| A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z |
This is a scientific method for analyzing what actually happened in a traffic collision by examining the evidence and resulting damage and working back to the cause of the crash. Expert accident reconstructionist will examine evidence such as skid marks, the vehicle damage, impact and final resting points together with the available road traction print, called the “coefficient of friction” to determine, or at least estimate, such information as how fast the vehicles were going, what direction they were traveling and where on the road the collision occurred.
Expert accident reconstruction evidence can be particularly valuable in cases where witnesses disagree as to how a crash occurred, and in those circumstances when the involved drivers do not recall the crash or were killed in the crash.
Such evidence as the confirmation of rainfall at the time of the accident, the resulting slipperiness of the road surface, skid marks, etc. can be used to discover, or at least estimate, how fast and in what direction the crash vehicles were traveling when they collided, and usually to determine the causes of a collision.
There are specialists called "accident reconstructionists," individuals specially trained in the above-mentioned methods, who can deduce how an accident occurred. These specialists serve as expert witnesses for either the plaintiff or the defendant in a lawsuit and they can be very useful when there is a question of who is at fault in an accident.
Act of God
An extraordinary and unexpected natural event, such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or even the sudden death of a person. An act of God may be a defense against liability for injuries or damages. Under the law of contracts, an act of God often serves as a valid excuse if one of the parties to the contract is unable to fulfill his or her duties -- for instance, completing a construction project on time.
Adjuster or Insurance Adjuster
Adjusters are either employees or independent contractors working for insurance companies. Their job is to settle insurance claims for as little money as possible, which, in turn, increases the profit margin of the insurance company. It is important to know that even the adjuster working for an injury victim's own insurance company is still ultimately working on behalf of his or her company, to secure the lowest payout.
It is an important advantage for an injury victim to have an attorney who knows the insurance company and adjusters involved and who is available to settle the client’s case for its maximum value. In addition, insurance companies keep records of their experiences with various attorneys and law firms. It is to the client’s benefit to retain an attorney and law firm who has a reputation for obtaining maximum value for the case, as well as the ability to successfully try the case if the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement.
Therefore, it is an advantage for an injury victim to have an attorney who knows the adjustors and is able to settle their client's case for the maximum value. Many adjustors can be involved, for example, in a multi-party car crash. If five different drivers collide with each other, there will be an adjustor assigned to each one. If you are covered in your insurance policy for medical payments and collision damage, individual adjustors can be assigned to these separate parts of your claim. There are often senior adjustors assigned to manage the lower level adjustors and they may have the authority to decide what claim money the insurance company will pay.
Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial. Your attorney can advise you as to which types of evidence may be presented in a hearing.
Adverse Medical Examination
Sometimes also called an "independent" medical examination. This is a medical evaluation scheduled by an insurance company with a doctor of that company's choosing. Such examinations are typically done by doctors who have substantial practices doing these types of evaluations, and routinely result in recommendations and opinions that stand in stark contrast to the opinions of treating doctors. Adverse medical examiners routinely recommend little or no further treatment, and commonly claim that injuries that continue to afflict the injured person have resolved, despite substantial evidence to the contrary. These adverse examiners then are called to testify by the insurance company in lawsuits to attempt to dispute and defeat the injured person's claim for damages.
Experienced personal injury attorneys, like those at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, maintain libraries of previous reports and testimony by adverse examining physicians. In addition, the attorneys seek court orders to require adverse examining doctors to provide evidence regarding their income from insurance company examinations.
Age of Majority
The age at which an individual acquires the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. In most states, the age is 18. If the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is under the age of majority, a representative for the minor brings case. This representative may not have been involved in the incident resulting in the suit. Your attorney will be able to advise you.
A meeting of the minds. An agreement is made when two people reach an understanding about a particular issue, including their obligations, duties and rights. While agreement is sometimes used to mean contract -- a legally binding oral or written agreement -- it is actually a broader term, including understandings that might not rise to the level of a legally binding contract.
A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading), which a person is prepared to prove in court. Your attorney will prepare the allegations in your case.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.
A formal, written statement by the defendant in a lawsuit, which answers each allegation contained in the complaint. Your attorney will receive and review the defendant's answer for you.
Answers to Interrogatories
A formal written statement by a party to a lawsuit, which answers each question or interrogatory, propounded by the other party. These answers must be acknowledged before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments. Your attorney is authorized to take and prepare these answers. Your attorney can also explain what is required in the responses.
A written request to a higher court to modify or reverse the judgment order of a trial court or intermediate level appellate court. Normally, an appellate court accepts as true all the facts that the trial judge or jury found to be true, and decides only whether the judge made mistakes in understanding and applying the law. If the appellate court decides that a mistake was made that changed the outcome, it will direct the lower court to conduct a new trial, but often the mistakes are deemed "harmless" and the judgment is left alone. The appellate court may correct some mistakes without sending the case back to the trial court. An appeal begins when the loser at trial files a notice of appeal, which must be done within strict time limits (often 60 days from the date of judgment). The loser (called the appellant) and the winner (called the appellee) submit written arguments (called briefs) and often make oral arguments explaining why the lower court's decision should be upheld or overturned.
A higher court that reviews the decision of a lower court when a losing party files for an appeal.
Arbitration and Arbitration Awards
Arbitration is a legal proceeding, more informal than a trial setting, during which both sides in a dispute offer their testimony and evidence to a neutral party, called the arbitrator. This "referee" is often a retired judge or an attorney of long experience. After a hearing of both sides, the arbitrator decides upon an award, a certain amount of money, to be given to one of the two parties.
This arbitration can be either "binding" or non-binding, depending on what kind of arbitration it is. In the case of personal injury claims, there are generally two types of arbitration. The first is court-ordered mandatory arbitration, in which the award is not binding, though it is important in settling the dispute. In this type of arbitration, either side can reject the arbitrator’s award. IF this rejection occurs, the matter proceeds to jury trial where no reference can be made to the arbitrator's award. In the case of binding arbitration, the award is final. The arbitrator's award is usually paid very quickly after it is rendered. Other kinds of disputes can also be settled through arbitration, if the parties involved so agree.
