Glossary of Personal Injury TermsGet answers. Get help.
Below are common terms that may arise in a personal injury or civil trial case. We at Cambre & Associates want you to be as educated as possible during the entire process. That means helping you from day one. On our website, we offer blog postings on a wide range of topics so that our clients can get familiar with almost any subject. This glossary serves a similar purpose. To provide you with a quick access resource to look up simple definitions of terms you are sure to come across while seeking compensation. We hope you find them helpful.
Accident Report – A formal, detailed recording of an event documented from the scene of the incident by an authority figure, like a police officer or hospital staff member.
Act of God – An accident or event resulting from natural causes without human intervention or assistance; the act could not have been prevented by reasonable precaution or care; for example, damage from floods, lightning, earthquake, or storms.
Alternative Dispute Resolution – The use of methods other than litigation to resolve a legal dispute, such as mediation and arbitration. See arbitration and mediation.
Answer – A formal written response to a legal complaint filed by a defendant; a legal response.
Appeal – To ask a higher court to reverse the decision of a trial court when one party does not agree with the decision; petition for a higher court to examine the decision in hopes of getting it overturned.
Arbitration – The hearing and settlement of a legal dispute between the plaintiff and defendant by a neutral third-party whose decision will be final. Often considered a mini-court case; often the third-party is an off-duty judge or attorney. The two parties enter a contract in which they agree that the arbitrators decision will be final. It is often considered a more efficient, faster, and cheaper route than litigation.
Assignment of Benefits – A transfer of the benefits provided by an insurance policy to another party; it can only be done with the written consent of the insured. Most often, this takes the form of a person assigning their medical benefits to a hospital or doctor, so that they can be paid directly.
Attorney-Client Privilege – A law that prevents anything said between an attorney and their client from being disclosed or forced to disclose. This prevents people from not trusting their lawyer, and vice-versa, while also preventing the opposing party from requesting the information in discovery. Everything that is said between an attorney and the client is private.
Bad Drug – See Defective Medication
Bad-faith Claim – An assertion filed by an insured person against their insurance provider for unreasonably denying or delaying their claim, or for refusing to pay out a full insurance claim without cause; usually filed when a person’s claim was denied, but they feel it should have been covered.
Benefit – For legal purposes related to personal injury law, a benefitis financial assistance that a party receives from an employer, insurance company, or social program (such as social security) in a time of sickness, disability, or unemployment. When a person receives financial compensation for their wages or when a person’s surgery is covered by the insurance company and paid directly, both are considered benefits.
Bodily Injury – Any damage to a person’s body; for example: bruises, burns, cuts, poisonings, broken bones, nerve damage, etc. Bodily injury may result from an accident, negligence, or an intentional act. Causing bodily injury on purpose is a crime (assault, battery, etc.) while accidental and negligent harm may result in a lawsuit.
Burden of Proof – The obligation to prove one’s claim is accurate and true; whoever has the burden of proof must show their claim to be factual. In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff has the burden of proof–to show a driver was negligent, to show that a claim was made in bad-faith, etc.
Causation – To make something happen; the act or process of causing something. In a negligence case, the plaintiff must show that their injury was directly caused by something the defendant did (or failed to do).
Claim – A civil action relating to the physical or mental harm suffered by the plaintiff, or on behalf of the injured victim, due to negligence of the defendant; a request to the insurance company by the insured requesting coverage and payment for damage or injury.
Claim Adjuster – The liaison between the insured and the insurance company, responsible for investigating and overseeing the claim on behalf of the insurance company, as well as approving medical and rehabilitation treatment plans; they work for the insurance company and are obligated to them.
Compensable Injury – An injury caused by an accident arising from a person’s employment and in the course of the employee’s work. Basically, a compensable injury is any injury that will be covered (or will be compensated) by workers’ comp. This term is used to rule out injuries that did not occur at work or because of employment that may come up during a workers’ comp case. For example, if someone drops a brick on their left foot while on the jobsite, their injury would be compensable. If during that case it is found that the injured party also has an injured left knee, from years of running marathons, that injury would not be compensable. The term compensable can be applied to other situations, both civil law-related and not, but it’s most commonly used in WC cases.
