Legal Glossary

A

Accident Report

A detailed recording of a specific event taken by a person of authority such as a police officer, paramedic, or hospital staff which documents the scene of an accident.

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Act of God

An accident or event due to natural causes with no human intervention. An action which could not have been prevented.

Some examples include an earthquake, tornado, flood, etc.

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Adjudicate

To make a formal judgement or decision about a problem or disputed matter.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution

The use of methods other than litigation to resolve a legal dispute, such as mediation and arbitration.

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Answer

A formal written response to a legal complaint filed by a defendant; a legal response.

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Appeal

To ask a higher court to reverse the final decision of a trial court when a party involved does not agree with the decision. A petition for a higher court to examine the decision in hopes of getting it overturned.

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Arbitration

The use of an arbitrator, not a judge or jury, to resolve a dispute.

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Assignment of Benefits

A transfer of the benefits provided by an insurance policy to another party authorized with written consent of the insured.

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Attorney-Client Privilege

Law that prevents all conversations between an attorney and their client from being disclosed.

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B

Bad Drug

See Defective Medication

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Bad-faith Claim

An assertion filed by an injured person against an insurance provider for denying or delaying their claim unreasonably, or for refusing to pay out an insurance claim without reason.

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Benefit

Any profit, acquired right, or privilege gained through a contract.

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Bodily Injury

Damage to a person’s body, for example: bruises, cuts, burns, etc.

Bodily injury may result from an accident, negligence, or intentional act.

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Burden of Proof

The obligation to prove one’s claim is accurate and true.

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C

Case Evaluation

A non-binding process in which a party can discuss and present facts to a neutral party to gain feedback to use in order to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

Case evaluations happen before beginning a lawsuit, when an injured party seeks advice from an attorney regarding their claim.

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Causation

To cause something to happen. The cause and effect relationship between an event or action and the end result.

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Civil Rights

Class of rights that protect individuals’ freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals.

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Claim

A civil action relating to the physical or mental harm suffered by the plaintiff, or on behalf of the injured victim, due to the negligence of the defendant. A request to the insurance company by the injured requesting financial aid to help pay for damages.

After someone has experienced an injury or other harm, they may make a claim arguing that another party is liable for those damages.

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Claim Adjuster

The middleman between the insured and the insurance company who is responsible for investigating and overseeing a claim on behalf of the insurance company, as well as approving the medical and/or rehabilitation plans. The adjuster works for the insurance company and is obligated to the company.

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Class Action

A lawsuit where multiple cases that are similar are compiled against a single defendant. This is common in legal actions against large companies.

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Compensable Injury

An injury caused by an accident arising from a person’s employment and in the course of the employee’s work; an injury that is covered by worker’s compensation.

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Compensatory Damages

See Damages

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Complaint

The first document that is filed with the court by a person claiming legal rights against another party; official document that starts a lawsuit.

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Compulsory Medical Examination

See Independent Medical Examination

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Concussion

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from a violent blow or jolt to the head. Concussions can lead to loss of consciousness, headaches, lack of coordination, confusion, memory loss, nausea, and more.

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Contingency Fee

An amount of money that a lawyer receives as payment if the case is won, usually a percentage of total recovery.

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Contusion

An area of injured skin that is bruised.

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D

Damages

Payment, usually monetary, that is recovered in a court case for an injury or loss caused by another party. Types of damages can include:

Compensatory Damages

Damages that cover actual losses such as the cost of medical bills, property replacement or repair, or lost wages.

Exemplary Damages

See Punitive Damages

General Damages

Monetary damages that are subjective in value. This includes pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of abilities to perform daily activities, etc.

Punitive Damages

Damages exceeding simple compensation and awarded to punish the defendant and deter future bad conduct.

Special Damages

Monetary damages that are caused by an actual injury, including medical bills, lost wages, property repairs, etc. This is considered compensatory.

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Deductible

Amount of money that the insured person must pay out of pocket toward a claim. Once that amount has been reached, the insurance company will pay the remainder.

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Defective Medication

Medication that has brought harm to a patient. Defective drug laws fall under product liability law.

