Personal Injury Glossary

At Tate Law Offices, P.C., we understand that legal jargon can be confusing for those who aren’t experienced personal injury attorneys. Use this glossary to help understand terms related to your case. If you have any questions about your case, or if you are in need of legal assistance near Dallas, Ft. Worth, or Houston, contact a Texas injury attorney today.

Accidental Death
An unintentional death occurring as a result of a series of atypical events that were unexpected and unforeseen by all those persons connected to or involved in the unfortunate situation.

A legal process taken in court in which legal action is taken against another party with the express intention and purpose of protecting the individual legal rights of the offended party.

A written compilation of all the facts, made voluntarily by the affiant or deponent, sworn under oath to be the complete truth. Under penalty of perjury, this written statement is used in court as case evidence.

A claim put forward by one party that they believe they may prove true against an offending party. Until proven in court however, an allegation is considered a mere claim, not the truth.

“To bring your case to a higher court, with the intentions of seeking a reversal of the ruling of a lower court. New evidence is not allowed in an appealed case.”

An attempt by each party to present their case before a panel, such as a former judge or lawyer, with the hopes of being able to settle their case out of court.

Bench trial
A trial presented before a judge presiding without a jury. Civil trials as a whole under United States law are bench trials and unless one of the parties specifically requests a jury.

In the event of the death of one party, the person to receive benefits and/or property as specified by the deceased person’s will is named the beneficiary of the will.

Capacity Defense
An often-used defense tactic by lawyers in cases in which disabled persons or children are concerned, a capacity defense claims that the involved persons cannot be held responsible for their actions.

Case Law
This law consists of present day laws based on the decisions of previous court rulings. Unless previously selected as a ‘court of first impression’, the decisions made in a case cannot be invoked in future rulings.

Civil Action
Civil action deals not with criminal acts but with civil matters such as business, contracts, family relations, etc. It is legal motion taken to protect personal civil rights and/or order a civil remedy.

Civil Courts
Unlike criminal courts that hear trials concerning crimes that have been committed, civil courts deal entirely with legal arguments. These arguments can arise from breach of contract, injury compensations, payment disputes, etc.

Civil Lawsuit
A specific kind of lawsuit that takes legal action against an offending party with the intent of securing protection for the offended party’s personal civil rights, potentially securing reparation for wrongs committed as well.

Cognitive functions
Cognitive refers to the way the brain processes information. Cognitive functions are specific abilities that the brain possesses that may be impaired or lost due to the level of brain injury.

Compensation may be defined in two ways: 1) payment given in return for work or 2) monies awarded (commonly by the insurers) to a party who has suffered loss or injury.

Contingency fee
This arrangement allows the injured party to secure an attorney without initial payment. Instead, the lawyer represents the plaintiff and upon winning the case, takes a percentage of the compensation awarded the plaintiff.

Contempt of Court
This may be either 1) rudeness, causing a disturbance in the courtroom or showing disrespect to the judge or other attorneys or 2) willfully refusing to obey a court order.

A part of civil procedure, the defendant of the initial lawsuit may submit a countersuit against the plaintiff in response. Reasons include reducing the claims, reducing the number of implications, introducing another claim, etc.

Criminal Action
Criminal action relates to legal action taken against a defendant found guilty of crimes and punished according to State law by time in prison, by fine or a combination of both.

Damages are reparation payments awarded the plaintiff for the wrong doing committed against the plaintiff by the defendant. There are three main forms of damages—special damages, general damages and exemplary, or punitive, damages.

Decree, as a general rule, is the same as judgment. However, you may find the term used more frequently in specific areas of the law such as probates of estates, domestic relations and equity.

Default judgement
If the defendant fails to answer the plaintiff’s complaint within a certain time set by law, the plaintiff will be awarded default judgment. Generally, the plaintiff receives the amount for which he/she sued.

In civil lawsuits, the defendant is the party being sued. In criminal prosecutions, the defendant is the party charged with a crime. In a divorce case, the term respondent is synonymous with defendant.

Arranged by an attorney, a deposition is part of the pre-trial investigation. A written record of a witnesses’ testimony under oath, it is taken by the court clerk outside of courtroom.

Directed Verdict
A judge’s command that a jury arrives at a specific verdict due to either the prosecution or the defense lawyer’s inability to prove his/her case sufficiently. A judge may not direct a guilty verdict.

Whether temporary or permanent, such as blindness, a disability is anything that keeps an individual from being able to perform all of the mental and physical functions previously enjoyed by that person.

It may be defined as any permanent marks on an individual’s head, face or neck. If the result negligence or intent, injury lawyers may be able to win a considerable amount in damages.

Dismemberment means simply the complete severing of any part of an individual’s body. In relation to criminal cases, the court does discriminate between offensive dismemberment and dismemberment due to personal defense.