Compensatory Damages – See Damages.
Complaint – The first document filed with the court by a person or entity claiming legal rights against another party; the official document that starts a lawsuit. Includes what wrongdoing the plaintiff feels the defendant did.
Compulsory Medical Examination – See Independent Medical Examination.
Concussion – A traumatic brain injury from a violent blow or jolt to the head that alters the way your brain functions. It’s commonly associated with a loss of consciousness, however this is not a prerequisite for the syndrome. Often causes nausea, dizziness, disorientation, and headaches, among other medical issues. Multiple concussions can be life threatening. See Post-Concussion Syndrome
Contingency Fee – A sum of money that a lawyer receives as payment only if the case is won. The fee is dependent upon the attorney winning a settlement.
Contusion – A region of injured tissue or skin in which blood capillaries have been ruptured; medical term for what is more commonly called a bruise.
Damages – Payment, usually monetary, recovered in a civil court case for an injury or loss caused by another person’s negligence.
- Compensatory – Damages that cover actual losses and are intended to make the plaintiff “whole” again.
- Exemplary – See Punitive Damages, under Damages
- General Damages – Monetary damages that are subjective in value, including pain and suffering, future problems and crippling effect of an injury, loss of ability to perform various acts, shortening of life span, mental anguish, loss of companionship, humiliation from scars, loss of anticipated business, and other harm that is not easily assessed a value. Still considered compensatory.
- Punitive Damages – Damages that are intended to punish a defendant in order to assist them in learning their lesson. Rare in civil litigation, but does happen in extreme cases of negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
- Special Damages – Monetary damages actually caused by the injury, including medical and hospital bills, ambulance charges, loss of wages, property repairs, and replacement costs. Considered compensatory.
- Deductible – The amount of money the insured person is responsible for paying toward a claim. Once the deductible has been reached, the insurance company will cover the remainder of the costs.
Defective Medication – Medication that has harmed a patient. Defective drug laws fall under product liability law. Defective drug claims are based on three defect categories:
- Manufacturing defects: the pharmaceutical drug is manufactured improperly or the drug has become contaminated during the process and causes harm to the patient.
- Design defects: the pharmaceutical drug was manufactured correctly, but the side effects caused by the drug cause harm or injury.
- Failure to Warn: a failure to provide sufficient or appropriate instructions, warnings, or recommendations for the use of the drug or about the drug.
Defendant – In civil law, the person being sued, usually the person who caused the injury and their insurance company.
Demand Letter – A formal letter sent to the opposing party formally requesting some action from them and usually with threat of legal action.
Deposition – Out-of-court question and answer session under oath; testimony given under oath, recorded in an authorized place outside of the courtroom and usually documented by a court reporter; the questions will be asked by the opposing attorney, with the party’s attorney present, in order to have an official, written account of what happened.
Disclosure – The release of documents and other information requested or otherwise sought by the opposing party; to divulge information that is relevant to the case.
Discovery – The legal process by which opposing parties obtain evidence from one another, typically includes interviews, depositions, requests for documents and records, request for plaintiff to receive a medical exam, and request for admissions. See Requests.
Distracted Driving – The practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity causing one to lose focus from the road and tasks of driving; may include:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Using a navigation system
- Text messaging or emailing
- Adjusting the audio system
Text messaging is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving since it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – The act of operating a moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances. In Georgia and in most other states in the U.S., the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08%, which means that anyone caught operating a motor vehicle in Georgia with a BAC above this limit will automatically be charged with a DUI, regardless of his or her driving ability.
Duty of Care – A requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would use. If a person’s actions do not meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit for negligence. For example, a business open to the public has a duty of care to keep their store free from any hazards and generally safe.