Medication can be considered defective due to:

  • Manufacturing Defects: The pharmaceutical drug is poorly manufactured or the drug has become contaminated and causes harm to a patient.
  • Design Defects: The pharmaceutical drug is manufactured properly, but the side effects caused by the drug harmed the patient.
  • Failure to Warn: A failure to provide proper instructions or warnings for the use of the drug.

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Defendant

The person being sued; the one who caused damage or injury. Compare with Plaintiff.

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Demand Letter

A formal letter, typically written by an attorney, that is sent to the opposing party which requests certain actions and that threatens legal action. For example, a demand letter could be sent to an insurance company during the claims process laying out the dispute.

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Deposition

A question and answer session performed during the pre-trial discovery process that is under oath in an out-of-court environment.

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Disclosure

The releasing of documents as well as other information to divulge relevant information pertaining to the case.

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Discovery

A pre-trial legal process in which both parties obtain evidence from one another such as depositions, medical exam records, photographs, etc.

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Distracted Driving

Action in which a driver engages in another activity while driving, such as texting, using gps, eating, talking on a cell phone, etc.

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Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

The action of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Some states refer to this as Driving While Impaired, or DWI.

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Duty of Care

Legal responsibility of a person or organization to avoid any behaviors or omissions that could reasonably be foreseen to cause harm to others.

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E

Emergency Medical Condition (EMC)

A medical condition with extreme symptoms. Examples include severe pain or trauma which could result in serious damage.

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Excess Judgement

Amount of extra damages that an insurer has to pay that is above the policy limit. Excess judgements may be awarded if the court finds that an insurer has acted in bad faith.

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Exemplary Damages

See Damages

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Exhaustion of Benefits

This occurs when all of the money available in a particular insurance policy has been paid out.

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Expert Witness

A person hired by an attorney to offer testimony in a specific field of expertise.

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F

Fault

A failure to act responsibly, whether it be negligent or on purpose, according to duty or the law.

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Field Adjuster

Similar to a claims adjuster, but does the majority of the out-of-office tasks such as face-to-face meetings, scene investigations, damage inspections, etc.

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First-Party Claims

Claims made to the individual’s own insurance company.

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Fraud

Anything intentionally false or purposefully misleading.

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G

General Damages

See Damages

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Good Faith

Acting in an honest manner without taking an unjust advantage over someone.

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Gross Negligence

Negligence in which a person acts knowingly reckless and disregards the wellbeing of others. Gross negligence can open defendants up to punitive damages.

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H

Hazard

Conditions or objects that increase the chance of damage or injury such as a wet floor or a truck without proper lights.

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Hazardous Exposure

A state of being in which a person or group remains in constant risk of danger while in their work environment. An example of this would be coal mining or working around chemicals.

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Health Care Expenses

The incurred expenses from a hospital, therapist, specialists, etc.; the overall cost of the one’s medical needs.

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HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

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I

Income Replacement Benefits (IRBs)

Money put in the place of income one would usually earn from working; received by a person who was injured and can no longer work.

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Independent Medical Examination

Often referred to as a Compulsory Medical Examination, this is a second opinion usually requested by the insurance company or the defendant.

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Insurance

A practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium by the insured.

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Insured

The individual who is protected and insured under an insurance policy.

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Insurer

The company or party who provides coverage through an insurance policy.

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Interrogatories

A written questionnaire made by one party’s attorney for the opposing party. These questions will be answered under oath during the discovery process.

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J

Judgement

The final part of a court case that resolves the issues and eliminates the lawsuit; a final decision.

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Jury Instructions

The directions that are given to the jury members before deliberating on a case. These include instructions for reaching a decision, laws that are relevant to the case and what claims must be proven.

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K

Known Loss Rule

A rule in which one may not buy insurance coverage to cover something which has been damaged, lost, or otherwise needing coverage.

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L

Legal Malpractice

The term for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, or breach of contract by a lawyer while providing legal services that causes harm to a client.

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Letter of Protection

A letter sent to a medical professional by a lawyer representing a person injured in a car accident, work injury, or fall. A LOP guarantees payment for medical treatment from a future lawsuit settlement or verdict.

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Liability

The state of being responsible for something.

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Limitation of Risk

The maximum amount of money that an insurer can be required to pay out for one event.

