Legal Dictionary

If you’ve recently been injured in an accident and are taking legal action against those responsible‚ you’ve been abruptly thrust into a whole new world—one that seems to speak an entirely new language. New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys Console & Hollawell have prepared the following legal dictionary to assist you.

-A-

Acknowledgment: A statement of acceptance of responsibility.

Action: A formal complaint or suit that is brought in court.

Additur: An expansion of damages‚ by the judge‚ to the amount of damages decided on by the jury.

Admissable evidence: Evidence that can be legally used in a civil or criminal trial.

Adversary Proceeding: Legal proceeding involving parties with opposing interests.

Allegation: Claim made regarding what a party in a pleading expects to prove.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: A means of settling a dispute without a trial.

Arbitration: Form of alternative dispute resolution where a third party decides the outcome.

Assumption of the Risk: When a person knowingly and voluntarily proceeds‚ despite being aware of an obvious and known risk‚ he or she assumes the risk. A person who assumes the risk cannot seek money damages if he or she is injured by the risk.

Attorney-Client Privilege: An attorney may not disclose anything a client says to him or shows to him‚ except in certain circumstances.

Attorney of Record: The main attorney in a lawsuit‚ who is responsible for signing all formal documents related to the suit.

-B-

Bad Faith: When an individual or organization consciously and willfully misleads or deceives another.

Bailiff: Court personnel who keeps order in the court.

Beneficiary: The person who is named to receive property or benefits in a will.

Bill of Particulars: A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant.

Binding authority: Law that controls the outcome of a case.

Breach of contract: Failure to adhere to the promises made in a contract.

Brief: Written document prepared by the lawyer that includes the facts of the case and relevant laws.

Burden of Proof: Degree of proof required in a case.

Bystander: In products liability law‚ a person who is injured by a product‚ but did not buy or use the product.

-C-

Capacity Defense: Describes a defendant’s ability to be held accountable.

Case Law: Law established by previous court decisions.

Casualty: Loss of property.

Cause: A lawsuit‚ litigation‚ or action.

Civil Action: Noncriminal cases in which an individual or business sues another to protect rights.

Civil Law: Law concerned with protecting private rights.

Civil Procedure: The rules and protocols by which a civil case is tried and appealed.

Claim Petition: A claim petition that is filed to seek initial compensation‚ when a Notice of Denial has been made in workers’ compensation case.

Closing Argument: Closing statement by the lawyer that sums up and concludes a case.

Co-Defendant: A defendant who is joined with another in the same case.

Collateral Source Rule: Prevents compensation awarded to an individual from being reduced if the individual receives compensation for the same injury from another source.

Comparative Negligence: Compares the plaintiff’s negligence to the defendant’s negligence‚ and reduces compensation accordingly.

Compensation: Money that makes up for a loss‚ whether it’s for medical bills‚ property damage‚ loss of income‚ or other costs associated with an accident.

Complaint: The document filed with the court that names allegations and damages sought.

Compromise and Release: In workers’ compensation cases‚ when a lump sum payment is made to an injured worker in lieu of weekly compensation benefits.

Contingency Fee Agreement: An agreement between an attorney and a client in which the attorney represents the client for a percentage of the recovered amount.

Contributory Negligence: Carelessness on the part of the plaintiff‚ and failure to protect oneself against risk of harm.

Court Costs: Expenses other than attorneys’ fees‚ for taking a case to court.

-D-

Damages: Payment recovered by the plaintiff for an injury or loss caused by the negligence of another.

Decedent: A deceased person.

Decision: The judgment given by a court of law.

Decree: An order of the court.

Default: Failure to respond to a lawsuit within the specified amount of time.

Default Judgment: Judgment entered against an individual who fails to appear in court or respond to charges within a specified amount of time.

Demurrer: Claim by the defendant that even if the allegations in a complaint are true‚ they should not impose liability on the defendant.