Attorney fees must usually be paid by the client who hires a lawyer, though occasionally a law or contract will require the losing party in a lawsuit to pay the winner's court costs and attorney fees. For example, a contract might contain a provision that says the loser of any lawsuit between the parties to the contract will pay the winner's attorney fees. Many laws designed to protect consumers also provide for attorney fees.
Head of the United States Department of Justice and chief law officer of the Federal government. The Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters, oversees federal prosecutors, and provides legal advice to the President and to heads of executive governmental departments. Each state also has an attorney general, responsible for advising the governor and state agencies and departments about legal issues, and overseeing state prosecuting attorneys.
This is a special protection under the law by which, in general, all communications between a client and his or her attorney are not available to anyone else. Conversations between the attorney and his/her client and all related document, are not accessible to their opponents in a lawsuit.
However, through the discovery process, a defense attorney may seek access to these documents. This is an instance when an experienced personal injury attorney can be useful. It is his responsibility to closely protect the confidentiality of these documents and the privacy of his or her client.
A physician's examination of the body of a deceased person to determine the cause of death.
“Awards” are the decisions of arbitrators. Awards are made in writing and are enforceable in court under state and federal statutes. The parties to the arbitration bring enforcement actions, when necessary.
Back to Top
Dishonesty or fraud in a transaction, such as knowingly misrepresenting the quality of something that is being bought or sold, or entering into an agreement with no intention of ever living up to its terms. Your attorney can advise you as to whether your insurance company, or other entity, may be acting in bad faith.
A trial before a judge with no jury. The term derives from the fact that the stand on which the judge sits is called the bench.
See Topic: Lawsuits & Mediation
A person or organization legally entitled to receive benefits through a legal device, such as a will, trust or life insurance policy.
A cut, abrasion, bruise, burn, or disfigurement; physical pain, illness, impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.
A document used to submit a legal contention or argument to a court. A brief typically sets out the facts of the case and a party's argument as to why she should prevail. Legal authority and precedent, such as statutes, regulations and previous court decisions, must support these arguments. Although it is usually possible to submit a brief to a trial court (called a trial brief), briefs are most commonly used as a central part of the appeal process (an appellate brief).
Burden of proof
A party's job of convincing the decision maker in a trial that the party's version of the facts is true. In a civil trial, it means that the plaintiff must convince the judge or jury "by a preponderance of the evidence" that the plaintiff's version is true -- that is, over 50% of the believable evidence is in the plaintiff's favor. In a criminal case, because a person's liberty is at stake, the government has a harder job, and must convince the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.
Back to Top
Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts. Your attorney has studied case law and knows how the Courts are likely to rule in many cases.
Cause of action
A specific legal claim -- such as for negligence, breach of contract or medical malpractice -- for which a plaintiff seeks compensation. Each cause of action is divided into discrete elements, all of which must be proved to present a winning case.
In the federal system, appellate courts are organized into thirteen circuits. Eleven of these cover different geographical areas of the country -- for example, the United States Court of Appeal for the Eighth Circuit covers Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas. The remaining circuits are the District of Columbia Circuit and the Federal Circuit, (which hears patent, customs and other specialized cases based on subject matter). The term derives from an age before mechanized transit, when judges and lawyers rode "the circuit" of their territory to hold court in various places.
Noncriminal. See civil case.
A noncriminal lawsuit, usually involving private property rights. For example, lawsuits involving breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence and copyright violations are just a few of the many hundreds of varieties of civil lawsuits.
The rules used to handle a civil case from the time the initial complaint is filed through pretrial discovery and the trial itself. Each state adopts its own rules of civil procedure (often set out in a separate Code of Civil Procedure), but many are influenced by or modeled on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Claim and Claimant
In this case, a claim means an insurance claim filed with an insurance company by an injured person, or by his or her personal injury attorney, informing the insurance company that the injured party will be seeking payment for damages that were suffered. The claimant in such a personal injury case is the person or persons injured because of the fault of one or more other parties.
When an insurance claim is filed, that is the commencement of a personal injury case. It starts when an injured individual or his or her attorney contacts the insurance company of the negligent party to tell them that a claim for damages is being made against their insured client, who may be either an individual or a company. In addition to this, an insurance claim may also be made with the injured party's own insurance company for compensation for medical bills, wage loss, or damage to his automobile, etc. In the case of an uninsured, underinsured negligent party, a claim may also be filed with the injured person's own insurance company.
There are several critical factors an injured person must be aware of when reporting a claim to an insurance company. First, it is very important that the claim be filed promptly after the injury or accident. Most insurance companies require in their policies that their clients must report auto accidents to them within a definite time period; otherwise the insurance firm may deny their claim for compensation.
It is also critical to know what information must be reported to an insurance company. In most cases, there is certain specific information that must be reported to the company, either as a result of contractual or legal requirements. However, there is also information that need not and should not be reported at all. When an injured person reports more than the law or contract requires to an insurance company after an accident, the insurer may use that information against the claimant later, to their detriment.
Some information concerning a claim that it is not mandatory to report. But there is also information that should not be reported at all. When an injured person reports more than the law requires to an insurance company after an accident, for instance, this can severely damage the value of that claim, should that claim become the subject of a legal dispute or arbitration.
In a personal injury case, for example, an auto accident causing both bodily injury and extensive damage to the injured party's vehicle, it is difficult for an inexperienced layperson or attorney to determine what the claim is worth. Generally, the problem is that the inexperienced person has no reference point from which to judge the comparative value of his/her claim. Not knowing the value of the case, in turn, makes that person vulnerable in the bargaining process that is an integral part of settling such injury cases.
There are numerous factors affecting the value of a claim. Among these are: comparative negligence issues (more than one party at fault, e.g. in an auto accident); pre-existing medical conditions of the party making the claim, which can lower the value of a claim; and the ways in which an injury affects the victim's life.
In addition to experience, it is also a major advantage for attorneys representing personal injury clients to have access to current information about verdict and settlement to allow them to better assess the value of a claim. These resources include a comprehensive library of medical and legal guidelines for evaluating claims. Today there are also vast Internet resources giving access to the most up-to-date medical research and legal decisions in the courts that can affect the value of a claimant's case. An experienced personal injury law firm and its attorneys will be aware of these resources and actively make use of them in their client's behalf.
