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Legal Glossary Guide

Categories: Being a Caregiver, Legal Issues, Living with Brain Injury

by Jared Staver
Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.

A brain injury can have a serious impact on your life. The Brain Injury Association of America works to educate people in an attempt to prevent serious head and brain injuries. Below are some of the terms that you might hear if you sustain a brain injury and have to interact with legal professionals regarding your injury.

  • Admissible evidence: Evidence that is relevant to the issues in a case.
  • Adversary system: The trial method used in the United States, wherein opposing parties present and establish evidence before a judge, jury, or arbitrator.
  • Affidavit: Voluntary written statement of fact in a case made under oath.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution: The variety of ways to resolve a legal dispute without going to trial.
  • Appeal: Request by a party in a lawsuit to have a higher court review a lower court’s decision.
  • Appellant: Party who requests an appeal.
  • Appellate Court: A court having authority to hear an appeal.
  • Assumption of Risk: Defense in personal injury cases in which the Defendant says the Plaintiff knew the risks of the activity which caused the injury.
  • Bad Faith: Conduct by an insurer that violates duties to its policy holder (the insured).
  • Bench Trial: A case heard by a judge with no jury.
  • Beneficiary: The recipient of property or money from another person.
  • Breach: Breaking or violating a right, duty, or obligation by intentional or negligent action.
  • Brief: A written document that lays out a party’s legal positions on issues in the case, prepared by an attorney.
  • Burden of Proof: Requirement to prove all elements of a claim in order to prevail at trial.
  • Cause of Action: A claim based in law and fact that gives one the legal basis to file a lawsuit.
  • Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence that, when considered together with other relevant facts, build a case to form a conclusion.
  • Civil Action: Action brought against a party or entity that seeks monetary damages or other remedies under law.
  • Civil Law: The system of law concerned with private relations between members of a community rather than criminal, military, or religious affairs.
  • Claim: Demand for compensation or assertion of a right.
  • Claimant: Person who makes a claim or asserts a right.
  • Closing Argument: Final opportunity for attorneys for each party to communicate directly with judge and jury about why their side should prevail.
  • Comparative Fault: Legal doctrine which says that both parties played a role in what happened and that both are partially responsible. Reduces the plaintiff’s recovery in proportion to their share of negligence or fault.
  • Compensatory Damages: Compensation offered to an individual for what they have had to experience as a result of the negligent act.
  • Complaint: Written document filed with the court by the Plaintiff which initiates a lawsuit.
  • Counterclaim: Answer to a Complaint. The Defendant sues the Plaintiff for damages which the Defendant claims the Plaintiff is liable or at fault. 
  • Cross Claim: Claim involving more than one Defendant in a lawsuit in which one Defendant brings a claim against another Defendant to assert that they are responsible for some or all of the damages.
  • Cross Examination: Questioning of a witness by the opposing counsel.
  • Damages: Money or property awarded by a court or jury to an injured person.
  • Defendant: The party the Plaintiff claims is responsible for damages, and seeks a form of relief from.
  • Demand Letter: Letter stating a legal right and an amount due as compensation for injuries to a person/property.
  • Deposition: A deposition is a witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. It is used to gather information as part of the discovery process and, in limited circumstances, may be used at trial.
  • Direct Evidence: Evidence that stands on its own to prove a fact.
  • Discovery: The formal procedures used by parties to a lawsuit to obtain information before a trial. This can include physical evidence as well as questioning the other side.
  • Duty: Obligation imposed by law or contract to conform to specific standards of conduct in light of risk.
  • Earning Capacity: Ability to earn a living based on education, training, and experience.
  • Element: Factor or component that makes up a claim or cause of action, which must be proved separately.
  • Evidence: Demonstration of a fact that proves or disproves the existence of a fact at issue in the case.
  • Expert Witness: Individual who possesses specialized knowledge, skill, education, training beyond that of an ordinary person or juror – such as a doctor, engineer, therapist, or accident reconstructionist. Used to aid the triers of fact in reaching a decision.
