Personal Injury Glossary

Ante-Litem Notice: A very specialized type of notice, or letter, that is sent to a governmental authority, agency, or municipality, including cities, counties and the State Government of Georgia, informing them that you have claims against that entity that you intend to pursue. There is a long list of very specific requirements for an ante litem notice to be proper under Georgia law. It also must be filed well in advance of the statute of limitations (see below). For example, for claims against a city, you must send an ante litem notice within 6 months of the incident giving rise to the injury. For claims against a county or the State of Georgia, the ante litem notice has to be sent to the proper party within 12 months of the incident or accident.

Catastrophic Injury : An injury is considered catastrophic if it results in a person being permanently disabled and prevents them from being able to secure gainful employment or to take care of themselves.

Complaint: A document filed with the Court to initiate a lawsuit by one party against another party. The person filing the lawsuit becomes the Plaintiff. The person on the other side, the one being sued, is the Defendant. The complaint sets forth what the claims are that the Plaintiff is bringing against the Defendant.

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. Rather than being collected from the client, contingent fees are collected from the payment awarded to the client in the case. 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. While this may seem like a lot, it is important to remember that the lawyer is taking a big risk by taking your case without requiring payment up front or on a monthly basis. The risk is that the lawyer will not get paid for his or her time invested in your case. Furthermore, the lawyer is going to be investing more than his time in the case-he’s going to have to pay money to obtain certain things that are necessary for the injury case, such as medical records. If it weren’t for contingent fee arrangements, most personal injury victims and accident victims would not be able to pay a lawyer to help them recover compensation from the person who caused their injuries.

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 and type a transcript of the questions and answers. Attendance at a deposition is required by law if notice of the deposition is given to the person or his or her lawyer.

Diminished Value: This is the difference between what your vehicle was worth before the car accident and what your vehicle was worth after the wreck. It takes into account the fact that, even though your car is fixed by the body shop after the wreck, it is still not worth what it was worth before the wreck. If your car is not totaled but the insurance company, you may be entitled to recover the diminished value of the car.

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. This includes compensation for hiring someone else to do all the things that an individual used to do at home but can no longer do as a result of their injuries, the loss of the ability to have intimate relations with a spouse, and more.

Medical Payments Coverage: Commonly called “Med Pay,” this is 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 deductible or co-insurance. After a car wreck, an individual with Med Pay coverage may be required to use any and all Med Pay coverage before private health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or any other type of health insurance coverage will begin paying for treatment. It is considered first-party coverage and is primary. All other health insurance coverages are considered secondary to Med Pay coverage. Some doctors will require a certificate or other proof from the auto insurance company that the med pay coverage has been exhausted before they will agree to file claims for treatment with a health insurer.

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. For example, a person who is cited for speeding in connection with a car accident is negligent per se for violating O.C.G.A. § 40-6-181. Similarly, a person who is driving under the influence when they crash is negligent per se for violating Georgia’s DUI statute, O.C.G.A.§

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.

Recorded Statement : This is when the insurance adjuster asks the individuals involved in a car accident a series of questions and is recording the conversation, including the answers given by the accident victims. Typically, adjusters will ask questions about how the wreck happened, whether the person was wearing a seatbelt, what the person’s injuries are, whether the person has sought medical treatment or is planning to do so, etc. Most car accident lawyers try to avoid letting their clients give recorded statements because the insurance company tries to trick people into saying certain things that can later be used against them. Whether or not an accident victim is required to give a recorded statement is not a simple answer. It depends on who is asking for it, and it may depend on the language of the insurance policy at issue. In reality, most of the time an accident victim is required to cooperate with the insurance company’s requests for information, but rarely do insurance policies require that an individual submit to a “recorded” statement. In fact, a simple letter outlining how the wreck happened, the injuries sustained in the crash, and the treatment for those injuries is usually sufficient to cooperate with their investigation. Failure to cooperate with an insurance company’s investigation when it pertains to UM coverage (see below) may result in denial of coverage completely.

Settlement: An agreement between the parties that concludes a lawsuit or dispute. The important thing to note about a settlement is that it is a compromise: the injury victim is willing to accept less than the claim is worth for the certainty of having the matter concluded with an amount of compensation, thereby ending the need for additional time and emotional trauma of going through the legal process of a lawsuit. By the same token, the insurance company is willing to pay more than it thinks is necessary or reasonable for the certainty of having the matter resolved without submitting to a jury who may or may not award less than what the insurance company pays. Both sides are getting something beneficial, but they are also both giving up the right to have the claim decided in their favor. Most settlements are not considered an admission of guilt or liability on the part of the person or entity responsible.

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. This means that the lawsuit must be filed with the court 1 day before the 2 year anniversary of the incident (assuming the court is open and the clerk’s office is open to receive and stamp the filing). However, this is not an absolute rule. There are some exceptions which may shorten or lengthen this time period (see ante-litem notices above).

Subpoena: A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter. Subpoenas are a legal requirement that a person appear and they cannot be ignored without a negative consequence, such as the risk of imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.

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 or Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Commonly called UM coverage, this is 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 (they are underinsured) or does not have any insurance coverage (they are uninsured) to compensate you for your injuries and losses. It is optional coverage in Georgia, but it is the most important type of coverage to have in order to protect yourself and your family in the event they are severely injured in a wreck. UM coverage is usually labeled as reduced (or traditional or difference in limits) or it is added-on (or add-on) UM coverage. If it is reduced, then the amount of liability insurance is subtracted from the amount of UM coverage. If it is added-on, then the amount of UM coverage is paid in addition to the liability insurance.

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.)