Personal Injury Terms, Decoded

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The average person may want very little to do with the law, if possible. So, if they wind up in court, be it as a plaintiff or a defendant, sometimes the technical jargon used in legal documents can be rather confusing. It is important to understand exactly what is going on in order to ensure that your rights are protected in a personal injury case, and that you receive a fair settlement.

General Terms

While the terminology used in criminal law is an entirely different matter, you will see some of the same jargon used in almost every kind of civil lawsuit, regardless of the subject matter. Some of those common terms are:

  • Arbitration: an alternative method of dispute resolution. Sometimes, instead of sending a case to court, the parties may agree to have their dispute resolved by a neutral arbitrator. Allegedly, arbitration is cheaper and quicker.
  • Contingency fee: Instead of taking a fee up front, an attorney will very often agree to an arrangement where they will only be paid if they win the case. They do this for two reasons: often, a contingency fee is larger than the fee they would receive taken in a normal fashion, and sometimes personal injury clients are unable to afford a fee up front.
  • Discovery: The fact-finding period that goes on before a case officially goes to trial. It is during discovery that your attorney will build a case.
  • Finding: A proven, substantiated answer to a question posed by the lawsuit. For example, a judge may issue a finding of fact on whether or not a car ran a stop sign or not.
  • Motion, motion in limine: A written request to the Court or reply to the other party’s statement to the Court. A motion in limine is specifically a motion to exclude evidence that the attorney feels is irrelevant or prejudicial.
  • Punitive damages: Unlike actual damages, punitive damages are damages awarded for the purpose of teaching the defendant a lesson. In Florida, these damages are capped at three times the amount of actual damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater.
  • Statute of limitations: A law passed by a state or the federal government that restricts the amount of time in which a lawsuit can be filed. These are required because if they did not exist, claims could be tried decades later, when memories have decayed and evidence has been lost.
  • Summary judgment: When a judge declares a lawsuit decided in favor of one of the parties due to the law alone, without even getting into the facts of the case. This is done when the law is so clear that the facts would not change anything.
  • Tort: The rough civil equivalent of a criminal act. A tort is an act that causes an injury to someone else that may be punished by asking for money damages, instead of jail time.

Contact A Personal Injury Attorney

If you are in the middle of a legal proceeding and feel adrift, we can help. Contact Callihan & Syracuse for intelligent and understanding representation in all your personal injury matters. Our attorneys will do our best for you. We offer free consultations; call us today.