A lawsuit in which a large number of people with similar legal claims join together in a group (the class) to sue someone, usually a company or organization. Common class actions involve cases in which a product has injured many people, or in which a group of people has suffered discrimination at the hands of an organization.
At trial, a speech made by each party after all the evidence has been presented. The purpose is to review the evidence presented during the trial and the applicable law as part of forcefully explaining why your side should win.
Collision insurance coverage
A component of car insurance that pays for damages to the insured vehicle that result from a collision with another vehicle or object. Collision insurance generally covers the amount of damage over and above an amount the insured person must pay, called the "deductible" amount.
Secret cooperation between two people or companies in order to fool another. Companies who are supposed to be competitors may agree to work together to increase prices paid for their products or to conceal evidence regarding a product defect. In such cases, the law imposes civil and potentially criminal penalties for such conduct.
The rule under which negligence is measured by percentage, and damages are diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person seeking recovery. Recovery may be reduced by comparative negligence. Your attorney can advise you.
The rule under which negligence is measured by percentage, and damages are diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person seeking recovery. Recovery may be reduced by comparative negligence. Your attorney can advise you.
Damages that cover actual injury or economic loss. Compensatory damages are intended to put the injured party in the position he was in prior to the injury. Compensatory damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages and the repair or replacement of property. Also called "actual damages."
This is the legal document that formally starts a lawsuit. It describes in very broad terms the incident and its particulars that are the substance of the lawsuit. Also included in the complaint are the kind of damages sustained by the claimant and the names of the parties in the suit, the plaintiff(s) and the defendant(s). Correctly identifying these parties is essential and any uncorrected errors could severely damage the case.
When the personal injury attorney is prepared to bring the defendants into the case, the attorney will formally have the complaint "served" upon the defendant(s) by a "process server." There are very stringent regulations and deadlines for doing this, which have to be followed.
Comprehensive insurance coverage
An element of car insurance that pays for damages to your vehicle caused by anything other than a collision, including vandalism, theft and natural disasters.
Conflict of Interest
A situation in which someone, such as an attorney or public official, has professional, personal, or financial interests or obligations which prevent him or her from taking on certain new business because the prior interest or obligation would make it difficult for that person to fulfill his duties fairly. In evaluating your case, your attorney should check for any potential conflicts of interest, which may affect the course of your case.
Contempt of court
Behavior in or out of court that violates a court order, or otherwise disrupts or shows disregard for the court. Refusing to answer a proper question, to file court papers on time or to follow local court rules can expose witnesses, lawyers and litigants to contempt findings. Contempt of court is punishable by fine or imprisonment.
To oppose, dispute or challenge through formal or legal procedures. For example, the defendant in a lawsuit almost always contests the case made by the plaintiff. Or, a disgruntled relative may formally contest the provisions of a will.
A provision in a contract stating that some or all of the terms of the contract will be altered or voided by the occurrence of a specific event. For example, a contingency in a contract for the purchase of a house might state that if the buyer does not approve the inspection report of the physical condition of the property, the buyer does not have to complete the purchase.
Contingent Fee Agreement
This is the contract between the personal injury attorney and his/her client, specifying all the terms of their relationship. The term "contingent fee" refers to the fact that personal injury attorneys only receive a fee from their clients contingent upon their client receiving money from the parties responsible for his/her injury. Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben attorneys work only on a contingent fee. The fee is a percentage of the money recovered, and in addition, costs paid out of or on behalf of the client. These costs are deducted after the percentage for attorney’s fees is taken.
Contingent fee agreements should define who is responsible for the costs of the case and how any awards collected are to be distributed. Costs involved in a personal injury case can include: court fees, witness fees and expert witnesses fees, deposition fees, costs related to acquiring copies of the claimant's medical records, and so forth. Most personal injury attorneys will finance these kinds of case costs and then be reimbursed out of the proceeds of the case.
“Counterclaims” are counter demands made by a respondent in his or her favor against a claimant. They are not mere answers or denials of the claimant’s allegations.
A list of the cases and hearings that will be held by a court on a particular day, week or month. Because the length of time it will take to conduct a particular hearing or trial is at best a guess and many courts have a number of judges, accurately scheduling cases is difficult, with the result that court calendars are often revised and cases are often heard later than initially planned. A court calendar is sometimes called a docket, trial schedule or trial list.
The fees charged for the use of a court, including the initial filing fee, fees for serving the summons, complaint and other court papers and fees to pay a court reporter to transcribe deposition and in-court testimony. Often costs to photocopy court papers and exhibits are also included. Both parties as the case progresses must pay Court costs, but ultimately, the losing party may be responsible for both parties' costs.
Regulations governing practice and procedure in the various courts. Your attorney will be familiar with, and can advise you, as to local court rules.
Sometimes called a cross-claim, legal paperwork that a defendant files to initiate her own lawsuit against a co-defendant or someone who is not yet a party to the lawsuit. A cross-complaint must concern the same events that gave rise to the original lawsuit. For example, a defendant accused of causing an injury when she failed to stop at a red light might cross-complain against the mechanic who recently repaired her car, claiming that his negligence resulted in the brakes failing and, hence, that the accident was his fault. In some states where the defendant wishes to make a legal claim against the original plaintiff and no third party is claimed to be involved, a counterclaim, not a cross-complaint, should be used.
At trial, the opportunity to question any witness, including your opponent, who testifies against you. The opportunity to cross-examine usually occurs as soon as a witness completes her direct testimony -- often the opposing lawyer or party, or sometimes the judge, signals that it is time to begin cross-examination by saying, "Your witness." Typically, there are two important reasons to engage in cross-examination: to attempt to get the witness to say something helpful to your side, or to cast doubt on (impeach) the witness by getting her to admit something that reduces her credibility -- for example, that her eyesight is so poor that she may not have seen an event clearly.
