Adjudication: The act of a court in deciding a legal action.
Allegation: A claim or assertion that someone has engaged in wrongful conduct. Also, assertions of fact set forth in a complaint.
Answer: A formal document, filed with a court, in which a defendant in a lawsuit responds to the allegations of a plaintiff as set forth in a complaint.
Appeals: A proceeding whereby a party seeks from a higher court the reversal of a lower court decision.
Arbitration: The resolving of disputes between a plaintiff and a defendant by an impartial third party, whose decision the parties agree to accept.
Attorney: See Lawyer.
Bellwether Trial: The initial trials that are conducted in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) or state consolidated actions to help attorneys for the parties determine how juries will respond to the arguments and evidence in the case. Typically, one or more plaintiffs who have claims that are representative of the overall group of plaintiffs will be selected for bellwether trials. By seeing how juries respond to these cases, parties to the litigation can better determine whether the case should be resolved by Settlement or additional trials.
Civil Action: A legal action that seeks the payment of money as redress for a civil wrong, in contrast to a criminal proceeding prosecuted by a governmental agency.
Claim: A demand for money, for property, or for enforcement of a right provided by law.
Claimant: A person who makes a claim. In the personal injury context, a claimant is a person who has been injured due to the fault of another, has made a demand for compensation for his or her injuries, and has not yet filed a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is filed, the claimant is also referred to as the plaintiff.
Claims Adjuster: Someone who investigates insurance claims to determine the extent of an insured party’s liability. Claims adjusters may handle property claims involving damage to property and/or claims involving personal injuries.
Class: The large groups whose interests are represented in a class action case.
Class Action: A lawsuit filed by an individual or small group acting on behalf of a large group (known as the class).
Client: A person or organization using the services of a lawyer.
Compensation: Something, typically money, paid to someone as a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.
Complaint: A formal document, filed with a court, in which a plaintiff states his or her claims and demands for compensation against a defendant. The filing of a complaint marks the beginning of a lawsuit.
Court: The tribunal in which lawsuits are litigated, presided over by a judge.
Damages: A sum of money claimed by or awarded to an injured party as compensation for his or her injuries.
Defendant: An individual, company, or institution sued in a court of law.
Deposition: An out-of-court proceeding where a party to a lawsuit gives sworn testimony in response to questions asked by attorneys who represent an adverse party. Depositions usually take place at an attorney’s office and are attended by attorneys for the parties, a stenographer, a witness, and sometimes the parties themselves.
Discovery: Various pre-trial procedures including depositions, interrogatories and requests for production of documents, whereby parties obtain evidence to be used at trial.
Duty of Care: A legal obligation which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any act that could foreseeably harm others.
Evidence: Information that tends to prove or disprove an allegation.
Fault: An act or failure to act that gives rise to a claim. Negligence is a type of fault.
Federal Court: Courts administered by the U.S. Government that hear cases authorized by the U.S. Constitution or federal statutory law. Federal courts are distinct from state courts.
Interrogatories: Written questions served on a party to a lawsuit to be answered under oath as part of pre-trial discovery.
Judge: A public official who oversees the adjudication of lawsuits.
Judgment: A decision of a court regarding the rights and liabilities of parties in a legal action or proceeding.
Lawsuit: A claim or dispute brought to a court of law for adjudication.
Lawyer: A licensed legal professional who represents parties in dealings with other parties. In the context of personal injury litigation, a lawyer advocates on behalf of a client, and represents them in court if necessary. Lawyers are also attorneys, although the term “attorney” can be used to describe a person other than a licensed legal professional who acts in a representative capacity.
Liability: Legal responsibility for causing injury to another due to negligence or other fault, requiring the payment of damages as compensation for any injuries caused.
Litigation: The process in which a legal action is contested in court.
Lost Wages: Employment income that a person was unable to earn due to an injury, which may be recovered as compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Malpractice: Negligence by a professional such as a doctor, lawyer or engineer in the performance of professional duties; professional misconduct.
