Personal Injury Lawsuit Glossary for Plaintiffs

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personal injury glossary for plaintiffs

The legal profession is known for its distinct terminologies. An individual who has studied law or worked in the legal system is well aware of the legal jargon, but it becomes complicated for non-lawyers to make sense of it and develop an understanding of the legal system. 

If you are a victim of personal injury and want to pursue your personal injury claims but feel overwhelmed by the legal terminologies, you have come to the right place. Here, we have explained the most common personal injury vocabulary in the most simple words, so let’s get into it.

1- Assumption of Risk

 It is a common law principle, according to which if a person, with his voluntary consent, accepts or undertakes any risk by entering into a contract with another person if he incurs any damages during the contract, he will not be entitled to make claims or claim compensation for the harm they have experienced. For example, Mr. A enters into an agreement with Mr. B for a boxing match. By agreeing, he is fully aware of the risk of physical injuries during the match. In this case, Mr. A cannot claim compensation for the minor physical injuries incurred during a match. 

2- Legal Claim 

It is the initial civil action taken by the victim of personal injury to obtain compensation for the wrong done to him. It entails the alleged negligence, recklessness or malice committed by the defendant, which results in injury to the plaintiff. A claim may lead to a lawsuit if the plaintiff takes his claim to the court of law, but if the defendant’s insurance company is willing to a settlement, the claim is satisfied without turning into a lawsuit.

3- Class Action 

It refers to a group of people who have faced similar injuries at the hands of a common defendant, and instead of filing multiple lawsuits, they are grouped together to bring one claim against the defendant. In this case, the people may appoint their representative to bring the action against the defendant. It is common in cases where the victims initiate a claim against a company or other entity.

4- Damages

In the law of tort, the law imposes a duty of care on every individual to take reasonable care of others. If a person breaches the duty of care and causes harm to another person, the victim will be entitled to claim damages. The damages are mostly monetary compensation awarded to the victim for the loss incurred so the victim can pay the medical bills and other financial liabilities. In some cases, the courts of law may also pronounce punitive damages.

5- Defendant 

The word defendant refers to the person, organization, or company responsible for the personal injury caused or a person accused in the courts of law. For example, Mr. A is a driver who recklessly drives his car and hits a pedestrian. In this case, Mr. A is the defendant, as the pedestrian will file a suit against him.

6- Discovery 

In the adjudication process, the courts of law dig up evidence to evaluate the merits of the case. If a court-ordered discovery, both the parties involved in the case are bound to comply with the orders and disclose all information they have related to the matter. For example, a trucking company involved in a car crash will have to provide all relevant information demanded by the court.

7- Duty of Care

It is a common principle of the law of tort. According to this, every individual is responsible for taking reasonable care of their fellows and preventing any harm to others. For example, a driver has the duty of care to drive carefully and to prevent any reasonable harm to pedestrians and fellow drivers. Similarly, a person inviting a guest to his house has the duty of care to ensure a safe environment for his guest. 

8- Force majeure 

The literal meaning of the word is “a greater power”, and sometimes, it is also referred to as “an act of God.” It is a defense that defendants involve to absolve themselves of the claims and accusations framed against them. For example, in car accidents, drivers often invoke weather conditions as a reason for the accident. As the weather is not under the control of human beings, hence, they try to absolve themselves of the responsibility.

9- Judgement 

It is the decision of the court of law or jury after considering the facts of the case by both the parties involved and by evaluating the evidence provided to substantiate the claims. It consists of the award of damages assigned at the end of a lawsuit.

10- Liability 

It refers to the legal obligation of a person to perform something according to a verdict of the court or a settlement award. In personal injury lawsuits, if the court has pronounced judgment, the defendant is legally bound to pay damages that have been awarded to the claimant.

11- Loss 

It means anything the plaintiff can no longer use or benefit from. The loss can be both physical such as injury to a person’s body, or a loss of intangible things, such as damage to a person’s reputation, etc. For example. If Mr. A has incurred physical injuries in a car accident, he experienced a loss of earning potential.

12- Occupational Disease 

In some cases, the work environment is such that the employees are negatively affected by it. For example, a construction worker who was around asbestos may develop mesothelioma, or a doctor treating patients with a contagious disease may develop the symptoms of the same disease. These diseases are known as occupational diseases.

13- Malice 

It refers to bad intentions. If a person, with his voluntary consent or knowingly, inflicts harm on another person, it is called malice. Malafide intention is an essential prerequisite in criminal offenses.

14- Negligence 

The law expects reasonable behavior from individuals. The law of torts imposes a duty of care according to which every individual is bound to take reasonable measures to prevent harm to another. But if the individual breach the duty of care and cause harm to another person, it will constitute negligence. For example, a doctor is expected to take reasonable care in the performance of his professional responsibilities. But if the doctor gives the wrong prospection to the patient, it will constitute negligence.

15- Plaintiff 

It refers to the person who has incurred damages and suffered loss and then brought a case in a court of law against the harm caused to him.

16- Premises Liability 

Every property owner or person who has possession of a property is responsible for ensuring that the property is safe for all. If there is any issue with the property and it causes harm to the visitor, the property owner will be responsible for the harm caused. For example. Mr. A is the owner of a shop and Mr. B enters the premises and slips on the floor, incurring injuries. In this case, Mr. A will be responsible for the injuries incurred.

17- Proximate Cause 

It refers to the main cause of action which resulted in injury, and the person responsible for the proximate cause is responsible for the loss that occurred. The concept of proximate cause arises in cases where a chain of events leads to an accident. In these cases, the proximate cause is identified to determine the main reason for the unfortunate event,

18- Recklessness 

It refers to actions that were deliberate but were not committed with the intention to cause harm. For example, a driver crosses the speed limit and hits a motorbike. Here, the driver’s actions will be considered reckless acts but not malicious because there was no deliberate intention of causing harm.

19- Settlement 

It is an agreement between parties to a case to end the lawsuit without going to a court of law for litigation. In most tort cases, the parties settle the case to avoid the lengthy litigation process.

20- Wrongful Death 

An unfortunate death occurs due to another person’s wrongful action. When the actual victim dies, the legal heirs, such as the wife and children, are entitled to claim compensation for the wrongful death that occurred to their beloved. 

21- Catastrophic Injuries

It refers to the severe nature of injuries which will have lifelong implications for the victim. It includes cases such as brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, severe burns, and other types of injuries which will affect the person for a long time. As the consequences of the injuries are severe, the victims of catastrophic injuries receive adequate monetary compensation.

22- Product Liability 

The manufacturers and retailers selling their products to the consumer are bound to ensure that the products are of reasonable quality. But if they fail to perform their job effectively, and the product harms the users, they will be responsible for the loss incurred.

23- Statute of Limitations

The law expects a responsible attitude from everyone. To ensure respect for the law, it has provided a specific timeline to pursue a legal claim. Therefore, if a person has suffered damages due to the negligence of another person, he or she has a specific time limit to bring a case against the person responsible for the harm caused. And if the person fails to bring a claim within the timeframe, he or she will lose his right to pursue the case, for example. In New York, the statute of limitations is three years; therefore, every personal injury victim in New York has three years to pursue their claims.

If you are a plaintiff in personal injury claims, the above-mentioned terminologies will provide great help to not only understand the legal provisions applicable to your cases but you will be in a better position to discuss issues with your attorney and pursue your case in the judicial forums.

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