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Litigant

Someone who is involved in a lawsuit. This can be either the defendant or the plaintiff.

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Litigation

The process of filing a lawsuit or taking legal action.

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Litigation Risk

The chance of winning a personal injury lawsuit in court that is assessed by an attorney.

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Loss

The monetary value assigned to a damage or injury claim such as lost wages, medical bills, etc.

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Loss of Earnings

A circumstance in which the injured person has to take time off of work, change jobs, or give up work due to their injuries, resulting in decrease or loss of income impacting their financial situation.

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M

Malpractice

Failure of a professional person, as a physician or lawyer, to render proper services through reprehensible ignorance or negligence or through criminal intent, especially when injury or loss follows. Any improper, negligent practice; misconduct or misuse.

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Mandate

A command from a court enforcing a judgement, sentence, or decree.

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Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)

The point at which an injured person is determined to have reached a state where their medical condition or injuries cannot be improved any further regardless of whether or not they will have ongoing medical treatment.

In worker’s compensation cases, when an injured person reaches the point of maximum medical improvement, their case is ready to be assessed for permanent disability or other benefits.

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Mediation

A neutral third party, agreed upon by both parties, helping resolve a dispute and reach a mutually agreed upon settlement.

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Medical Malpractice

Negligence performed by a professional in a medical field, resulting in injury to a patient. This can be difficult to prove in most cases. Requires an expert witness to testify about the wrongful acts committed.

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Mesothelioma

A cancer of the mesothelial tissue, which lines the lungs, heart, and abdomen, which is associated especially with exposure to asbestos.

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Motion

A formal request to the judge to take some form of action or to make a ruling which the judge may either grant or deny.

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N

Named Insured

The individual whose name is on the insurance policy, rather than then the individual(s) who may be covered by that policy.

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Negligence

Failure to take proper care or precautions when doing something.

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Negotiation

Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. Negotiations are common in personal injury cases as both sides seek to reach a settlement.

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No-Fault

Relating to or denoting an insurance policy or compensation plan that is valid regardless of whether the claimant was at fault.

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Notary

An individual who is legally trained and licensed in a state to carry out legal acts, such as witnessing signatures on legal documents.

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Notice to Insurer

Also known as Notice to the Company, this is a written notice to one’s insurance company about an accident.

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Notice to the Company

See Notice to Insurer

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O

Occupational Disease

Diseases or disorders that occur from exposure to a work environment. An example of this would be a construction worker developing mesothelioma from being around asbestos at a work site.

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Opening Statement

The first statement made by each attorney in a trial. This will tell the jury and/or judge what each intends to discuss during the trial.

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Out-of-Court Settlement

A formal arrangement to resolve a lawsuit between parties without involving the court.

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Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Money that had to be paid out of the individual’s own funds before the injured party received benefits. This can include medication, travel, etc.

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P

Paralegal

An individual who is certified and trained to help an attorney prepare a case. This can include research, investigation, and summaries.

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Parties

Businesses, individuals, or associations who have filed a lawsuit, or who are the defendant in a lawsuit.

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Pecuniary Damages

Referring to the loss of past and future income. See Damages

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Personal Injury Protection

See PIP

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PIP

Referring to Personal Injury Protection; a type of no-fault insurance coverage that pays medical bills and lost wages in the event of an auto accident.

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Plaintiff

The individual who files a lawsuit, usually the individual who has been injured. Compare with Defendant.

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Pleading

A formal document filed with the court during the pre-trial suit. Examples of pleadings can include the initial complaint, an answer, or a counterclaim.

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Post-concussion Syndrome (PCS)

A form of mild traumatic brain injury. This condition has various symptoms such as headache, dizziness, irritability, and nausea. These symptoms can last for weeks or months at a time even after the injury that caused the concussion.

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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A mental health disorder that is caused by experiencing a stressful or terrifying event. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, extreme anxiety, and nightmares. Common in people who have gone through a traumatic experience.

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Prayer for Relief

Also known as Demand for Relief, this is a request presented to the court by the plaintiff asking for specific treatment or damages.

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Precedent

An earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances. In legal terms, a precedent is a previous case or legal decision which is used by the court to guide a decision on a new case.