A term used by the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act for the person named to manage property left to a child under the terms of that Act. The custodian will manage the property if the gift giver dies before the child has reached the age specified by state law -- usually 21. When the child reaches the specified age, he will receive the property and the custodian will have no further role in its management.
Back to Top
In a lawsuit, money awarded to one party based on injury or loss caused by the other. There are many different types or categories of damages that occasionally overlap, including:
Compensatory Damages(Damages that cover actual injury or economic loss) Compensatory damages are intended to put the injured party in the position he was in prior to the injury. Compensatory damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages and the repair or replacement of property. Also called "actual damages."
General damages (Damages intended to cover injuries for which an exact dollar amount cannot be calculated) General damages are usually composed of pain and suffering, but can also include compensation for a shortened life expectancy, loss of the companionship of a loved one and, in defamation cases (libel and slander), loss of reputation.
Nominal Damages (A term used when a judge or jury finds in favor of one party to a lawsuit--often because a law requires them to do so--but concludes that no real harm was done and therefore awards a very small amount of money) For example, if one neighbor sues another for libel based on untrue things the second neighbor said about the first, a jury might conclude that although libel technically occurred, no serious damage was done to the first neighbor's reputation and consequentially award nominal damages of $1.00.
Punitive Damages (sometimes called exemplary damages, awarded over and above special and general damages to punish a losing party's willful or malicious misconduct)
Special Damages (Damages that cover the winning party's out-of-pocket costs) For example, in a vehicle accident, special damages typically include medical expenses, car repair costs, rental car fees and lost wages. Often called "specials."
Statutory Damages (Damages required by statutory law) For example, in many states if a landlord doesn't return a tenant's security deposit in a timely fashion or give a reason why it is being withheld, the state statutes give the judge authority to order the landlord to pay damages of double or triple the amount of the deposit.
Treble Damages ( Lawyerspeak for triple damages: To penalize lawbreakers, statutes occasionally give judges the power to award the winning party in a civil lawsuit the amount it lost as a result of the other party's illegal conduct, plus damages of three times that amount)
A person who has died, also called "deceased."
The outcome of a proceeding before a judge, arbitrator, government agency or other legal tribunal. "Decision" is a general term often used interchangeably with the terms judgment or "opinion." To be precise, however, a judgment is the written form of the court’s decision in the clerk’s minutes or notes, and an opinion is a written document setting out the reasons for reaching the decision.
A court decision in a civil case that tells the parties what their rights and responsibilities are, without awarding damages. Unlike most court cases, where the plaintiff asks for damages or other court orders, the plaintiff in a declaratory judgment case simply wants the court to resolve an uncertainty so that he or she can determine their legal obligations. Courts are usually reluctant to hear declaratory judgment cases, preferring to wait until there has been a measurable loss. But especially in cases involving important constitutional rights, courts will step in to clarify the legal landscape. For example, many cities regulate the right to assemble by requiring permits to hold a parade. A disappointed applicant who thinks the decision-making process is unconstitutional might hold his parade anyway and challenge the ordinance after he’s cited; or he might ask a court beforehand to rule on the constitutionality of the law. By going to court, the applicant may avoid a messy confrontation with the city -- and perhaps a citation, as well.
An outdated legal procedure that permitted a party to take and record the testimony of a witness before trial, but only when that testimony might otherwise be lost. For example, a party to a lawsuit might use the procedure to obtain the testimony of a witness who was terminally ill and might not be able to testify at the trial. Nowadays, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure routinely permit the taking of testimony before trial if that testimony might otherwise be lost.
The person against whom a lawsuit is filed. In certain states, and in certain types of lawsuits, the defendant is called the respondent. Compare plaintiff, petitioner.
A request made to a court, asking it to dismiss a lawsuit on the grounds that no legal claim is asserted. For example, you might file a demurrer if your neighbor sued you for parking on the street in front of her house. Your parking habits may annoy your neighbor, but the curb is public property and parking there doesn't cause any harm recognized by the law. After a demurrer is filed, the judge holds a hearing at which both sides can make their arguments about the matter. The judge may dismiss all or part of the lawsuit, or may allow the party who filed the lawsuit to amend its complaint. In some states and in federal court, the term demurrer has been replaced by "motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim" (called a "12(b)(6) motion" in federal court) or similar term.
A type of Social Security benefit available to spouses and minor or disabled children of retired or disabled workers who qualify for either retirement or disability benefits under the program's rigorous qualification guidelines.
This is a form of the "discovery" process during which the attorneys representing all the parties involved in the lawsuit can question a plaintiff, a defendant, a witness, or expert witness, who has pertinent information about a lawsuit, under oath. Depositions are similar to the giving of oral testimony in a court trial. They are, however, conducted in a less formal setting, usually in the offices of one of the attorneys involved. There is a court reporter present who transcribes the testimony from the deposition in a written format. This cost of court reporting is paid by the attorney and to his/her client who convened the deposition. The other side is charged for a copy of the deposition if they request one.
At trial, the initial questioning of a party or witness by the side that called him or her to testify. The major purpose of direct examination is to explain your version of events to the judge or jury and to undercut your adversary's version. Good direct examination seeks to prove all facts necessary to satisfy the plaintiff's legal claims or causes of action -- for example, that the defendant breached a valid contract and, as a result, the plaintiff suffered a loss.
A ruling by a judge, typically made after the plaintiff has presented all of her evidence but before the defendant puts on his case, which awards judgment to the defendant. A directed verdict is usually made because the judge concludes the plaintiff has failed to offer the minimum amount of evidence to prove her case even if there were no opposition. In other words, the judge is saying that, as a matter of law, no reasonable jury could decide in the plaintiff's favor. In a criminal case, a directed verdict is a judgment of acquittal for the defendant.
A disabling injury is one, which in some way impairs a person’s ability to live their normal, pain free life. A disability may be temporary, lasting for a particular period of time, or permanent, that is, one with which a person will have to live to some extent through out their life.