Emergency Medical Condition (EMC) – A medical condition with severe symptoms—for example, severe pain or trauma—such that a lack of immediate medical attention would reasonably be expected to result in any of the following: serious danger to a patient’s health, serious damage to bodily function, or serious damage to any bodily organ or body part. Florida PIP laws now require that a healthcare professional deem a patient to have an EMC before they can receive the full $10,000 in benefits. See PIP.
Excess Judgement – Amount of additional damages that an insurer is required to pay above the policy limit, usually awarded by a judge if it is found that the insurance company acted in bad faith when settling a claim.
Exhaustion of Benefits – The running out of assistances payable to a party; all money allocated has been depleted.
Exemplary Damages – See Damages.
Expert Witness – Testimony given by someone who is qualified to speak with authority about scientific, technical, or professional matters. For example, an attorney may bring in a neurologist to testify about their client’s brain damage so that the court can hear the information directly from an expert.
Fault – An intentional or negligent failure to act reasonably, according to law, or according to duty; it is a wrong act or error that causes injury to another person. The wrong act or error can arise out of ignorance, carelessness, negligence, or even unskillfulness. This means that not knowing any better, not taking proper precautions, not taking into account those around you, or even lacking the skills necessary to perform a function can all be considered acts of fault if the result is injury to another. The most common use of fault is in relation to car accidents, where the term appears often (i.e. Who was at fault? A no-fault insurance claim. My client was found to have no fault in this accident, et cetera).
Field Adjuster – Similar to a claims adjuster, but does a majority of the outside-the-office work involved in an accident claim, including: conducting face-to-face meetings with claimants, scene investigators, and/or damage inspectors; hold negotiations with the above parties; and inspect the cause and outcome of an accident. A claims adjuster may do some of these duties also, but their responsibility lies more specifically in getting the claim settled.
First-Party Claims –Claims made towards one’s own insurance company (as opposed to against someone else’s insurance company).
General Damages – See Damages
Good Faith – Honest intent to fulfill a promise to act or to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person; acting without intent to defraud someone. An insurance company says they will cover certain damages in an accident, and when that unfortunate event happens, they follow through without much trouble.
Hazard – Conditions that increases the probability of damage or injury, like a crack in a sidewalk, a spill in the aisle, a work truck without proper lighting, or inadequate lighting on steps in front of a business.
Health Care Expenses – The costs incurred by seeing a number of different healthcare providers, such as doctors, therapists, and specialists; the collective cost of all one’s medical care.
HIPPA Act – Acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and other health information; requires patient’s or authorized person’s approval to gain medical information.
Income Replacement Benefits (IRBs) – Money in place of the income one would usually make working; received by a person injured in a car accident who can no longer work, typically paid by the car insurance company.
Independent Medical Examination – Second medical opinion usually requested by the defendant/insurance company; plaintiff is required by law to gain this second opinion. Sometimes called a Compulsory Medical Examination since they are widely seen as being biased.
Insurance – A contractual relationship that exists when one party—the insurer—for a reoccurring fee (called a premium) agrees to reimburse another party—the insured—for damage or injury caused by certain hazards or dangers. (Sometimes called assurance.)
Insurer – The company or entity who provides coverage through an insurance policy.
Insured – The individual protected under an insurance policy.
Interrogatories – Written questions created by one party’s attorney for the opposing party to answer under oath within a specific amount of time. After the document is filled out, the plaintiff’s attorney reviews it then it is signed by the answered in front of a notary.
Judgement – The final part of a court case which resolves all the contested issues and terminates the lawsuit; a final decision is made about the rights and claims of each side in a lawsuit.
Jury Instructions – Directions given to the jury before deliberation, including their instructions for reaching a verdict, the laws pertaining to the case, and what must be proven and by whom.
Known Loss Rule – A rule stating that one may not obtain insurance coverage for a loss which has already occurred and which was known to the insured; prevents individuals from buying insurance to cover something that is already damaged, lost, or otherwise in need of coverage.
