Personal Injury Case Dictionary: 15 Legal Terms to Know

When pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, you will encounter a lot of legal terminologies. For anyone who has to go through this kind of case, dealing with the terms can be challenging.  

While your personal injury lawyer will help you understand these terms, having a basic knowledge of their definitions will help you grasp and better deal with the intricacies of a personal injury case. 

Here is a personal injury glossary of terms to help you know the basics of the words you will likely encounter in this type of case. 

15 Personal Injury Terms You Should Know

1. Burden of proof

This is one of the often-used personal injury legal terms in civil law, an area under which personal injury cases fall. 

The burden of proof refers to the amount of evidence the victim must present to win a personal injury case. It also refers to the complainant’s obligation to prove their allegations right. Here, the victim or complainant must prove that the defendant’s actions caused the former’s injuries. 

2. Compensation

When the defendant is found legally responsible for the injury or accident, they will have to compensate the victim. Compensation is paid to make up for losses caused by the defendant’s actions. It typically pays for lost wages from time off work, medical expenses, lost valuable items, and pain and suffering, among others. 

Compensation can be paid during settlement negotiation or at the end of the case litigation.

3. Damages

This legal term refers to the money awarded by the court to the victim at the conclusion of a personal injury case proceeding. There are two general types of damages: economic and non-economic. The former covers quantifiable losses like wage loss, medical expenses, auto repair bills, and expenses from replacement services. Meanwhile, the latter includes intangible losses like pain, humiliation, and suffering. 

4. Defendant

This term refers to the person or party sued in a personal injury case. The defendant is believed to be legally accountable for the victim’s injuries.

5. Force majeure

Force majeure is a French term that means “superior strength.” In personal injury cases, this concept refers to an event or effect that can neither be expected nor controlled. Defendants often use the principle of force majeure to argue that there was no way they could have prevented the harm from happening. For example, extreme weather is a common defense used in car accident cases. 

6. Liability

This refers to a party’s legal responsibility or accountability arising from their actions. Someone may be held liable due to their actions, inactions, or the actions of people or animals for which they are legally responsible. A liable party may be required to pay the victim or perform a certain action. 

7. Negligence

Negligence refers to a party’s failure to meet the standard level of care required by law to protect others from harm. To prove negligence, the victim must show that the defendant had a legal duty to observe a certain level of care and that they violated that duty, causing injuries to the victim.

8. Personal injury

Personal injury refers to any injury caused by another party’s negligence. It could be physical, mental, or emotional and includes property damage. The victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover compensation for the negative consequences of the latter’s actions.

9. Personal injury claim

This is a legal dispute or civil action concerning the mental or physical harm endured by the victim because of the defendant’s negligence. The claim arises when one party suffers harm from an accident or an injury attributable to someone else’s negligent actions. 

10. Plaintiff 

In civil law, the plaintiff refers to the individual or party who brings the legal action or files the case in court. Plaintiffs are also sometimes called complainants. 

11. Preponderance of evidence

The preponderance of evidence is the standard amount of proof used in civil litigation. It requires the party with the burden of proof to show that their claim or argument is more likely to be accurate than false. Under the preponderance standard, the burden of proof is reached when the party with the burden persuades the examiner or judge that is a 50% or more chance of their claim being true. 

12. Settlement

Settlement is an agreement between parties to end a lawsuit by paying compensation. Here, the plaintiff agrees to receive money in return for dropping the claim against the defendant. The plaintiff will then sign a release declaring the defendant free from further liability. 

13. Statute of limitations

Depending on the type of claim, there is only a permissible period or time frame within which the plaintiff can file a suit against the defendant. The period can range from a year to 10 or more. 

In personal injury cases, the statute of limitations reckons from the date the injury was incurred or the date it was discovered if it was not immediately known or noticed.

14. Tort

A tort is an act or omission that causes harm or injury to another. It amounts to a civil wrong for which the court imposes a liability. In torts, “harm” refers to a loss or detriment a party suffers. Meanwhile, “injury” refers to the invasion of a person’s legal right.

15. Wrongful death

This is a type of injury where the victim passes as a result of the defendant’s actions. This also refers to a civil action brought by the victim’s family members or dependents who lost the support of the deceased. An executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate may file a lawsuit for wrongful death on behalf of the deceased.

Understanding Personal Injury Terms

Dealing with legal jargon can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time filing a case. But by having a basic knowledge of the commonly used personal injury law terms, you can better understand your claim and discuss it with your attorney with clarity. 

If you’re considering filing a personal injury case and need a personal injury attorney in Orange County to guide you through the process, reach out to us at RMD Law. We have a team of experienced lawyers ready for the tireless representation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation! 

Aria Miran
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