The making known of a fact that had previously been hidden; a revelation. For example, in many states you must disclose major physical defects in a house you are selling, such as a leaky roof or potential flooding problem
Once a lawsuit is under way, all parties to the dispute have the right to "discover" evidence relevant to the case possessed by the other parties involved or by independent witnesses. This is done via specific legal procedures, such as: depositions, interrogatories, demands for independent medical examinations, requests for the production of documents, etc. The all-inclusive term for this is "discovery" or the "discovery process."
The assertion of conflicting claims or rights between parties involved in a legal proceeding, such as a lawsuit, mediation or arbitration.
In federal court and, in some states, the name of the main trial court. Thus, if you file suit in federal court, your case will normally be heard in federal district court. States may also group their appellate courts into districts -- for example, The First District Court of Appeal.
Dram Shop Claim
In Minnesota, it is illegal to sell liquor to persons under the age of 21, and to persons who are obviously intoxicated. If a bar, restaurant, liquor store or other liquor license holder sells liquor in violation of these liquor laws; they may be liable for injuries caused by the intoxicated person. For example, if a bar sells liquor to an underage person, and that person then goes out and has a collision as a result of their intoxication, the liquor license holder is responsible, under the law, for the injuries caused by the intoxicated person. In addition, adult persons who provide liquor to someone under the age of 21 can be held liable for injuries caused by the intoxication of the underage person.
Back to Top
Economists are specialists and a certain type of expert witness, usually employed to describe an injured person's monetary losses projected into the future. An economist can be useful especially when it is unclear what the future value of a person's losses would be in today's dollars.
Such damages might reasonably include a loss of capacity to earn a living in the future, such as a right-handed dentist with significant loss of mobility in his right hand. Or, perhaps an accident victim sustains nerve damage to her legs, requiring long-term medical rehabilitation. An economist, as expert witness, is able to calculate a present dollar value for such losses using such data as work-life expectancy figures and long-term interest rate information.
Elements (of a case)
The component parts of a legal claim or cause of action. To win a lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove every element of a legal claim. For example, here are the elements of a breach of contract claim:
-There was a valid contract.
-The plaintiff performed as specified by the contract.
-The defendant failed to perform as specified by the contract.
-The plaintiff suffered an economic loss as a result of the defendant's breach of contract.
The many types of information presented to a judge or jury designed to convince them of the truth or falsity of key facts. Evidence typically includes testimony of witnesses, documents, photographs, items of damaged property, government records, videos and laboratory reports. Rules that are as strict as they are quirky and technical govern what types of evidence can be properly admitted as part of a trial. For example, the hearsay rule purports to prevent secondhand testimony of the "he said, she said" variety, but the existence of dozens of exceptions often means that lawyers can find a way to introduce such testimony into evidence.
Constituting evidence or having the quality of evidence. For example, Joan's statement at the scene of a car wreck that one of the drivers was speeding has evidentiary value because it says something about how the accident happened. (2) Something that relates to the evidence in a particular case. For example, if a judge holds a hearing to decide whether or not a particular piece of evidence is admissible at trial, that hearing might be called an evidentiary hearing.
A rule of evidence that disallows the use of illegally obtained evidence in criminal trials. For example, the exclusionary rule would prevent a prosecutor from introducing at trial evidence seized during an illegal search.
A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord from responsibility for all damages, injuries or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by the landlord's actions. Most states have laws that void exculpatory clauses in rental agreements, which means that a court will not enforce them.
These witnesses are specialists with training in such fields as accident reconstruction, economics, engineering or medicine. Because of their specialized training, they are qualified to give "expert testimony" or "expert opinions" about the facts related to a lawsuit.
In some cases, expert witnesses may have become involved in the personal injury case in question, for example, as an emergency room doctor treating the accident victim or an accident reconstruction expert at the scene of an auto accident before such an accident lead to a formal lawsuit. But usually expert witnesses are employed by either plaintiff or defendant to analyze complex information within their area of knowledge, such as a surgeon analyzing a victim's loss of ability to use a hand or leg.
In particularly complicated or very contentious personal injury cases, an expert witness may be a key to the successful conclusion of the case. One advantage an experienced personal injury attorney has is his/her familiarity with whom the best-qualified and respected expert witnesses are. With experience, such attorneys learn when it is necessary to employ an expert witness and also which experts best fit the case at hand.
Back to Top
A branch of the United States government with power derived directly from the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts decide cases involving the U.S. Constitution, federal law--for example, patents, federal taxes, labor law and federal crimes, such as robbing a federally chartered bank--and cases where the parties are from different states and are involved in a dispute for $75,000 or more.
A legal doctrine that prevents people who are injured as a result of military service from successfully suing the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The doctrine comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Feres v. United States, in which servicemen who picked up highly radioactive weapons fragments from a crashed airplane were not permitted to recover damages from the government. Also known as the Feres-Stencel doctrine or the Feres rule.
A term commonly used to describe both the process of submitting a document to a court--for example, "I filed my small claims case today"--and to describe the physical location where these papers are kept. Traditionally, a court's case files were kept indefinitely in one or more cardboard folders. Today many files--especially those for inactive cases--are stored by computer.
A fee charged by a public official to accept a document for processing. For example, you must usually pay a filing fee to submit pleadings and other documents to the court in a civil matter, or to put a deed on file in the public records.
Printed or "canned" sets of questions that one party in a lawsuit asks an opposing party. Form interratories cover the issues commonly encountered in the kind of lawsuit at hand. For example, lawyers' formbooks have sets of interrogatories designed for contract disputes, landlord-tenant cases and many others. Form interrogatories are often supplemented by questions written by the lawyers and designed for the particular issues in the case.
Refers to the court in which a lawsuit is filed or in which a hearing or trial is conducted.
Back to Top
Acting with honesty and without deception. Your attorney can advise you as to whether or not another is acting in good faith.
Government Tort Claims
There are numerous possible negligent parties in a personal injury case. Such a case could involve individuals, corporate or other business establishments that employed negligent people, such as truck drivers taking narcotics, and also government organizations like cities, counties or states whose employees are negligent. Rules related to "claims for damages" against government entities vary and there are strict deadlines involved for the filing of such a case that a personal injury attorney must follow.