An exhibit can be an object or a paper that serves as evidence to the validity of certain facts pertaining to a case. An attorney compiles these exhibits to strengthen his client’s case.

A proven answer of a question posed during the trial, the findings contribute to the final verdict, made by the either the jury or by a judge presiding without a jury.

Gross Negligence
An almost willful recklessness, gross negligence borders on intent to harm others. At the very least it is a complete disregard for the lives and the personal safety of others.

Hit and Run
This crime involves a driver of a vehicle colliding with and knowingly harming another vehicle, individual or property and leaving the scene of the accident without giving State required identification.

Insurance Adjuster
Insurance adjusters are sent to review police and hospital records, interview claimants and witnesses and view the damages in order to determine the responsibility carried by the company in a given situation.

This is the final, written decision made by the presiding judge. In it, the judge writes out the verdict and specifies the awards given to the winner of the case.

Liability indicates the legal responsibility an individual holds for his or her own actions and omissions. Failing in this responsibility can, and often does result in a lawsuit suing for incurred damages.

Loss of Consortium
If an individual suffers wrongdoing resulting in physical or mental consequences, that in turn leave a spouse unable to have sexual relations with his/her spouse, he/she may sue for loss of consortium.

Unlike murder, manslaughter is the killing of another person unlawfully, without premeditation or “malice aforethought.” The two degrees of manslaughter include voluntary (killing while committing a felony) and involuntary (killing while committing a non-felony).

Through the assistance of a third party, mediation seeks to resolve the legal conflicts between two parties out of court before seeking settlement through a trial. Mediation is commonly used in domestic relations situations.

Mediators, typically professional mediators or lawyers, act as the third party in disputes, seeking to resolve the conflict by finding mutual points of agreement that bring about a fair result to all parties involved.

Medical Malpractice
When a patient dies or suffers injury due to the negligence of a health care provider, that provider may be sued for medical malpractice. Generally, injury or death is the result of medical error.

Negligence is one of two things. One, he/she involves himself/herself in actions a reasonable person would not or two, he/she chooses to act in a way that fails to show reasonable care for others.

Out of Court Settlement
When the parties of a lawsuit are able to be resolve their issues prior to final court judgment, the case is then settled out of court. Generally, this is accomplished through the attorneys.

Paralegals have successfully completed a number of law courses providing them with a degree of legal knowledge and awareness of legal process to enable them to certain routine asks in a law office.

Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers specialize in knowledge of tort law, providing legal representation and advice for those claiming injury due to the negligence of another, including companies, government agencies and other entities.

Physical Therapy
Treatment of any bodily injury through the use of controlled, therapeutic exercises with the intention of partial to full recovery of a person from the effects of the injuries suffered.

Physician-Patient Privilege
This privilege refers to the right any physician possesses to decline to testify in court to what his/her patient may have said as any and all communication between physician and patient is confidential.

The plaintiff is the individual filing a lawsuit with the court, seeking reparation for wrongdoing suffered because of a defendant’s actions. Reparation may include payment for damages, order for performance or decision of rights.

Premise Liability
Premise liability refers to the responsibility of the owners of any property, land or buildings, for certain accidents or bodily injury that a person may incur while he/she is on the owner’s premises.

Product Liability
This is the responsibility of any company that manufactures, distributes or sells products, to provide the public with goods that are free from dangerous defects and to make restitution in the event they fail.

Property Damage
Property damage refers to the damage caused to another’s possessions or property through the negligence or willful intent of another. Amounts awarded depend on replacement costs, repair costs, loss of use and sentimental value.

Punitive Damages
Punitive, also know as exemplary damages are those damages awarded to a plaintiff who has suffered special or general damages from the malicious or grossly reckless acts of the defendant.

Settlement signifies the final agreement between the two parties involved in the lawsuit. Typically this resolution is written and/or read in court as well. Due to the overwhelming number of cases, judges encourage settlements.

Slip and Fall
Slip and fall claims fall under tort law. A person who has slipped and fallen may claim that they did so due to the failure of the premise owner to repair a hazardous condition.

Statute of Limitations
This refers to a time period set by law in which one may file a lawsuit. Once a case has gone beyond the maximum time allotted, the lawsuit is declared dead, barred from court.

A subpoena is a court command to appear as a witness or to furnish certain documents necessary to an attorney’s case. Failure to comply with this order will result in contempt of court charges.

A waiver indicates giving up a right through statement or by manner of conduct, intentionally or voluntarily. Misinterpretations of waivers can frequently occur; consequently, to be accepted in court, waivers must be on record.

Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is death caused by wrongful actions of another individual. These actions may be due to negligence, intentional attacks, death occurring in the event of another crime, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter or murder.