Legal Malpractice – When an attorney breaches their legal duty; generally, all cases of legal malpractice involve four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. A lawyer has a duty in all dealings and relations with their client to act with: honesty, good faith, fairness, integrity, and dependability. They must also possess the legal skill and knowledge that is ordinarily possessed by members of the same profession. A lawyer should not take any action that is improper or which even suggests the appearance of being improper. See Malpractice.
Letter of Protection – A letter sent by a personal injury lawyer to a healthcare professional that gives permission for an injured person to obtain medical care they otherwise cannot afford on credit in exchange for a promise to pay for the services directly out of their settlement or judgment.
Liability – Legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions; an obligation one is bound to by law to perform, typically involving the payment of monetary damages. One of the most significant words in the field of law.
Limitation of Risk – The maximum amount an insurer can be obligated to pay in any one loss event.
Litigant – Someone who is engaged in a lawsuit; an encompassing term for either the defendant or the plaintiff. Does not include a witness or attorney, but can include a co-defendant or co-plaintiff.
Litigation – The process of taking legal action and/or filing a lawsuit.
Litigation Risk – The likelihood of winning a personal injury lawsuit in court (rather than settling out of court) usually assessed by your attorney; the risk of attending court since there are unpredictable factors, like getting a strict judge, poor witness presentation, a sudden surprise from the defendant, last minute evidence, etc. Going to court is risky.
Loss – The monetary value assigned to an injury or damage in a personal injury claim, including: pain and suffering, past and future income, future medical care, at-home assistance, current medical bills, etc.
Loss of earnings – A situation where the injured person has had to take time off work, change jobs, or give up work due to their injury resulting in decreased or no income, impacting their financial situation.
Malpractice – Negligence or misconduct by a professional person—such as a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, or an accountant—who has failed to meet a standard of care or standard of conduct; situation becomes malpractice when a client or patient is injured or damaged because of error, negligence, or rarely, intent. See Medical Malpractice and Legal Malpractice.
Mandate – Command from a court directing the enforcement of a judgment, sentence or decree.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) – The point at which an injured person’s condition or injury stabilizes and no further improvement or recovery is expected, even with additional care and medical treatment; to use an idiom, the injury’s recovery is as good as it gets; treatment for an injury has reached its plateau. The term is most often used in workers’ compensation cases when temporary benefits are provided until the patient reaches MMI, at which point the patient will be assessed for permanent disability and any further benefits. This is because no insurance company will continue to pay for treatments if a doctor thinks that the condition cannot improve any further.
Mediation – Outside help settling a dispute; a non-binding method of resolving a case in which a neutral third party, agreed upon by both parties, helps the disputing sides to reach a mutually agreeable settlement.
Medical Malpractice – Negligence by a professional healthcare provider, such as a doctor or hospital, who departs from the applicable standard of care, and by act or omission causes injury to a patient. Often difficult to prove; requires expert witnesses that can testify to the wrongs committed. See Malpractice.
Mesothelioma – A tumor, usually cancerous, of the epithelium lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart; often associated with exposure to asbestos dust. Asbestos is a microscopic fiber which is extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reactions and breakdowns. These properties of asbestos were the reasons that it was used for many years in a number of different commercial and industrial applications, including, but not limited to: roofing shingles, floor tiles, ceiling materials, cement compounds, textile products, and automotive parts. Once it was discovered to be a carcinogen, its use was discontinued, however it continues to cause medical issues for those exposed to it.
Motion – A formal request that a judge make a ruling or take some action; the judge either denies or grants the request.
Named Insured – Any individual whose name actually appears on the insurance policy, as opposed to those who may be covered, but are not specifically named on the documents.
Negligence – Failure to use a degree of care considered reasonable under a given set of circumstances; the four elements of negligence are: a duty owed to a plaintiff, a breach of that duty by the defendant, proximate cause, and an injury or damage suffered by the plaintiff; carelessness.