Mass Tort: A civil action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or more defendants. Mass torts are typically brought when a product, service or accident causes widespread personal injury to numerous individuals. In most cases, mass tort claims are consolidated into federal multidistrict litigation or state court consolidated actions.
Mediation: The process by which parties to a lawsuit engage the services of a neutral third party to assist the parties in reaching a settlement of their dispute.
Medical Expenses: Costs incurred in the treatment of an injury by a healthcare provider, which may be recovered as compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Multidistrict Litigation (MDL): A special federal legal procedure designed to speed the process of handling complex cases. In order to efficiently process cases that could involve hundreds (or thousands) of plaintiffs in dozens of different federal courts that all share common issues, cases are often consolidated in an MDL.
Negligence: The failure to use reasonable care, which results in injury to another.
Pain and Suffering: The mental and physical stress resulting from an injury, which may be recovered as compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Party: The plaintiff and the defendant in a lawsuit. The plaintiff is one party, and the defendant is another party.
Personal Injury: Physical injury inflicted on a person’s body, in contrast to damage to property or reputation.
Plaintiff: A person who brings a lawsuit against another person.
Premises Liability: The liability of a property owner to a person who is injured due to an unsafe condition of the property.
Products Liability: Products liability refers to the legal liability of manufacturers and sellers to compensate purchasers for damages or injuries caused by defects in the products purchased.
Proximate Cause: An event sufficiently related to a legally recognizable injury to be held to be the cause of that injury.
Punitive Damages: Damages awarded to punish a party who committed a wrongful act rather than to compensate an injured party for actual damages.
Recovery: A term used to describe the compensation paid to an injured party, either through settlement of a claim or by judgment of a court.
Release: A legal instrument that acts to terminate any claims that an injured party has against a tortfeasor.
Settlement: An agreement to resolve a claim or lawsuit. In the personal injury context, a settlement involves the payment of money to the plaintiff by or on behalf of the defendant in exchange for the plaintiff giving up his right to sue or maintain a lawsuit against the defendant.
State Court: A court that has jurisdiction over all civil or criminal matters that arise in that state, unless the jurisdiction of the matter is exclusive to the federal courts.
State Court Consolidated Action: A process by which multiple individual state court claims are consolidated for pre-trial proceedings similar to the multidistrict litigation (MDL) process conducted in federal courts.
Statute of Limitations: A statute that fixes the time within which a lawsuit on a claim must be filed, and beyond which it will be forever barred.
Third Party: One who is not a party to a lawsuit, agreement, or other transaction but who is somehow involved in the transaction; someone other than the principal parties.
Tort: A private or civil wrong that results in an injury; a breach of the duty of care causing damage; a negligent act.
Tortfeasor: One who commits a tort; a wrongdoer.
Trial: A formal examination of evidence before a judge, and typically before a jury, in order to decide liability civil proceedings.
Uninsured Motorist: One’s own insurance coverage that pays for the insured’s injuries and losses negligently caused by a driver who has no liability insurance.
Underinsured Motorist: One’s own insurance that pays for losses caused by a driver who negligently damages the insured but does not have enough liability insurance to cover the damages.
Verdict: A decision reached by a jury following the conclusion of a trial that involves the determination of liability of the defendant to the plaintiff and the extent of the plaintiff’s damages. In most cases, the verdict of a jury will become the judgment of the court that presided over the lawsuit.
Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ compensation laws provide certain benefits to employees who are injured at work, generally without regard to who was at fault in causing the injury. Workers compensation is usually the exclusive remedy that an injured employee has against his or her employer, although the employee may have additional claims against third parties not related to the employer.
Waiver: The voluntary and intentional surrender of a right or privilege.
Wrongful Death: A wrongful death action is a type of lawsuit brought on behalf of the surviving family or beneficiaries of a person who died through the fault or negligence of another. The surviving spouse and children may seek compensation from the responsible party for the loss of the deceased person’s support and companionship, as well as their grief.