Personal Injury Law Vocabulary and Terms
Complaint: A document filed with the Court to initiate a lawsuit by one party against another party.
Contingent Fee: An attorney may work on a contingent fee basis, which means the client does not pay the lawyer until money is obtained from the other party. Many lawyers will also add that if no money is obtained for their client, the client does not have to pay the lawyer back for all of the lawyer's time and expense on behalf of the client. Most contingent fees in personal injury cases range from 33 1/3% to 50%, depending on the complexity of the case and other circumstances.
Default Judgment: Judgment entered against a party who has failed to file an answer with the Court in response to a lawsuit that was filed by another party within the time allowed by law.
Deposition: Testimony of a witness or a party taken under oath prior to trial. A lawyer will question the witness or party and a court reporter will record the questions and answers.
Full Coverage: One of the most confusing and subjective terms in insurance jargon. Sometimes used to describe auto insurance policies that include collision, comprehensive, and liability coverage, full coverage does not mean that every cost will be covered when the insured driver is in an accident.
Liability Insurance Coverage: A type of insurance coverage that comes into play if someone causes an injury to someone else or their property. For example, if A and B are in a car accident and A is at fault, then B can make a claim against A’s liability insurance coverage for injuries and damages.
Loss of Consortium: A type of claim that is brought by the spouse of an injured person for loss of services and companionship.
Medical Payments Coverage: A type of coverage that you can add to your automobile insurance policy that will pay your medical bills up to a specified limit if you get injured while using or occupying a car. For those who have health insurance, it is a good idea to have Medical Payments Coverage at least in the amount of your deductibles.
Negligence: When a person (or a corporation or entity) fails to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. This is usually the result of carelessness rather than an intentional act.
Negligence Per Se: An act (or failure to do some act) that is considered negligent because it violates a Georgia statute.
Premises Liability: The liability of a landowner for certain torts that occur on real property. This includes injuries caused by a variety of hazardous conditions, including holes, open excavations, uneven pavement, standing water, crumbling curbs, unpainted curbs or steps, wet floors, uncleared snow, icy walks, falling objects, inadequate security, insufficient lighting, concealed holes, improperly secured mats, or defects in chairs or benches. Some cases are called slip and fall cases and others may be called trip and fall cases depending on the circumstances resulting in the injury to the individual.
Product Liability: An area of the law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others who make products available to the public are held responsible for the injuries caused by their products. Some common examples of product liability cases include cases against drug manufacturers, car manufacturers for defective vehicles (i.e. seatbelt failure in a crash, roof crush or cave in during a car crash, airbag failure in a car accident), injuries to employees when equipment fails, etc.
Settlement: An agreement between the parties that concludes a lawsuit or dispute.
Statute of Limitations: A statute which limits the right to file a lawsuit unless it is done within a specified time period after the occurrence which gives rise to the right to sue. For example, in Georgia, the statute of limitations on claims for personal injuries from a car accident is 2 years from the date of the car wreck. However, this is not an absolute rule. There are some exceptions which may shorten or lengthen this time period.
Subpoena: A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter.
Subpoena Duces Tecum: A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to a certain location at a certain time.
Tort: A wrongful act, not including a breach of contract or trust, that results in injury to another's person, property, reputation, or the like, and for which the injured party is entitled to compensation.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage: A type of coverage that you can add to your automobile insurance policy that will come into play if the driver that is at-fault in your wreck does not have enough insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries and losses.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: A type of coverage that you can add to your automobile insurance policy that will come into play if the driver that is at-fault in your wreck does not have any insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries and losses.
Verdict: The formal decision made by a jury concerning issues of fact and law presented to it during a trial. The jury reports the verdict to the court, which generally accepts it. (Contrast with Settlement.)
Whistleblower: A person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged misconduct or illegal activities occurring in a government department, public or private organization, or company.