Negotiation – To arrange or settle by discussion and mutual agreement; in a personal injury case, negations are common. Negotiations take place between the plaintiff (usually the accident attorney, or injured person directly) and the insurance adjuster. Negotiating to reach a final settlement is a back-and-forth type of bargaining in order to reach an agreed upon amount the injured person will take and the insurance company will pay. Both parties know roughly how much the claim is worth (if both parties are being honest and realistic with themselves). The injured person/attorney knows how much they are willing to take for the case, and the insurance adjuster knows how much they are willing to pay. However, neither side knows how much the other side is willing to actually pay or receive. This is where negotiating, the process of testing each other back-and-forth, takes place. Usually, the plaintiff starts high and the insurance company starts low, so that the middle ground can be reached.
No-Fault – Slang term for Personal Injury Protection, a type of auto insurance coverage that provides first-party benefits for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses, and similar expenses without regard to fault; party does not need to prove who was at fault or negligence in order to receive benefits or damages. See PIP.
Notary – A person with legal training who is licensed by the state to perform acts in legal affairs, in particular, witnessing signatures on documents. Their seal and signature on a document is proof that the person who signed the document did so willingly and is who they say they are.
Notice to the Company – See Notice to Insurer.
Notice to Insurer – Written notice to the insurance company about an incident upon which a claim is to be based. Also called Notice to the Company.
Opening Statement – The initial statement made by each attorney at the beginning of a trial outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial.
Out-of-Court Settlement – An agreement reached between the plaintiff and defendant which does not require the approval of a court or judge; an out-of-court settlement will typically be struck between the two parties’ lawyers before a trial takes place. Can be achieved on attorneys’ own terms, during mediation, or at arbitration.
Out-of-Pocket Expenses – Money spent out of the injured party’s own funds on costs related to their injuries, which may include: travel, medications, assistive devices, etc. Anything one had to pay before they began to receive benefits. See Special Damages.
Paralegal – Someone trained and certified to perform any function of assistance to a lawyer including: summaries, research, investigation, and the retrieval of records; certified person who works in a law office helping an attorney prepare a case.
Parties – Persons, corporations, or associations who have started a law suit, or who are defendants in a lawsuit.
Pecuniary Damages – Referring to the loss of past and future income. See Damages.
Personal Injury Protection – See PIP
PIP – Commonly used acronym for Personal Injury Protection; a type of auto insurance coverage that requires insurers to provide first-party benefits for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses, and similar expenses without regard to fault.
Plaintiff – The person in a court or legal case that is suing, usually the person who is injured.
Pleading – Generally, any document, statement, or request filed with the court; a formal document in which someone that is part of the legal case makes or responds to allegations, claims, denials, or defenses.
Post-concussion Syndrome (PCS) – a disorder in which various symptoms—such as headaches, nausea, irritability, and dizziness—last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion; a form of mild traumatic brain injury.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – A mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying or stressful event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. PTSD does not only occur in those who have been involved in a war, in fact, it is quite common in people who have been involved in a serious accident or suffered severe injury.
Prayer for Relief – A request addressed to the court by the plaintiff (through their attorney) requesting specific remedies or damages. Also called Demand for Relief.
Precedent – When a previously decided case(s) is recognized as the basis and authority for determining future cases. If a past case is heard by a high enough court, then their decision becomes the law regarding that situation.
Premise Liability – The legal principles that hold landowners and tenants responsible when someone enters their property and gets hurt due to a dangerous condition; premises liability claims are usually based on negligence. This concept comes from laws that state that a person can reasonably expect to be safe when they enter someone else’s property.
Proceeding – Any hearing or court appearance related to a legal case.
Product Liability – The accountability of a merchant, business, or manufacturer for bodily injury or property damage because of a defect in their product.
Prognosis – The anticipated chance of recovery from an injury, based upon the symptoms and nature of the particular case; prediction of how a person will heal or recover determined by a doctor.
Proximate Cause – An event sufficiently related to an injury recognized to be the cause of that injury.