Deposition: Testimony of witnesses taken under oath‚ outside of a courtroom.

Direct Evidence: Eyewitness evidence.

Dismissal: Termination of a lawsuit.

Doctrine of avoidable consequences or mitigation of damages: Victims of a tort must reasonably attempt to minimize damages after an injury occurs.

Dram Shop Act: Liability placed on bars‚ restaurants‚ and other establishments where drinks are sold‚ making them liable for harm resulting from serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated people.

Duty: An entity’s obligation to adhere to a particular standard of care.

-E-

Emotional Distress: Mental strain‚ anguish‚ anxiety‚ or sorrow.

Employee Verification Form: In workers’ compensation‚ the form that must be filled out bi-annually that states earnings. Form must be returned to the insurance carrier within 30 days of receipt.

Equal Protection of the Law: The guarantee in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that says all people must be treated equally under the law.

Equitable Remedies: Remedies that do not include monetary settlements‚ including restraining orders and injunctions.

Equity: Justice or fairness.

Escrow: Money or other property that is held by a third party until all conditions of an agreement are met.

Estate: The personal property‚ real property‚ and intangible property owned by a person at the time of his or her death.

Estoppel: An act or acceptance of facts that prohibit a person from making contrary claims later.

Evidence: Proof‚ including objects‚ exhibits‚ writings‚ and testimony‚ that are presented at trial with the intent of generating certain beliefs in the minds of the judge and/or jury.

-F-

Family Practitioner: A general health care practitioner without a specific area of specialization.

Felony: A crime of a serious nature.

File: When a paper or papers are given to the court administrator or clerk to be placed in the files of a case.

Final Receipt: In workers’ compensation‚ an insurance form the worker must sign upon return to work‚ so that benefits stop.

Final Judgment: The ruling on a lawsuit by the trial judge. Indicates the end of a case‚ unless it is appealed and goes to a higher court.

Finding: Formal conclusion drawn by judge or jury regarding a fact.

First Party Benefits: Type of auto insurance coverage that helps pay for your losses if you or someone living in your household is injured in an accident‚ and may include coverage for medical‚ accidental death‚ funeral costs‚ and loss of income. FPB-Medical of $5‚000 is mandatory in Pennsylvania.

Full Tort Option: A type of auto insurance that allows the insured to seek unrestricted money damages for injuries sustained in a car accident‚ including monetary losses and non-monetary losses‚ such as pain and suffering.

-G-

Gross Negligence: Serious carelessness‚ an indifference to others‚ or a blatant violation that shows a reckless disregard for one’s legal duty.

-H-

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A managed care insurance system that contracts with medical professionals and facilities to provide care to “members” of the organization.

Hearing: A legal proceeding‚ typically without a jury.

HMO Negligence: Careless‚ indifferent‚ and negligent acts on the part of an HMO organization that result in injury to one of their members.

Homeowner’s Insurance: A type of insurance that protects the insured to some degree from the loss of the dwelling‚ the contents within the dwelling‚ or from personal liability issues that occur at the dwelling or by someone who lives at the dwelling.

Hostile Witness: A witness whose testimony does not help‚ or is not favorable to‚ the party that called him or her as a witness.

Hurt on the Job: In workers’ compensation‚ when injury or an accident occurs as the result of employment.

-I-

Inadmissable: That which can’t be used as evidence.

Indemnify: To compensate someone for harm or loss‚ either through payment of money or through repair or replacement of the item lost.

Informed Consent: When a person makes an intelligent decision to allow a medical procedure or treatment to take place‚ after being fully advised of the procedure‚ and potential side effects and complications.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: Mental anguish that is intentionally caused.

Interlocutory: Provisional; not final.

Interrogatories: Written questions asked by one party‚ that must be answered in written form by the other party.

Intervention: When a third person affected by a lawsuit becomes a party to the suit.

