatories, depositions, and requests for production of documents. Discovery is intended to ensure that each party has access to all relevant evidence before the trial.

  1. Mediation:

Mediation is a process by which the parties in a personal injury case attempt to resolve their dispute without going to trial. Mediation is conducted by a neutral third party, who works with the parties to reach a mutually agreeable settlement.

  1. Arbitration:

Arbitration is a process by which the parties in a personal injury case agree to submit their dispute to a neutral third party, who will make a binding decision. The decision of the arbitrator is final and cannot be appealed.

  1. Settlement:

A settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant to resolve their dispute without going to trial. The terms of the settlement are typically confidential, and the plaintiff agrees to accept a certain amount of compensation in exchange for dropping their lawsuit. Settlements are common in personal injury cases, as they can provide a faster and less expensive resolution than going to trial.

  1. Deposition:

A deposition is a sworn statement made by a witness or party in a personal injury case. Depositions are conducted outside of court, and the witness or party is questioned under oath by an attorney. The deposition is typically recorded, and the transcript can be used as evidence at trial.

  1. Imputed negligence:

Imputed negligence is a legal concept that allows the negligence of one person to be attributed to another. For example, if an employee is negligent while performing their duties, their employer may be held liable for their actions.

  1. Contributory negligence:

Contributory negligence is a legal concept that bars a plaintiff from recovering damages if they were even slightly at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. Contributory negligence is a harsh standard, and it is only used in a few states.

  1. Intentional tort:

An intentional tort is a wrongful act that was committed intentionally or with knowledge of its potential harm. Intentional torts can include assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Unlike negligence, intentional torts require proof of intent or knowledge.

  1. Class action lawsuit:

A class action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit in which a group of individuals who have suffered similar injuries or damages sue the defendant as a group. Class actions can provide a more efficient and cost-effective way to litigate claims involving a large number of plaintiffs.

  1. Collateral source rule:

The collateral source rule is a legal concept that allows a plaintiff to recover damages even if they have already received compensation from another source, such as their health insurance. The collateral source rule can provide a windfall to the plaintiff, as they are allowed to recover damages that have already been paid by another source.

  1. No-fault system:

A no-fault system is a legal concept that allows injured parties to recover damages regardless of who was at fault for the accident. No-fault systems are used in some states for auto insurance claims, and they can simplify the claims process by eliminating the need to establish fault.

  1. Sovereign immunity:

Sovereign immunity is a legal concept that prevents a government entity from being sued without its consent.  If the entity is insured for the loss, then generally the entity will be deemed to have waive immunity to the extent of the insurance. Example would be when a bus service operated by the city takes out an insurance policy to pay for any losses.

Put Montlick's Decades of Legal Experience to Work in Your Case!

Don't wait to get the legal help you need for your injury claim. Call Montlick Injury Attorneys today at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) to receive your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. We will review your case, answer your questions, and provide you with the legal guidance and support you need to move forward with your life.

Remember, time is of the essence in personal injury cases, so don't delay. Call us today at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) to get the help you need from a top-rated accident law firm. Let us fight for your rights and help you get the justice you deserve.

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.

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