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Glossary of Terms

Last Updated: 01-31-2017

At Wilshire Law Firm, we receive countless requests from clients to define a legal term or phrase. Personal injury law is filled with confusing jargon, and while it’s not necessary to know every single term, it certainly is helpful to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts if you’re pursuing a claim.

We have provided this extensive glossary to help you better understand some of the common terms and phrases you’ll encounter when working with a personal injury lawyer.
Adjudicate: To resolve a legal case.

Ad Litem
A guardian appointed to act on behalf of another individual in a lawsuit – the individual must be incapable of representing him or herself, such as a child or legally incompetent adult.
Assumption of Risk
When an individual goes through with a dangerous activity despite knowing the risks. A defendant in a claim can use this argument to bar the claimant from recovering monetary damages.
Bad Faith Insurance
A tort claim filed by an individual against their insurance provider for its bad acts (e.g. unfairly denying claims or refusing to pay out the claim in full).
Causation: An essential element of an injury claim that connects the defendant’s conduct with a resulting effect, typically an injury.
Claim (Personal Injury)
A civil action brought by or on behalf of an injury victim against another who presumably caused his or her damages out of negligence.
Class-Action Lawsuit: A lawsuit filed by one or several individuals on behalf of a larger group of persons, referred to as “the class.”
Comparative Negligence
A system of liability in which the plaintiff’s contribution to an accident is compared to the defendant’s proportion of blame, and his or her damages are reduced by the percentage of his or her fault.
Compensation, usually monetary, for the plaintiff’s injury and other losses.
The party against whom the claim has been filed (by the plaintiff).
This occurs when a medically determinable condition or injury prevents the victim from fulfilling his or her regular job duties.
In injury cases, “duty” refers to an obligation to provide a certain standard of care. Failure in this duty can constitute an act of negligence.
Expert Witness
A person whose profession or special knowledge is relevant to a certain case may be called upon to testify at the trial in support of one of the involved parties.
Gross Negligence
Also known as willful negligence, this occurs when someone willfully fails to uphold a standard of care or recklessly endangers another person’s health or property.
Hazardous Exposure
When a person suffers bad health effects due to physical contact or close proximity to a toxic substance, he or she may bring a toxic injury claim against the liable party or parties.
Also known as decompression surgery, laminectomy is surgery that is intended to create space by removing the back part of the vertebra that covers your spinal canal, known as the lamina. Read More
Lawsuit, or Suit:
One party pursues compensation for an injury or other type of damage by filing legal action against another party.
An obligation one is legally bound to perform; typically involves monetary compensation.
The process of taking legal action.
Loss of Consortium
Damages awarded to the family member of a deceased person for loss of companionship.
A program of medical services designed to aid those unable to afford regular medical care. It is financed by the government.
Medical Malpractice
Negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such a doctor or surgeon.
Mitigating Circumstances
Conditions that do not totally excuse an offense, but show that the defendant may have had some reasonable grounds for his or her actions.
In civil law, a person or party is negligent when he or she has a duty of care in a situation but fails to uphold that duty and consequently causes someone else harm.
Occupational Disease
A condition or illness that arises from long-term employment in a particular line of work.
Pain and Suffering
Mental or physical distress for which one may seek damages in a civil suit.
Partial Disability
An injured worker may receive benefits for disabilities that are less than total. Generally, the amount of benefits he or she receives is determined by his or her earning capacity.
Personal Injury
These types of cases are considered civil torts and cover all physical, financial, and emotional damages suffered by the plaintiff due to the defendant’s negligence.
The person or party that brings the legal action or files the lawsuit.
Premises Liability
It is the legal responsibility of a property owner to provide compensation for persons who sustain injuries while on their premises.
Preponderance of Evidence
In order to win his or her civil case, a plaintiff does not have to present proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” but must simply present proof that is better than that offered by the defendant.
Product Liability
The area of civil law that holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and other parties who make a defective product available to the public responsible for resulting injuries.
Proximate Cause
The primary reason for the occurrence of an injury or damage.
To obtain or get back (as compensation for damages) through a civil judgment or decree.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
A legal doctrine that one is presumed to be negligent if he or she had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury.
An agreement between both parties in a lawsuit.
Standard of Care
The degree of care which a reasonable person would have applied under the same or similar circumstances. Failure to uphold this standard can constitute negligence in injury cases.
Statute of Limitations
A limited and strictly enforced period during which certain kinds of legal action can be brought forward.
Strict Liability
A legal doctrine that holds a defendant responsible for harm caused by his or her actions regardless of his or her intent or level of care.
Third Party
In a civil case, the defendant may add more than one party to the suit. For instance, after a workplace accident, the injured worker may file a suit against a third party in addition to a workers’ comp claim.
A wrongful act or infringement of a right leading to civil legal liability.
Total Disability
An individual with total disability cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity because of his or her injury or condition.
A judge or jury’s decision in a case.
Vicarious Liability
Under this legal concept, a superior party can be held liable for the wrongful actions of their subordinates.
Workers’ Compensation
Mandatory insurance that almost all employers are required to hold in order to cover their employees for economic losses due to a job-related illness or injury.
Wrongful Death
When a person is killed due to the negligence of another party, his or her surviving family members (typically a spouse) may sue that party for both economic and non-economic damages.

We hope that you have found this glossary useful and informative. If you wish to discuss the specifics of your individual case with a highly qualified attorney, please don’t hesitate to Wilshire Law Firm at (800) 522-7274.

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