Punitive Damages – See Damages
Quality of Life – The type of existence a person was living prior to the accident/injury or after the accident/injury. A quality of life assessment could include factors such as:
- Activities of daily living
- Mobility and organization
- Social relationships and ability to interact
- General life satisfaction
- Recreational or work-related activities
- Future prospects
Qui Tam – A legal claim in which an individual alleges fraudulent billing by a government contractor. Funds recovered by the government because of the claim are divided between the government and the person who brought the claim (the “whistleblower”), who is given a percentage of the recovered funds as a reward. Qui tam litigation is used as one way the U.S. government combats abuses of government funds, like Medicare fraud. Usually brought on by someone who is privy to the information.
Quid Pro Quo – Latin for “this for that.” Pertains to the exchange of something by both parties to form a contract. In workers compensation, employees trade their right to sue their employers in exchange for no-fault benefits. All deals in life are struck using ‘quid pro quo’ whether or not the term is used.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment – This type of sexual harassment takes the form of an employer offering favors, or making work practices or promotions contingent upon a sexual favor or silence about the sexual harassment. For example, an employer may expect their sexual advances to go unreported in exchange for the promise of a future raise or promotion. Or an employer may expect the sexual harassment to go unreported in exchange for not terminating the employee.
Reasonable Care – The level of treatment by a healthcare professional/establishment that would be considered adequate by a fair and sensible person.
Rehabilitation – The process of restoring necessary skills and normal movement for self-sufficiency after an injury, perhaps after an auto accident or slip-and-fall.
Rehabilitation Benefits – Treatments and programs offered by private or employee-based health insurance with the intent of helping an injured person recover from or eliminate the effects of their injury to restore their life back to normal, or as close as possible. See Rehabilitation.
Request – A request or petition; the expression of a desire to some person for something to be granted or done.
- Request for a physical or mental examination – A request made by a party in a lawsuit to another party in that lawsuit to undergo a physical or mental examination provided that the condition being examined pertains to the case.
- Request for admission – A request made by a party in a lawsuit to another in that lawsuit to admit to the truthfulness of a fact or the genuineness of a piece of evidence.
- Request for documents – A request made by a party in a lawsuit to another in that lawsuit to provide specific documents or other physical evidence.
Settlement – Conclusion of a legal matter; negotiated agreement by opposing parties in a civil suit before or after litigation has begun but before the court hears the case, eliminating the need for the judge to resolve the controversy.
Sexual Assault –Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Can be anything from rape to unwanted touching.
Slip-and-Fall – A personal injury case in which a person slips or trips and is injured on someone else’s property; usually falls under the broader category of premises liability claims. Slip and fall accidents usually occur on property owned or maintained by someone else who is then held legally responsible.
Special Damages – See Damages
Stacking of Coverages – The application of two or more policies’ limits to a single occurrence or claim; commonly applied to auto liability or uninsured/underinsured motorists’ coverage when two or more vehicle policy limits can be stacked to apply to a single accident.
Standard of Care – the level of medical assistance and services at which the average, sensible provider would practice; how similarly qualified practitioners would have managed the patient’s care under similar circumstances. In medical malpractice, the plaintiff must establish the appropriate standard of care and demonstrate that the standard of care has been breached.
Statute of Limitations – A law that determines the period of time that someone has to file legal action, usually beginning when the injury or damage occurs. Georgia law sets different statutes of limitation for different situations. Some of these time limits are cover cases of:
- Personal injury against a private citizen or business. In these cases, victims have two years from the time of the accident or injury to file a lawsuit.
- Personal injury against a government entity. If a claim is related to a government entity or has taken place on city, county, state, or federal property, the limitations are stricter. A victim may have as little as six months to file a claim. Additionally, lawsuits against the state of Georgia must be filed within two years and be preceded by the completion of special forms indicating the intent to sue.
- Property damage. Cases involving property damage must be brought before an appropriate court within four years.