A provision in a new law that limits its application to people who are new to the system; people already in the system are exempt from the new regulation. For example, when Washington, D.C. raised its drinking age from 18 to 21, people between those ages, who could drink under the old law, were allowed to retain the right to legally consume alcohol under a grandfather clause.
Someone who creates a trust. Also called a trustor or settlor.
A person who makes a legally binding promise to either pay another person's debt or perform another person's duty if that person defaults or fails to perform. The guarantor gives a "guaranty," which is an assurance that the debt or other obligation will be fulfilled.
An adult who has been given the legal right by a court to control and care for a minor or her property. Someone who looks after a child's property is called a "guardian of the estate." An adult who has legal authority to make personal decisions for the child, including responsibility for his physical, medical and educational needs, is called a "guardian of the person." Sometimes just one person will be named to take care of all these tasks. An individual appointed by a court to look after an incapacitated adult may also be known as a guardian, but is more frequently called a conservator.
Guardian ad litem
A person, not necessarily a lawyer, who is appointed by a court to represent and protect the interests of a child or an incapacitated adult during a lawsuit. For example, a guardian ad litem (GAL) may be appointed to represent the interests of a child whose parents are locked in a contentious battle for custody, or to protect a child's interests in a lawsuit where there are allegations of child abuse. The GAL may conduct interviews and investigations, make reports to the court and participate in court hearings or mediation sessions. Sometimes called court-appointed special advocates (CASAs).
A legal relationship created by a court between a guardian and his ward--either a minor child or an incapacitated adult. The guardian has a legal right and duty to care for the ward. This may involve making personal decisions on his or her behalf, managing property or both. Guardianships of incapacitated adults are more typically called conservator ships.
Back to Top
Benefits paid under health insurance plans, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, to cover the costs of healthcare.
In the trial court context, a legal proceeding (other than a full-scale trial) held before a judge. During a hearing, evidence and arguments are presented in an effort to resolve a disputed factual or legal issue. Hearings typically, but by no means always, occur prior to trial when a party asks the judge to decide a specific issue--often on an interim basis--such as whether a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction should be issued, or temporary child custody or child support awarded. In the administrative or agency law context, a hearing is usually a proceeding before an administrative hearing officer or judge representing an agency that has the power to regulate a particular field or oversee a governmental benefit program.
A rule of evidence that prohibits the consideration of secondhand testimony at a trial. For example, if an eyewitness to an accident later tells another person what she saw, the second person's testimony would normally be excluded from a trial by the hearsay rule. The major reason for this rule is that secondhand testimony is thought to be inherently unreliable in large part because the opposing party has no ability to confront and cross-examine the person who has firsthand knowledge of the event. However, there are a great many exceptions to the hearsay rule in situations where courts have concluded that a particular type of hearsay is likely to be reliable. These exceptions include statements by an opposing party that contradict what she has said in court (called "admissions against interest"), government records, the statements of dying people, spontaneous statements (something a person blurts out when excited or startled) and statements about a person's state of mind or future intentions, to name just a few. One important feature of Alternative Dispute Resolution proceedings such as arbitration and mediation is that statements that would be barred from being introduced in court as hearsay are allowed.
A jury unable to come to a final decision, resulting in a mistrial. Judges do their best to avoid hung juries, typically sending juries back into deliberations with an assurance (sometimes known as a "dynamite charge") that they will be able to reach a decision if they try harder. If a mistrial is declared, the case is tried again unless the parties settle the case (in a civil case) or the prosecution dismisses the charges or offers a plea bargain (in a criminal case).
Back to Top
(1) To discredit. To impeach a witness' credibility, for example, is to show that the witness is not believable. A witness may be impeached by showing that he has made statements that are inconsistent with his present testimony, or that he has a reputation for not being a truthful person. (2) The process of charging a public official, such as the President or a federal judge, with a crime or misconduct and removing the official from office.
A guarantee about the quality of goods or services purchased that is not written down or explicitly spoken. Virtually everything you buy comes with two implied warranties. One for "merchantability" and one for "fitness." The implied warranty of merchantability is an assurance that a new item will work for its specified purpose. The item doesn't have to work wonderfully, and if you use it for something it wasn't designed for, say trimming shrubs with an electric carving knife, the warranty doesn't apply. The implied warranty of fitness applies when you buy an item for a specific purpose. If you notified the seller of your specific needs, the item is guaranteed to meet them. For example, if you buy new tires for your bicycle after telling the store clerk that you plan to use them for mountain cycling and the tires puncture when you pass over a small rock, the tires don't conform to the warranty of fitness.
Implied warranty of habitability
A legal doctrine that requires landlords to offer and maintain livable premises for their tenants. If a landlord fails to provide habitable housing, tenants in most states may legally withhold rent or take other measures, including hiring someone to fix the problem or moving out.
Testimony or other evidence that fails to meet state or federal court rules governing the types of evidence that can be presented to a judge or jury. The main reason why evidence is ruled inadmissible is because it falls into a category deemed so unreliable that a court should not consider it as part of a deciding a case --for example, hearsay evidence, or an expert's opinion that is not based on facts generally accepted in the field. Evidence will also be declared inadmissible if it suffers from some other defect--for example, as compared to its value, it will take too long to present or risks enflaming the jury, as might be the case with graphic pictures of a homicide victim. In addition, in criminal cases, evidence that is gathered using illegal methods is commonly ruled inadmissible. Because the rules of evidence are so complicated there is a strong trend towards using mediation or arbitration to resolve civil disputes. In mediation and arbitration, virtually all evidence can be considered. See evidence, admissible evidence.
(1) A lack of physical or mental abilities that results in a person's inability to manage his or her own personal care, property or finances. (2) A lack of ability to understand one's actions when making a will or other legal document. (3) The inability of an injured worker to perform his or her job. This may qualify the worker for disability benefits or workers' compensation.
Independent Medical Examiner
A medical professional hired by one side in a personal injury case to evaluate the bodily injury. When this examiner is hired by defense, the medical professional will look for other possible causes of any injury. Your attorney can advise you. See Adverse Medical Examination
A person or entity (such as a corporation) that must be included in a lawsuit in order for the court to render a final judgment that will be just to everyone concerned. For example, if a person sues his neighbors to force them to prune a tree that poses a danger to his house, he must name all owners of the neighboring property in the suit.