Invitee: When a person who is on land was invited to that land‚ is conducting business on that land‚ and the owner of that land is benefiting by the entry.

-J-

Joint and Several Liability: Refers to the ability for a group of defendants to be held responsible for damages both individually and collectively.

Judgment: Official decision of the court stating the obligations of involved parties‚ and resolving a legal action.

Judicial Notice: When a judge assumes a truth without evidence due to other common facts. For example‚ a judge may take judicial notice on the reliability of a radar gun reading‚ and would not require further evidence to support the reading.

Judicial Review: A court’s authority to examine prior actions of other branches of the government.

Jury: A body of people‚ usually 12‚ sworn to give a verdict in a legal case on the basis of evidence submitted to them in court.

-L-

Legal Cause: The causal relationship between conduct and result.

Liability: Legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions.

Liable: Legally responsible.

Licensee: In civil law‚ a person who enters land with permission.

Lien: A legal claim against another’s property as a security for a debt.

Limited Tort Option: A type of auto insurance that restricts the insured’s right to seek money damages for non-economic loss‚ such as pain and suffering.

Litigant: A party to a lawsuit.

Loss of Consortium: Damages awarded to a family member‚ typically a spouse‚ for loss of companionship.

-M-

Magistrate: A judge or judicial officer who performs some of the duties of a judge.

Material Fact: An important fact that is necessary to support a case.

Mediation: A type of alternative dispute resolution in which a third party helps both parties come to a settlement‚ without the involvement of a court.

Medical Malpractice: Improper‚ unskilled‚ or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician or other medical professional that results in injury or harm.

Member: A person who belongs to a health care plan‚ such as an HMO.

Mental Anguish: Emotional distress.

Mitigating Circumstances: Circumstances that can be seen as a reason to reduce the degree of blame.

Mitigation of Damages or Doctrine of Avoidable Consequences: A doctrine that says tort victims have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to minimize damages after injury has occurred.

-N-

Negligence: Conduct which falls below the standard of care established by law to protect others‚ and which results in unreasonable exposure to harm.

Negligence Per Se: Negligence that violates a statute or regulation‚ such as speeding.

No-Fault: Related to insurance‚ a type of policy that is valid regardless of whether the policyholder is at fault.

Non-Jury Trial or Bench Trial: Trial before a judge‚ without a jury‚ in which the judge decides questions of law and decisions of fact.

Notice: Formal notification that advises a party that a lawsuit has been filed in a civil case.

Nuisance: An unreasonable or unlawful use of one’s property that results in interference with another person’s use of his or her property‚ or that results in injury.

-O-

Oath: A pledge‚ either written or oral‚ to promise to tell the truth.

Occupational Disease: An illness that results from employment conditions in a particular type of work.

Opening Statement: During a trial‚ the initial statements made by each lawyer outlining the facts he or she intends to try to establish.

Out-of-Court-Settlement: An agreement reached between two sides without the intervention of a court‚ judge‚ or jury.

-P-

Party: A person involved in a legal proceeding.

Partial Disability: In workers’ compensation‚ any disability that is less than total.

Personal Property: Both tangible and intangible personal property‚ such as cars‚ furniture‚ jewelry‚ cash‚ accounts receivable‚ patents‚ trademarks‚ etc. Does not include real property such as land or rights in land.

Petition to Terminate‚ Modify‚ or Suspend Benefits: In workers’ compensation‚ a petition brought by the insurance carrier or the employer to reduce‚ modify‚ or suspend benefits.

Plaintiff: The person who brings the lawsuit in civil law.

Possessor of Land: A person who occupies or controls land‚ typically the owner of the property.

Preponderance of the Evidence: The amount of evidence needed for the plaintiff to win in a civil action.

Presumptively Capable of Negligence: A minor over the age of 14 is considered capable of committing torts‚ and must prove incapacity.

-R-

Reasonable Care: The duty of acting in a reasonable manner‚ in order to avoid harming or injuring others.

