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TWWH Personal Injury Legal Terms Glossary

Posted by Phillip Warren | Apr 09, 2024 | 0 Comments

Understanding the legal side of a personal injury, wrongful death, or a medical malpractice case can feel overwhelming, especially when you're dealing with physical and emotional distress. This glossary aims to demystify some of the key terms you might encounter, providing clear explanations and understanding in alphabetical order.

Remember, this information is not a substitute for seeking legal advice. We encourage you to contact Taylor, Warren, Weidner & Hancock's experienced personal injury attorneys for personalized guidance throughout your recovery journey.

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A

Accident: An unexpected event that causes injury or death, often without negligence involved.

Amputation: The surgical removal of a limb or body part due to injury or illness.

Attorney-client privilege: The confidential communication between you and your legal counsel, protecting your privacy and ensuring open communication.

Average person standard: The legal benchmark used to judge negligence in certain cases. Would a reasonable person have acted differently in the same situation?

B

Bodily Injury: Any harm to a person's body, such as bruises, burns, cuts, poisonings, broken bones, nerve damage, etc. It may result from an accident, negligence, or an intentional act. Causing bodily injury intentionally is a crime (assault, battery, etc.), while accidental and negligent harm may lead to a lawsuit.

Burden of proof: The responsibility of the plaintiff (injured party) to demonstrate that the defendant (responsible party) acted negligently and caused their injury.

C

Catastrophic injury: An injury that causes severe and lasting damage, significantly impacting your quality of life. Examples include paralysis, brain damage, and organ failure.

Comparative negligence: A legal principle that reduces the plaintiff's compensation if they contributed to their own injury.

D

Damages: Monetary compensation awarded to a plaintiff who has suffered a loss due to the defendant's negligence. They can be compensatory (to cover medical bills and lost wages) or punitive (to punish the defendant for intentional wrongdoing).

Defendant: The party against whom a lawsuit is filed, accused of being responsible for the plaintiff's injury.

Deposition: A formal, sworn statement taken outside of court, where a witness is questioned by lawyers from both sides.

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that limits your ability to perform certain activities of daily living.

Discovery: The pre-trial phase where both parties gather evidence and information from each other through interrogations, requests for documents, and depositions.

Doctor-patient privilege: The confidential communication between you and your healthcare providers, protecting your privacy and medical records.

E

Excess judgment: A legal term for when an insurance company is ordered to pay beyond their promised limit, usually due to evidence that they mishandled the claimant's claim in bad faith.

Exemplary damages: Also called punitive damages, can be awarded in a lawsuit to punish a defendant for extreme misconduct. The aim is to deter the defendant or others from repeating similar offenses. These damages are sought or awarded when the defendant's intentional actions are malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton, or grossly reckless. For instance, in cases like medical malpractice or product liability, exemplary damages may be awarded.

Expert witness: A qualified professional who provides testimony in court based on their specialized knowledge and experience, often regarding the nature and extent of your injury.

F

Fault: The intentional or negligent failure to act reasonably, according to the law or duty, resulting in harm to another. This can stem from ignorance, carelessness, or lack of skill. In common use, it often relates to car accidents, such as determining fault or handling no-fault insurance claims.

Fracture: A partial or complete break in the bone.

G

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Good Faith: The sincere intention to fulfill a commitment or to act without unfairly exploiting another person; conducting oneself without the intention to deceive. For instance, an insurance company pledges to cover specific damages in an accident, and when the unfortunate incident occurs, they honor their commitment without significant issues.

Gross miscarriage of justice: When the legal system has made a serious error, resulting in significant harm to the injured party.

Gross negligence: A willful or reckless disregard for the safety of others, resulting in harm.

H

Healthcare Expenses: The money a persons spends on visits to different healthcare providers like doctors, therapists, and specialists; the total cost of all the medical care.

HIPAA Act: Short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; a U.S. law that protects the privacy of a persons medical records and other health information; requires approval or authorization to access medical details.

Hospitalization: A stay in a medical facility for treatment and observation.

I

Independent medical examination (IME): An examination conducted by a doctor chosen by the defendant to assess your injury and provide an opinion on causation and treatment.

Insurance adjuster: A representative of the insurance company who evaluates your claim and negotiates a settlement.