An agreement to do something or to allow something to happen made with complete knowledge of all relevant facts, such as the risks involved or any available alternatives. For example, a patient may give informed consent to medical treatment only after the healthcare professional has disclosed all possible risks involved in accepting or rejecting the treatment. A healthcare provider or facility may be held responsible for an injury caused by an undisclosed risk. In another context, a person accused of committing a crime cannot give up his constitutional rights--for example, to remain silent or to talk with an attorney--unless and until he has been informed of those rights, usually via the well-known Miranda warnings.
A deliberate act that causes harm to another, for which the victim may sue the wrongdoer for damages. Acts of domestic violence, such as assault and battery, are intentional torts (as well as crimes).
A commission you pay a bank or other creditor for lending you money or extending you credit. An interest rate represents the annual percentage that is added to your balance. This means that if your loan or credit line has an interest rate of 8%, the holder adds 8% to the balance each year. More specifically, interest is calculated and added to your loan or credit line through a process called compounding. If interest is compounded daily, the balance will rise by 1/365th of 8% each day. If interest is compounded monthly, the balance will raise 1/12th of 8% at the start of each month.
Interrogatories are a form of discovery. They take the form of written questions submitted by one of the parties to a lawsuit to one of the opposing parties. Within a certain allotted time period, the person receiving the interrogatories must answer them under the penalty of perjury. Ordinarily interrogatories ask for general information like name, address, employment history, educational background and so forth, as well as more narrowly focused questions. The more specific questions may involve prior medical history, how the injury happened, present medical expenses and the money value of other damages incurred.
There are specific time limits for answering interrogatories, as well as a certain legal format required by law. It is the job of the personal injury attorney to know these guidelines and to abide by them on behalf of his client in order to avoid fines and possible limitations on evidence a party can present during a lawsuit. It is also vital not to provide more information than is strictly required by the interrogatories. The experienced personal injury attorney will be aware of this and also will know which types of questions are permissible to ask, thus saving the client's time and protecting his or her interests.
Failure to do prompt and complete investigation of a personal injury case can have serious consequences. Experienced personal injury attorneys like those at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, P.A. work with experts and professional investigators to identify the responsible parties right away. In the case of an auto accident, for example, that takes place on a freeway exit ramp; the negligence may at first seem to be on the part of the driver who rear-ended the car ahead of him. But a more careful examination may reveal that road construction workers forgot to remove all the sawhorses they put on the off-ramp while they repaired the road the night before. They re-opened the temporarily closed off-ramp, but left the sawhorses. The lead driver may claim he hit his brakes suddenly to avoid one of these obstructions.
In such a case, the government entity employing the construction crew may be brought into the case as a negligent party. The point here is that a hurried investigation might have missed this fact. It is vital, therefore, for the personal injury attorney to thoroughly investigate all the circumstances of the case for the inclusion of all negligent parties.
Back to Top
A final court ruling resolving the key questions in a lawsuit and determining the rights and obligations of the opposing parties. For example, after a trial involving a vehicle accident, a court will issue a judgment determining which party was at fault--or most at fault--and how much money that party must pay the other. The losing party can appeal most judgments, except judgments issued by default (the defendant doesn't show up), which normally require that the defendant first promptly move to vacate (set aside) the default and reopen the case.
Judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV)
Reversal of a jury's verdict by a judge when the judge believes that there were insufficient facts on which to base the jury's verdict, or that the verdict did not correctly applies the law. This procedure is similar to a situation in which a judge orders a jury to arrive at a particular verdict, called a directed verdict. In fact, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is occasionally made when a jury refuses to follow a judge's instruction to arrive at a certain verdict. Incidentally, for those of a scholarly bent, this term has its roots in the Latin "non obstante verdicto," meaning notwithstanding the verdict.
The authority of a court to hear and decide a case. To make a legally valid decision in a case, a court must have both "subject matter jurisdiction" (power to hear the type of case in question, which is granted by the state legislatures and Congress) and "personal jurisdiction" (power to make a decision affecting the parties involved in the lawsuit, which a court gets as a result of the parties' actions). For example, a state court's subject matter jurisdiction includes the civil and criminal laws that the state legislature has passed, but does not include the right to hear patent disputes or immigration violations, which Congress has decided may only be heard in federal courts. And no court can entertain a case unless the parties agree to be there or live in the state (or federal district) where the court sits, or have enough contacts with the state or district that it's fair to make them answer to that court.
A person who serves on a jury. Lists of potential jurors are obtained from sources such as voter registration rolls and department of motor vehicles' lists. In most states, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who are called for jury duty--that is, they cannot demote or fire an employee for serving. And a few states require that the employer continue to pay the absent employee. Individuals who are selected to serve on a jury receive from the court a very small fee for their time and sometimes the cost of traveling from home to court.
A group of people selected to apply the law, as stated by the judge, to the facts of a case and render a decision, called the verdict. Traditionally, an American jury was made up of 12 people who had to arrive at a unanimous decision. But today, in many states, juries in civil cases may be composed of as few as six members and non-unanimous verdicts may be permitted. (Most states still require 12-person, unanimous verdicts for criminal trials.) Tracing its history back over 1,000 years, the jury system was brought to England by William the Conqueror in 1066. The philosophy behind the jury system is that--especially in a criminal case--an accused's guilt or innocence should be judged by a group of people from her community ("a jury of her peers"). Recently, some courts have been experimenting with increasing the traditionally rather passive role of the jury by encouraging jurors to take notes and ask questions.
Back to Top
"Lawsuit" is a term meaning a formal legal action made by one party or group (the plaintiff(s)) against another individual or group (the defendant(s)) in which the plaintiff (the injury victim) seeks compensation for damages that he/she claim were caused by the defendant (the person or company at fault). Lawsuits are officially begun with the service of a "complaint" upon the defendant(s).