Remedies: Relief‚ such as monetary damages or injunctions‚ that a plaintiff receives in a lawsuit.

Respondent: The winning party at a trial.

-S-

Service: The delivery of a legal document‚ notifying a person that legal action is being taken against him or her.

Settlement: An agreement between parties that disposes of a lawsuit.

Several Liability: Liability that is separate and distinct from the liability of another.

Social Host Liability: The liability of a person who supplies free alcoholic beverages to a person who then injures or harms another as a result of intoxication.

Specific Loss: In workers’ compensation‚ the compensation payable for loss of limbs‚ loss of use of limbs‚ loss of hearing in one or both ears‚ loss of vision in one or both eyes‚ or disfigurement.

Specific Performance: When damages are inadequate compensation‚ a remedy that requires a person who breached a contract to fulfill promises.

Stacking: In auto insurance law‚ the ability to stack—or add together coverage of each vehicle you have insured—uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Standard of Care: The degree of care that is reasonable in a specific situation.

Standard of Proof or Burden of Proof: Degree of proof required for a specific case to prevail.

Standing: The legal right to bring a lawsuit.

Statute: A law created by legislature.

Statute of Limitations: The time during which a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit.

Strict Liability: Doctrine that says defendants are liable for harm caused by their actions‚ regardless of intention or lack of negligence.

Stipulation: An agreement by attorneys on both sides about some aspect of the case.

Subrogation: The substitution of one person in the place of another with reference to a lawful claim‚ demand‚ or right‚ so that he or she who is substituted succeeds to the rights of the other in relation to the debt or claim‚ and its rights‚ remedies‚ or securities.

Sue: The act of bringing a lawsuit.

Suit or Lawsuit: A court action brought by one person against another‚ seeking compensation for injury or for violation of rights.

Summons: The document that formally begins a civil action of special proceeding which is a means to gain jurisdiction over a party.

-T-

Testimony: Written or spoken evidence delivered by a witness at trial.

Third Party: A person or entity not involved in a legal proceeding‚ agreement‚ or transaction.

Third Party Benefit: In insurance law‚ the amount of coverage the at-fault party has in bodily injury and property damage.

Third Party Lawsuit: In workers’ compensation‚ when an injury is caused by someone other than the employer.

Tort: In civil law‚ an injury or wrong committed to a person or property.

Tort-Feasor: One who commits a tort.

Tortious: Having the quality of a tort.

Trespasser: A person who goes onto land without invitation‚ permission‚ or privilege.

Trial: The judicial examination and determination of facts and legal issues between the parties in civil or criminal action.

Trial Court: The first court to hear a case.

-U-

Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Pertaining to auto insurance‚ optional insurance purchased by the insured that covers him or her‚ and members of his or her family‚ in the event they are injured or property is damaged by an underinsured motorist.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Pertaining to auto insurance‚ optional insurance purchased by the insured that covers him or her‚ and members of his or her family‚ in the event they are injured or property is damaged by an uninsured motorist.

-V-

Verdict: The jury’s decision in a case.

Vicarious Liability: The liability of one person for the torts of another.

-W-

Willful Negligence: Injury or harm that occurs as a result of conscious indifference to known hazards and risks.

Workers’ Compensation: Insurance required of most employers to help cover employees’ economic losses due to work-related injury or illness.

Wrongful Death Action: A lawsuit brought to recover damages that result from the death of a person caused by a wrongful act‚ negligence‚ or violence.

Wrongful Death Statute: Statutory law that allows the representative of a decedent to bring a suit alleging the decedent’s death was caused by someone else’s negligent and wrongful act‚ and to demand monetary compensation for loss suffered because of the decedent’s death.

If you have further questions‚ or need a term defined that does not appear in this dictionary‚ please call the Pennsylvania and New Jersey personal injury lawyers at Console & Hollawell today 866-778-5500 for assistance.

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