As with any profession, the legal profession has a language all its own. When you become involved in a personal injury lawsuit it will help to be familiar with the terms you will be hearing. There is nothing worse than not understanding what is going on when you have an important stake in the outcome. Here are some basic terms you will come across when filing a lawsuit.
- Plaintiff – The plaintiff is the party who is bringing the lawsuit to the court.
- Defendant – The defendant is the party whom the lawsuit is against.
- Complaint – A complaint if the formal description of your lawsuit.
- Prayer for relief – This is a document filed with your complaint stating the amount of compensation you are asking for.
- Answer – This is the reply from the Defendant which states his position on the complaint.
Once you have filed the complaint and are in court, there is a whole different set of terms to learn. Here are some of the more common ones.
- Statute of Limitations – The Statute of Limitations is the legal time frame in which you can bring a lawsuit to court. Personal injury cases normally have a Statute of Limitations between two and three years.
- Tort – Torts are acts that are not criminal in nature and not part of a contract. Slander and libel, wrongful death, negligence and trespassing are all torts. An intentional tort is an act done on purpose. Some of these can be criminal in nature, such as assault.
- Negligence – Negligence is a tort that comes from carelessness or acting without reasonable care. Proving negligence takes four things; proving the defendant had an obligation or duty to the plaintiff, and that the defendant violated that duty or obligation, which the violation caused damage or harm to the plaintiff and prove that damages actually exist.
- Burden of Proof – This term means that the Plaintiff bears the responsibility to prove the accusations in the complaint are true.
- Strict Liability – This term references have liability for someone or something’s actions. A dog owner would have strict liability over any damages his dog did to his neighbor’s garden.
- Damages – Damages are the award sought by the plaintiff to settle the case.
There are many more legal terms and phrases you will hear while going through the process of a personal injury case. Any time you aren’t sure about anything happening in the courtroom don’t hesitate to ask your attorney.