  • Foreseeability: Reasonable anticipation of potential results given the acts of a reasonably prudent person.
  • Gross Negligence: Total and reckless disregard for the health or safety of another.
  • Inadmissible Evidence: Evidence that cannot be admitted for consideration at hearing or trial.
  • Judgement: Final order which puts an end to a lawsuit. Would include the final amount of any monetary award.
  • Lay Witness: A person with no special skill or training who may have been a first-hand observer, whose testimony can aid in the decision of a trial.
  • Liability: Responsibility or fault for an incident resulting in injuries or damages to a person or property.
  • Litigation: Broad term used to describe the process of a lawsuit from initial filing, to discovery, to ultimate resolution.
  • Loss of Consortium: A claim made by an injured party’s spouse for the loss of society, affection, assistance, and normal marital acts.
  • Malpractice: Misconduct in a professional capacity by negligence, malicious intent, lack of skill, or carelessness.
  • Motion: A formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment.
  • Negligence per se: Violation of a statutory law or administrative code.
  • Offer: Proposal by an insurance company to resolve a claim for monetary damages.
  • Ordinary Care: Care which a reasonable and prudent person would exercise in the same circumstances.
  • Pain and Suffering: The physical and mental distress suffered from an injury, both in the short-term aftermath of an injury, but also considering the long-term limitations and effects, such as permanent disability, depression, etc.
  • Party: Person or entity named in a legal proceeding or transaction.
  • Plaintiff: Party who requests damages and initiates a civil lawsuit.
  • Pleadings: Beginning stage of a lawsuit in which both parties, plaintiff and defendant, formally submit their claims and defenses.
  • Preponderance of the Evidence: Standard of evidence necessary for a Plaintiff to win in a civil law case. Must be more convincing than the evidence offered in opposition.
  • Proximate Cause: A happening which results in an event, particularly injury due to negligence or an intentional wrongful act. A person is generally only liable if an injury was proximately caused by his or her action or failure to act.
  • Reasonable Medical Certainty: Standard for admission into evidence of health care provider opinions concerning the Plaintiff’s condition, diagnosis, cause of injury, impairment, disability, and future treatments needs.
  • Setoff: Counterclaim that reduces or eliminates the amount of recovery being asserted by the plaintiff in a lawsuit.
  • Settlement: Final resolution of a claim by agreement between the parties.
  • Statute of Limitations: The time limit to file a lawsuit
  • Strict Liability: Absolute legal responsibility for an injury that can be imposed on the wrongdoer without proof of carelessness or fault.
  • Subpoena: Written command requiring a person to appear to give testimony at a deposition or other proceeding like a trial or hearing.
  • Summary Judgement: A procedural device used during civil litigation to promptly and expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the material facts of the case and a party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law.
  • Summons: Notice to all Defendants that a lawsuit has been commenced, that they have been named as a Defendant, and that they must answer the complaint within a certain period of time, or a default judgement may be taken against them.
  • Testimony: Spoken evidence given by a witness under oath.
  • Tort: A tort is an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability
  • Trial: Examination of facts and law presided over by a judge with authority to hear the matter.
  • Trier of Fact: Decision maker who will hear the evidence and decide the factual issues in a claim.
  • Umbrella Policy: Excess layer of insurance that provides coverage for large exposure in excess of the underlying policy limits.
  • Verdict: Final decision or finding by a jury on the factual issues of a case which is then accepted by the court and becomes a judgement.
  • Weight of the Evidence: Credibility of evidence when compared to other evidence.
  • Willful: Acts that are intentional and directed at achieving a specific result.
  • Witness: Person who comes to court and swears under oath to give truthful evidence. One who, being sworn or affirmed, according to law, deposes as to his knowledge of facts in issue between the parties in a cause.

Jared Staver is a personal injury lawyer and brain injury attorney in Chicago, Illinois. As an experienced attorney, he has seen many clients who have had their lives altered due to someone else’s negligence, and unfortunately a number of cases involving brain and head trauma. Attorney Staver writes about safety and legal issues to inform people of ways to practice safety in everyday activities, and how to deal with them from the legal side if they are the victims of an accident.