J

Joint and several liability: When multiple parties are found to be responsible for the plaintiff's injury, they are jointly and severally liable for the full amount of damages awarded.

Jury: A group of citizens who hear evidence and arguments in a trial and decide the outcome of the case.

K

Knowledge: Awareness of a risk or danger.

Known Loss Rule: A legal principle stating that insurance coverage cannot be obtained for losses that have already occurred and were known to the applicant. This prevents fraudulent claims based on pre-existing damage or loss.

L

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Liability: Refers to legal responsibility for one's actions or omissions, often involving the payment of monetary damages—an essential term in law.

Limitation of Risk: The maximum amount an insurer may be obligated to pay in a single loss event.

Litigant: Anyone involved in a lawsuit, encompassing defendants or plaintiffs but excluding witnesses or attorneys. It may include co-defendants or co-plaintiffs.

Litigation: The process of taking legal action or filing a lawsuit.

Litigation Risk: Assesses the likelihood of winning a personal injury lawsuit in court, with various unpredictable factors. Going to court involves inherent risks, including the judge's strictness, witness presentation quality, surprises from the defendant, last-minute evidence, etc.

Loss of earnings: Occurs when an injured person has to take time off work, change jobs, or cease working due to their injury, resulting in reduced or no income and affecting their financial situation.

M

Mandate: An official order by the court directing the enforcement of a judgment, sentence, or decree.

Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI): The point at which an injured person's condition stabilizes, and no further improvement or recovery is expected, even with additional care and medical treatment. In workers' compensation cases, temporary benefits are provided until reaching MMI, at which point the patient is assessed for permanent disability and further benefits.

Mediation: An alternative dispute resolution method where a neutral person, known as a mediator, helps the parties find a solution to their dispute. It may also be referred to as case evaluation or facilitated negotiation.

Medical malpractice: Negligence by a healthcare provider, resulting in injury to the patient.

Misdiagnosis: An incorrect diagnosis by a healthcare provider.

Motion: A formal request made to a judge for a ruling or action; the judge either denies or grants the request.

N

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Named Insured: An individual whose name is specifically listed on the insurance policy, as opposed to those who may be covered but are not explicitly named on the documents.

Negligence: Failure to act with reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person.

No-Fault: Informal term for Personal Injury Protection (PIP), an auto insurance coverage providing first-party benefits for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses, etc., without determining fault. No need to prove fault or negligence for benefits.

Notary: A legally trained person licensed by the state to witness signatures on documents. Their seal and signature on a document serve as proof that the signer willingly signed and is who they claim to be.

Notice: Formal communication informing a party of their legal rights and responsibilities.

Notice to the Company: Also known as Notice to Insurer, it is a written notification to the insurance company about an incident forming the basis of a claim.

O

Offer of judgment: A settlement offer made by the defendant before trial.

Out-of-Court Settlement: An agreement between the plaintiff and defendant that doesn't need court approval. Usually negotiated by their attorneys before a trial, it may occur during mediation or arbitration.

P

Pain and suffering: Non-economic damages awarded to compensate for the physical and emotional distress caused by an injury.

Paralegal: A certified professional trained to assist lawyers in various tasks such as research, summaries, investigation, and record retrieval; provides support in preparing legal cases.

Parties: Individuals, corporations, or associations initiating or defending a lawsuit.

Pecuniary Damages: Loss of past and future income.

Permanent disability: A disability that is expected to last for a lifetime.

Personal injury: A legal term that refers to harm caused to a person's body, mind, or emotions due to someone else's negligence or intentional act.

PIP (Personal Injury Protection): Auto insurance coverage mandated by the state of Florida, offering first-party benefits for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral costs, etc., without considering fault. Coverage includes medical benefits, death benefits, and non-emergency medical conditions.

Plaintiff: The party who files a lawsuit, alleging that they were injured due to the defendant's negligence.

Punitive damages: Monetary compensation awarded to punish the defendant for intentional wrongdoing and deter future similar conduct.

Q

Qualified medical evaluator (QME): A doctor designated by the state to conduct independent medical examinations in workers' compensation cases.

Quality of Life: Refers to the lifestyle a person led before or after an accident or injury. This assessment considers daily activities, mobility, social interactions, life satisfaction, recreational/work-related pursuits, and future prospects.

