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Personal Injury Law Glossary

Town Law Publishing Jan. 1, 2024

1. Negligence: A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.

2. Plaintiff: The person who brings a case against another in a court of law.

3. Defendant: An individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law.

4. Damages: A monetary compensation that is awarded to a person who has been harmed by the wrongful conduct of another.

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

6. Tort: A civil wrong that causes someone else to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.

7. Personal Injury: An injury to the body, mind, or emotions, as opposed to an injury to property.

8. Statute of Limitations: A law which sets the maximum period that one can wait before filing a lawsuit.

9. Liability: The state of being legally responsible for something, such as a debt or obligation.

10. Comparative Negligence: A legal concept that allocates fault among each of the parties involved according to their degree of responsibility for the injury.

11. Contributory Negligence: A doctrine that says if the plaintiff in a lawsuit was also negligent, he or she cannot recover damages from the defendant for the injury.

12. Medical Malpractice: An act or omission by a health care provider which deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury to the patient.

13. Contingency Fee: A payment to a lawyer that is set at a particular percentage of the amount the client wins in a lawsuit.

14. Litigation: The process of taking legal action; the process of suing someone, or trying to win a case in court.

15. Deposition: The oral testimony of a party or witness in a civil or criminal proceeding taken before trial.

16. Discovery: The pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery tools including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, and depositions.

17. Subpoena: A writ ordering a person to attend a court.

18. Affidavit: A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.

19. Mediation: A way of resolving disputes between two or more parties with concrete effects.

20. Arbitration: The use of an arbitrator to settle a dispute.

21. Wrongful Death: A claim against a person who can be held liable for a death.

22. Pain and Suffering: The physical or emotional distress resulting from an injury.

23. Punitive Damages: Monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that goes beyond that which is necessary to compensate the individual for losses and that is intended to punish the wrongdoer.

24. Compensatory Damages: Money awarded to a person to compensate for damages, injury, or another incurred loss.

25. Loss of Consortium: Damages awarded to a family member (typically a spouse) for loss of companionship or services.

26. Duty of Care: A requirement that a person act toward others and the public with watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would.

27. Breach of Duty: Failure to fulfill the duty of care which results in harm to another party.

28. Causation: The act or process of causing something to happen or exist.

29. Proximate Cause: The primary cause of an injury. An act from which an injury results as a direct, uninterrupted consequence and without which the injury would not have occurred.

30. Vicarious Liability: Legal doctrine under which a party can be held liable for the wrongful actions of another party.

31. Class Action: A lawsuit in which one or several persons sue on behalf of a larger group of persons, referred to as "the class."

32. Product Liability: The legal liability a manufacturer or trader incurs for producing or selling a faulty product.

33. Slip and Fall: A type of personal injury case where a person trips or slips and is injured on someone else's property.

34. Worker's Compensation: A form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee's right to sue their employer for negligence.

35. Gross Negligence: A conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.

36. Premises Liability: The liability that a homeowner or occupier has for injuries suffered by persons who visit the property.

37. Strict Liability: The legal responsibility for damages, or injury, even if the person found strictly liable was not at fault or negligent.

38. Informed Consent: Permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences.

39. Burden of Proof: The obligation to present evidence to the court or jury to prove one's case.

40. Standard of Care: The degree of care that a reasonable person should exercise.

41. Assumption of Risk: A defense in personal injury cases which states that the plaintiff knew of a dangerous condition and voluntarily exposed himself or herself to that risk.

42. Pre-existing Condition: An ailment or disorder that a patient had before the injury.

43. Res Ipsa Loquitur: A doctrine that infers negligence from the very nature of an accident or injury, in the absence of direct evidence on how any defendant behaved.

44. Expert Witness: A person who is permitted to testify at a trial because of special knowledge or proficiency in a particular field that is relevant to the case.

45. Emotional Distress: A highly unpleasant emotional reaction (as anguish, humiliation, or fury) which results from another's conduct and for which damages may be sought.

46. Automobile Accident: An unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance, often with lack of intention or necessity involving a vehicle.

47. Bad Faith: Intent to deceive. A person who intentionally tries to deceive

48. Defamation: The act of making untrue statements about another which damages his/her reputation.

49. Tortfeasor: A person who commits a tort.

50. Occupational Disease: A disease resulting from exposure during employment to conditions or substances that are detrimental to health.