Law Terms You Should Know
At Proner & Proner, our personal injury attorneys believe that our clients deserve to be well informed about their cases and the laws pertaining to them. As such, we have assembled a basic collection of legal terms for your reference.
Act of God – An Act of God is a natural occurrence, such as a violent storm or earthquake, for which no individual can be held responsible.
Attorney / Lawyer – An attorney is an individual who is legally entitled to prosecute and defend cases in a court of law. A lawyer is an individual who has an extensive understanding of the law as a result of obtaining a law degree through formal education but may not be able to formally practice law.
Beneficiary – A beneficiary is anyone who is legally entitled to obtain money or other benefits from a benefactor, such as in the event of a death. The beneficiary of a life insurance policy, for example, is the individual who obtains compensation when the policy holder passes away.
Breach of Contract – Any instance in which one party violates statutes or clauses outlined in a business (or other) contract can be considered a breach. In such instances, the party who violates the contract can be held accountable.
Civil Lawsuit – A civil lawsuit is a legal action in which a plaintiff files a claim against a defendant for damages as a result of the defendant’s actions. A civil lawsuit differs from a criminal case.
Claimant – The claimant is also known as the plaintiff, and is the individual filing a claim for damages in a civil lawsuit.
Contingent Fee – A contingent fee is a payment for services that is contingent, or dependant, on a result. In civil lawsuits, cases are often handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that the plaintiff pays no fee for legal services unless he or she obtains a successful verdict or settlement.
Contract – A contract is an agreement between two or more parties to authorize or prohibit a service or act. A violation of the clauses outlined in the contract by either party constitutes a breach of contract that is enforceable by law.
Defendant – The defendant in a civil lawsuit is the party whom the plaintiff, or claimant, is filing suit against for damages. In the event a favorable verdict is awarded to the plaintiff, the defendant is liable for compensation.
Discovery Rule – In cases in which a statute of limitations is applicable, the discovery rule may apply. The discovery rule states that a statute of limitations cannot start until the plaintiff is made aware of the actionable event (such as being made aware that a physician’s actions violated a standard of care, for example).
Due Process – Most commonly referred to as Due Process of the Law, due process means that all individuals are guaranteed equal treatment under the law and the protection of their constitutionally protected rights.
Earning Capacity – In a civil suit, determining the earning capacity of the plaintiff is crucial in filing a claim for loss of future wages. The amount of compensation that can be obtained for the plaintiff in the event he or she is no longer able to work is dependent on determining earning capacity.
Emotional Distress – In a civil suit, the plaintiff can typically file a claim not only for monetary damages, but for emotional distress as well. In such instances, the court may award extra compensation to the plaintiff based on the disruption to his or her life.
Evidence – In a court of law, evidence is anything (such as testimonial or concrete objects) that can be used to determine the truth or factuality of an event.
Indemnification – Indemnity is the payment of compensation from one party to another for losses suffered by the receiving party.
Jurisprudence – The philosophy and theory of law, from its purposes to its impact on society.
Loss of Consortium – Sometimes referred to as a loss of companionship, the term refers to the denial of a family relationship as a result of some outside cause.
Malpractice – If a professional fails to perform his or her duties to the accepted professional standard of care and an injury ensues, it may be considered malpractice.
Medical Payments (insurance) – Insurance coverage that covers medical expenses in the event of an accident.
Negligence – A person may be considered negligent if he or she fails to take the actions expected of a reasonable and rational person to protect another from harm.
Nuisance – In terms of the law, a nuisance can be considered any action not warranted by the law and which causes harm or disruption to the public good.
Plaintiff – The plaintiff in a civil lawsuit is the individual filing a claim for compensation. Typically, the plaintiff is an individual who has been injured as a result of another party’s action or is acting on behalf of an injured individual.
Product Liability – The legal theory behind product liability states that manufacturers, designers, and distributors of unsafe and dangerous products can be considered liable for any injuries that result from those products.
Statute of Limitations – The statute of limitations is the amount of time an individual has to legally file a claim for damages or seek legal action after he or she has suffered a loss of some nature.
Statute of Repose – A statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitations, in that it is a time limit in which legal action can be taken for a certain cause. However, unlike a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is a time line that runs from a certain event not related to an injury, such as the manufacture date of a product.
Subpoena – A subpoena is a written command and potential threat of punishment by a government authority commanding an individual to testify before a court of law.
Subrogation – The legal premise of subrogation is that one party can act in place of another party for action taken against a third-party defendant. An example would be an insurance company seeking compensation from a third-party defendant for fees it paid to a policy holder.
Tort – A tort is a legal premise that allows individuals to file civil claims against other parties for damages that do not arise as a result of a breach of contractual duty.
Tortfeasor – A tortfeasor is an individual who commits a civil wrong as a result of negligence.
Trial – A trial is a proceeding before a court in which two parties present evidence to determine the factuality of an event. In a criminal trial, the purpose is to determine whether the defendant is guilty of committing a crime. In a civil trial, the purpose is to determine whether he or she is responsible for damages suffered by the plaintiff, or claimant.
Underinsured – An individual who is underinsured lacks the protection they need to properly protect their interests in the event of an accident. In the event of an accident, underinsured motorist coverage can allow a policy holder to obtain suitable compensation for losses in the event the liable party is underinsured.
Uninsured – Someone who is uninsured carries no protection in the event of an accident. Uninsured motorist coverage can allow a policy holder to obtain compensation for losses in the event that he or she is involved in an accident with a party who does not have insurance.
Verdict – A verdict is a finding made in a court of law regarding arguments posed during the course of a trial.