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Premises Liability

A legal principle that holds tenants and landowners accountable if someone enters their property and gets injured due to hazardous conditions.

The law that creates a legal obligation to a property owner to provide safe and secure environments for guests or customers. Examples of premise liability negligence include a slip-and-fall accident, animal attacks, or inadequate security.

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Proceeding

A court appearance or hearing related to a legal case.

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Product Liability

The accountability of a business, manufacturer, or merchant for an injury caused by a defect in their product.

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Prognosis

The prediction of one’s eventual recovery determined by a doctor.

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Proximate Cause

The event related to an injury that is determined to be the cause of said injury.

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Punitive Damages

See Damages

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Q

Quality of Life

The type of life a person was living before an accident or injury, or after said accident or injury.

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Qui Tam

A type of lawsuit that allows a private person, known as a relator, to prosecute a lawsuit for the government and receive a reward.

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Quid Pro Quo

A favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.

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Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

When a job benefit is directly tied to an employee submitting to unwelcome sexual advances.

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R

Reasonable Care

The level of adequate treatment by a healthcare worker or establishment that is considered to be fair and sensible by a person.

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Rehabilitation

The process of regaining everyday skills and normal movement for one’s self after an accident resulting in an injury.

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Rehabilitation Benefits

Programs and/or treatments offered to the injured by employee-based or private insurance companies that will help in the recovery from their injury.

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Request

  • Request for a physical or mental examination: When a defendant requests that a plaintiff undergo a formal evaluation by a medical expert hired by that defendant
  • Request for admission: When one party in a civil case requests that the other party admit or deny the truth of a statement under oath during the discovery process.

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S

Settlement

Conclusion of a legal matter between opposing parties before the court hears the case.

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Sexual Assault

Any and all forms of sexual behavior that happen without the consent of the recipient.

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Slip-and-Fall

A personal injury case where one slips and/or falls due to poor conditions on someone else’s property.

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Special Damages

See Damages

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Stacking of Coverages

A legal principle that allows an insured party to recover from multiple insurance policies, usually held by individuals in the same household, thus increasing the amount of coverage available to an injured person.

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Standard of Care

The degree of prudence and caution required of an individual who is under a duty of care.

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Statute of Limitations

A statute prescribing a period of time in which certain kinds of legal action must be brought.

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Strict Liability

When a defendant is liable for committing an action, regardless of what his/her intent or mental state was when committing the action.

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Subpoenas

An order, commanded by the court, to appear and give testimony for a case.

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Subrogation

Term describing a right held by most insurance carriers to legally pursue a third party that caused an insurance loss to the insured.

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T

Third-Party Claims

This refers to a claim made by a defendant during the course of legal proceedings with the intention of enjoining an individual or entity that is not involved in the original action to perform a related duty.

One good example of a third party claim is an indemnity claim against a third party.

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Tort

A civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who committed the tortious act.

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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

An injury in which an external force causes brain dysfunction. This is usually caused by a violent impact to the head or body.

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Trier of Facts

The individual or group that looks at the evidence to decide on a decision about the case or issue at hand. This is usually either a judge or jury.

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Trip-and-Fall

See Slip-and-Fall

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U

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)

An auto insurance policy provision that extends coverage to an insured to include property damage and bodily injury caused by a motorist whose insurance limits are too low to cover the injured party’s losses and injuries.

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Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)

An auto insurance policy provision that extends coverage to an insured to include property damage and bodily injury caused by a motorist who is uninsured.

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V

Verdict

A final decision made by a judge or a jury.

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Voir Dire

Another word for “jury selection”.

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W

Workers’ Compensation

The state-required system that requires employers to grant no-fault compensation to an employee or their family when an employee has suffered an injury or has been killed in the workplace.

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Wrongful Death

A lawsuit brought against a party that is believed to be at fault for the death of an individual due to malice, negligence, or another wrongful behavior.

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David G. Bryant is certified to practice in all state courts in Kentucky, and federal courts in the Eastern and Western districts of Kentucky, Southern District of New York, Southern District of West Virginia, Northern District of Ohio, Middle District of Tennessee, and Western District of Pennsylvania. He is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.