There are a few situations for which the statute of limitations allows a little more flexibility. Some notable exceptions to the usual rules involve:
- Minor children. In cases that involve minor children, the clock does not start running until the child turns 18 years old. Thus, if a five-year-old child suffers an injury, the child or his family would have 15 years to file a suit—until he was 20 years old, or two years from his 18th birthday.
- Discovery of a foreign object after surgery. When a surgical team leaves a foreign object in the body after a surgery, the victim has one year from the time the object was discovered to file a claim, regardless of how much time has passed since the date of the surgery.
- The discovery rule of product liability. In some cases, the statute of limitations can be extended to start the clock at the time the victim should reasonably have known about the injury or cause of the injury, rather than from the exact moment the injury occurred.
- Loss of consortium. This claim typically accompanies a personal injury claim, but victims have four years from the date of the injury in these matters.
- Related criminal cases. In cases where the defendant is being prosecuted for a crime related to the accident or injury, the statute of limitations runs for two years after the conclusion of the criminal case.
Strict Liability – A legal idea that expands the responsibility of wrongdoing to another party regardless of their direct involvement in the incident. For example, if a car company produces a car with faulty brakes, and those bad brakes lead to an accident, the car company could be deemed accountable for the accident due to strict liability. These cases essentially shift the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant, causing the defendant to prove they are not liable.
Subpoenas – A command, issued by the court, to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony for a case.
Subrogation – A legal right that allows one party to make a payment that is actually owed by another party, and then later collect that money from the party whom originally owed it. For example, if you are in a car wreck and it is taking too long for the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay for your car to be repaired, your insurance may step in and cover the cost. However, they are not legally or contractually obligated to pay for the repair, they are just doing it to help out their customer. Subrogation allows your insurance company to later reclaim that money from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This also prevents the claimant, the person who needed the car repaired, from being paid for the repair twice: once by their insurance and then again later by the other insurance. Subrogation also applies to other types of insurance, like health insurance. For example, your private healthcare may pay for some initial treatments after a car accident, but later they will be reimbursed if some other form of payment, like PIP, comes through.
Third-Party Claims – Liability claims brought by a person allegedly injured or harmed by the insured. The insured person is the first party, the insurance carrier is the second party, and the injured person/claimant is the third party; a claim brought against another party’s insurance company, rather than their own. See First-Party Claims.
Tort – A civil or private wrong—that is not a crime—that leads to legal liability. Personal injury law is the most common type of tort law.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – A type of injury that occurs when an external force causes brain dysfunction; usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object penetrating the skull, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, can also cause traumatic brain injury.
Trier of Facts – The jury; or in a non-jury trial, the judge. The person or group that analyzes the evidence in order to make a decision about the case or issue in dispute.
Trip-and-Fall – See Slip-and-Fall
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM) – An auto insurance policy provision that extends coverage to include property and bodily damage caused by a motorist without enough insurance coverage. It’s designed to provide the injured party with compensation above what is allotted by the at-fault party’s policy.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) – An addition to a standard automobile insurance policy that provides coverage in the event the other driver is both at fault for the accident and is not insured; protects the first-party from having no coverage in the event that someone who is driving without insurance crashes into them.
Verdict – A formal decision about the outcome of a case made by a judge or jury.
Voir Dire – Commonly known as jury selection; much like a criminal trial, in a personal injury case the attorneys go through a selection process to choose who sits on the jury in order to ensure that they meet certain criteria. More specifically, it refers to the examination of the prospective jurors. Pronounced “vwahr-deer” or “vor-deer”
Workers’ Compensation – The system by which state-required no-fault benefits are provided by an employer to an employee—or the employee’s family—due to a job-related injury (including death) resulting from an accident or illness which happened at work.
Wrongful Death – A claim made on behalf of the survivors or beneficiaries of a person who has died as a result of wrongful conduct—either negligent or intentional. Such claims are generally made by those who were financially dependent upon the deceased. Damages could include medical expenses prior to death, loss of earnings of the deceased during their expected natural life, and loss of consortium (depravation of a marital/sexual partner or familial relationship).
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