Common Personal Injury Terminology


July 07, 2017

Personal injury law covers a wide range legal claims, from car accidents to medical malpractice. Anyone can find themselves wrapped up in one of these cases, and if you do, you might have to familiarize yourself with some legal terminology in order to better understand what is happening with your claim. Here are some of the terms that you might come across, with an explanation of how they might relate to you and your legal claim.

Personal injury law covers a wide range legal claims, from car accidents to medical malpractice. Anyone can find themselves wrapped up in one of these cases, and if you do, you might have to familiarize yourself with some legal terminology in order to better understand what is happening with your claim. Here are some of the terms that you might come across, with an explanation of how they might relate to you and your legal claim.

  • Complaint: Complaints are the legal documents that start off a lawsuit. These documents must be filed with the court. Within the complaint, the party who believes that they have been wronged lays out the facts and the legal basis for why they should be able to recover from the party who wronged them.
  • Comparative negligence: When a person is injured in an accident, the cause of the accident can sometimes be complicated. It is not uncommon for the person who was injured to have been partially responsible for their own injury. Under comparative negligence, the injured person can still recover damages from the other party who caused the injury, but the amount of damages will be reduced to reflect the injured person’s share of the liability. Most states practice some form of comparative negligence.
  • Contributory negligence: Under contributory negligence, when a person is partially responsible for their own injury, they cannot collect compensation from another person or entity that also caused the injury. Under strict contributory negligence, the injured person would not be able to collect damages even if they were only 1% at fault for their injury.
  • Damages: The money a liable party must pay to the injured party are referred to as damages. Damages might be for things that can be calculated, like medical bills and lost wages, or for things like pain and suffering.
  • Defendant: The defendant is the person who the lawsuit is filed against, and the person who will likely try to defend their actions, and argue that they are not legally liable for the injury to the plaintiff.
  • Expert witness: An expert witness is someone with superior knowledge in a certain subject matter that the court needs information on in order to make a decision in a case. One common form of expert witness is a doctor. A doctor will often educate the court and jury about things such as how the plaintiff’s injuries occurred, or how the injuries would impact the plaintiff’s life.
  • Negligence: Negligence is a term that refers to behavior that is not reasonably prudent. When a person acts in a way that someone who is reasonably prudent would not act in the same situation, then they acted negligently. Many personal injury claims revolve around the concept of negligence.
  • Plaintiff: The plaintiff is the person who was injured in the events that led to the claim. The plaintiff initiates the lawsuit in an effort to collect damages, or compensation for his or her injuries.
  • Statute of Limitations: Statutes of limitations set time limits for how long a person can file a legal claim, following an accident or injury. Many statutes of limitations give the injured person 2 years, but they vary based on the type of claim, and the state in which the injury occurred.
  • Tort: Torts are civil wrongs, as opposed to criminal ones. When someone takes an action, or fails to act in such a way that they become liable for harm done to another, a tort claim can arise.
  • If you were injured in an accident, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your claim. Your attorney should be willing to explain the legal process your claim will go through so that you can understand what to expect.

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Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.