Common Legal Terms in Personal Injury Cases

During the course of your lawsuit, you may encounter unfamiliar legal terminology. Levin & Perconti has compiled a list of terms you come across as we prosecute your personal injury or wrongful death case.

Affidavit – A formal written statement declared under oath.

Arbitration – A non–judicial legal procedure that happens outside of the courts where parties dispute in front of a neutral arbitrator.

Attorney Client Privilege –Communications between an attorney and client that are confidential.

Complaint – A legal document filed in court that initiates a civil lawsuit. The complaint states the plaintiffs' allegations against the defendant and their prayers for relief.

Contingency Fee – Rather than an hourly or fixed fee, a contingency fee is paid to an attorney when an attorney is successful in making a recovery on behalf of his client. The lawyer receives a percentage of the verdict or settlement amount. If the lawyer is unsuccessful in making any recovery for the client, there is no fee charged to the client.

Decubitis Ulcer – Areas of damaged skin and tissue that result when continual pressure stifles circulation to an area of the body. The lack of circulation to the area causes the tissue to die. Most bed sores occur when a person is bed–ridden or unable to frequently switch body positions. Also referred to as bed sores or pressure sores.

Defendant – The party that a lawsuit is brought against.

Deposition – Oral testimony taken under oath in which one party presents questions to the other party or relevant witnesses.

Discovery – The investigation that takes place before a lawsuit goes to trial. During this period, parties gather facts and information about the other party to build their case. Discovery can be written, in the form of interrogatories or request for production, or oral, which is typically in the form of a deposition.

Docket – The calendar of actions to be heard by a court in a certain period of time.

Elopement / Wandering – A nursing home resident's ability to leave a facility unsupervised.

Evidence – Information to support or prove a case.

Expert Witness – A witness who lends their expertise in a given field to testimony in support of a party's case.

Fall Risk Assessment – The assessment performed by nursing home staff to determine a nursing home resident's risk for falling.

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act/OBRA – Established the national set of standards of care and regulations which nursing homes must follow in caring for and respecting the rights of nursing home residents.

Federal Tort Claims Act – If the negligent behavior of a federal employee causes another person physical injury, loss of life or property damage, the victim has the right to seek compensation from the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946.

IDPH – Illinois Department of Public Health.

Interrogatory – The exchange of written questions between parties of a lawsuit used to uncover important information. A form of written discovery.

Jones Act – The Jones Act is a law enacted by Congress that provides protection to persons who are members of the crew of a ship or vessel.

Lawsuit – A legal proceeding between two parties in a court of law.

Liability Insurance –Insurance coverage held by a policy holder or defendant which will provide compensation to a party who is injured or whose property is damaged as a result of the negligence of the policy holder.

Medical malpractice – The delivery of care by a healthcare provider that is negligent or does not meet the established standard of care and results in patient's injury or death.

Motion – A request by one party for a judge's ruling on an issue on which parties cannot come to an agreement that is made orally or in writing at any point during a lawsuit.

Personal injury – Injury to one's body, mind, reputation or emotions, not property.

Plaintiff – The party that initiates a lawsuit against the defendant.

Power of Attorney – A document that gives someone legal authority to act on another person's behalf.

Product Liability – Product liability is the area of personal injury law that focuses on dangerous and defective products. Manufacturers are held legally responsible for any damages or injuries caused by their defective products.

Sepsis – A bacterial blood infection, also referred to as septicemia.

Settlement Mediation – A dispute resolution method designed to help parties reach a settlement to avoid going to court. During mediation, a neutral third party mediator meets with both parties to help them reach a mutually satisfactory solution.

Statute of Limitations – The time limit in which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit.

Summary Judgment – The judge's decision that resolves a lawsuit in favor of one of the parties as a matter of law before a full trial. Usually one party moves for summary judgment when it appears there are no material facts in dispute between the parties and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Summons – A legal document prepared by the plaintiff and issued by a court that informs the defendant that they have been sued.

Testimony – Evidence given by a witness under oath during a deposition or trial.

Tort –Negligent or wrongful conduct by one person that causes an injury to another for which an action for damages may be brought.

Witness – A person who testifies under oath during legal proceedings including depositions, offering their first hand experiences or expert opinion.

Workers' Compensation – Compensation for an injury obtained while performing one's job.

Wrongful death – A wrongful death is a death that has been caused by the negligence of another person. Wrongful death lawsuits are usually filed by a decendent's family or beneficiaries.