Quid Pro Quo: Latin for “this for that.” In workers' compensation, it signifies an exchange where employees give up the right to sue employers in return for no-fault benefits.

R

Rehabilitation: The process of restoring physical and mental function after an injury or illness, often involving physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.

Rehabilitation Benefits: Treatments and programs offered by private or employee-based health insurance to help an injured person recover from or eliminate the effects of their injury, aiming to restore their life to normal or as close as possible.

Representative: A person authorized to act on behalf of another, such as a lawyer or legal guardian.

Request: An expression of desire for something to be granted or done; a request or petition.

Request for a Physical or Mental Examination: A request made by a party in a lawsuit to another party in that lawsuit to undergo a physical or mental examination, provided that the condition being examined pertains to the case.

Request for Documents: A request made by a party in a lawsuit to another in that lawsuit to provide specific documents or other physical evidence.

Respondeat superior: A legal doctrine that holds employers responsible for the negligent actions of their employees.

S

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Slip and fall: A common type of personal injury case where a person is injured due to a dangerous condition on someone else's property.

Settlement: An agreement between the parties to resolve a lawsuit without going to trial.

Statute of limitations: The time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed.

Strict liability: Legal responsibility for causing harm or injury, even if there was no negligence involved. This often applies to cases involving defective products or dangerous activities.

Subrogation: The right of an insurance company to recover damages from a third party who caused the injury, after paying benefits to the injured party.

T

Tort: A legal term for a civil wrong, not considered a crime, resulting in harm to another person or their property and giving rise to a claim for damages. Personal injury law constitutes a significant body of tort law.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): A brain injury caused by a sudden trauma, such as a blow to the head or a violent shaking.

Trial: The formal court proceeding where evidence is presented and a judge or jury decides the outcome of the case.

U

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Insurance coverage that protects you if you are injured in an accident with a driver who does not have enough insurance or no insurance at all.

V

Verdict: The decision of a jury or judge in a trial.

Vicarious liability: Legal responsibility for the actions of another person, such as an employer's liability for the actions of its employees.

Voir Dire: Commonly known as jury selection; similar to a criminal trial, in a personal injury case, attorneys go through a selection process to choose who sits on the jury, ensuring that they meet specific criteria. More specifically, it refers to the examination of prospective jurors.

W

Workers' compensation: A system of insurance that provides benefits to employees who are injured on the job.

Wrongful death: A death caused by the negligence or intentional act of another person, giving rise to a legal claim for damages by the surviving family members.

X

X-ray: A diagnostic imaging test that uses radiation to create images of bones and internal organs.

Y

Year and a day rule: A historical legal principle that a person could not be charged with homicide if the victim died more than a year and a day after the injury. This rule has been abolished in most jurisdictions.

Z

Zero tolerance: A policy that mandates strict consequences for any violation, often applied to workplace safety or substance abuse.

Beyond the Glossary: Navigating Your Personal Injury Case with TWWH

Demystifying legal terms can be a powerful first step toward understanding your rights after an accident, and this glossary is a handy resource to get you started. However, the complexities of personal injury law go beyond a few key terms.

Navigating the aftermath of an accident? Feeling overwhelmed and unsure what to do?

We understand. In the wake of a personal injury, the legal process can seem complex and daunting. But take a deep breath – you're not alone.

Every action you take, from the moment the accident happens, can impact your potential outcome. Securing medical attention is crucial, but so is understanding your rights and protecting your interests.

That's where we come in.

At Taylor, Warren, Weidner & Hancock, ourexperienced personal injury attorneys are your dedicated advocates in Pensacola, Florida. We specialize in personal injury law and have a proven track record of securing fair compensation for our clients.

We'll guide you through each step of the process, from navigating insurance complexities to fighting for the compensation you deserve. Don't let an accident define your future. Take control, empower yourself, and let us help you move forward.

Ready to discuss your options?  We never require any fee, cost, or obligation to sit down, talk about your case, answer your questions, and make sure you understand your rights. Contact our experienced team today for a free consultation.

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About the Author

Phillip Warren

Phillip devotes the same honor, courage, and commitment to his clients as he did in the USMC.

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