A new car that gives you serious trouble soon after you buy it. To qualify for protection under state "lemon laws," the defect must be substantial--faulty brakes, for example--and must occur within a certain time or mileage period, usually 12,000 miles or one year, whichever comes first. In addition, you must give the manufacturer a few chances to fix the defect before the car will be considered a lemon for legal purposes. Once a car legally qualifies as a lemon, you usually have the option of getting a refund or a replacement vehicle, though you may have to go to arbitration or even sue to exercise this option.
Establishing a person or group's responsibility for an injury requires proof. Liability is any legal responsibility, duty or obligation. Proving a person's or group's responsibility or "liability" for, say, an automobile collision can be complex. For example, the police report at the scene of the accident may not be enough to establish liability, since, more often than not, the officer on the scene is not an expert at accident reconstruction and under Minnesota law, the report itself is not admissible in court.
If, for example, there is a collision at a busy city intersection involving several cars and a delivery truck, it may be necessary for an injured person involved in that accident to establish several types of liability. For instance, the delivery truck may have had faulty brakes causing the driver to run a red light, which, in turn, caused a "chain-reaction" collision involving the truck and three passenger cars. To add to the confusion, perhaps the truck driver was also legally intoxicated and one of the other drivers involved was distracted at the intersection because he was dialing his cell phone and, therefore, did not see the light turn red.
In such a case, it may be necessary to prove that at least two drivers plus the trucking company owning the delivery truck and employing the driver are all liable for the accident and the resulting injuries. Careful investigation of the accident and a close review of all the relevant facts of the case is the job of the personal injury attorney. His or her establishing of liability is just as vital as determining the monetary value of the injuries sustained by the accident victim client(s).
Liability insurance coverage
Compensation to third parties who are injured or whose property is damaged due to the fault of the insurance holder. You may have liability insurance for your car or your home, or to cover actions you take in the course of your profession. Liability polices are sometimes called "third-party policies."
Legally responsible. For example, a person may be liable for a debt, liable for an accident due to careless behavior, liable for failing do something required by a contract or liable for the commission of a crime. Someone who is found liable for an act or omission must usually pay damages or, if the act was a criminal one, face punishment. See also liability.
An untruthful statement about a person, published in writing or through broadcast media that injures the person's reputation or standing in the community. Because libel is a tort (a civil wrong), the injured person can bring a lawsuit against the person who made the false statement. Libel is a form of defamation, as is slander (an untruthful statement that is spoken, but not published in writing or broadcast through the media).
The right of a secured creditor to obtain a specific item of property if you don't pay a debt. Liens you agree to are called security interests, and include mortgages, home equity loans, car loans and personal loans for which you pledge property to guarantee repayment. Liens created without your consent are called nonconsensual liens, and include judgment liens (liens filed by a creditor who has sued you and obtained a judgment), tax liens and mechanics liens (liens filed by a contractor who worked on your house but wasn't paid).
“Litigant” is a party to a lawsuit.
The process of bringing and pursuing (litigating) a lawsuit.
Loss damage waiver (LDW)
Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. This insurance is an often unnecessary, as it often duplicates coverage provided by the renter's regular car insurance and/or the credit card she uses to rent the car. Nevertheless, hard-sell practices by rental car agents often dupe people into buying LDWs they don't really need. LDW is also called "collision damage waiver."
Loss of Consortium
If a person is injured in an accident, their spouse may also have a valid claim for "loss of consortium." This term relates to several possible consequences of injury. For example, loss of consortium may include: the spouse's inability to care for the home, family or children because of the injury, and also the burden that is put on the marriage by the injuries sustained by one of the marriage partners. This is a valid element of damages that should not be overlooked.
Back to Top
The delivery of substandard care or services by a lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant or other professional. Generally, malpractice occurs when a professional fails to provide the quality of care that should reasonably be expected in the circumstances, with the result that her patient or client is harmed. In the area of legal malpractice, you need to prove two things to show that you were harmed: first, that your lawyer made a negligent error, and second, that if the lawyer had handled the work properly, you would have won your original case.
Required, compulsory or obligatory.
This is the part of the settlement process wherein a neutral third party, generally an experienced personal injury lawyer or retired judge, meets with both sides to the case or claim to attempt to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. The mediator has no power to decide any of the issues in the case, but instead uses techniques of persuasion to try to arrive at a settlement figure that is acceptable to both sides.
Mediations are typically successful, with over 80% of cases submitted to mediation settling at the mediation or shortly thereafter. Normally, each party to the mediation pays their share of the mediator's fee.
Medical malpractice is the failure of a professional to follow the accepted standards of practice of his/her profession. When a person is injured due to the negligence of a health care professional, like a doctor or a surgeon, the injured person may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the negligent person and his/her employer (such as a hospital or clinic).
Medical malpractice cases are a specialty for personal injury attorneys, since this type of claim involves additional rules and requirements significantly different from other kinds of personal injury claims.
An automobile insurance policy option, which pays all, or part, of medical costs due to vehicle injury.
Medical Records, Records Release and Histories
Medical records and their release are essential to personal injury cases. In any lawsuit or insurance claim for injuries suffered, the injured person's medical records are usually the most important element of documentary evidence. Several vital pieces of evidence are contained within medical records, such as: what specific injuries were sustained as reflected in the "treating physician(s)'" diagnoses, prognoses and prescribed treatments. This establishes the long-term expectations for either recovery from the injuries sustained or for permanent disability. These records will also include the kinds and costs of medical treatment that the injured person has and will receive.
In personal injury cases, opposing insurance companies or parties to a lawsuit will be interested in obtaining such medical records. It is highly important to know which of an injured person's medical records are accessible to the opposing side and which are irrelevant and protected by the patient-physician privilege.
A federal government programs that assists older and some disabled people in paying their medical costs. The program is divided into two parts. Part A is called hospital insurance and covers most of the costs of a stay in the hospital, as well as some follow-up costs after time in the hospital. Part B, medical insurance, pays some of the cost of doctors and outpatient medical care.
An informal written document. A memorandum may be used in any number of circumstances, but most lawyers are best acquainted with the interoffice memorandum--a document prepared by a junior associate in a law office or a judge's law clerk outlining the facts, procedural elements and legal arguments involved in a particular legal matter. These memos are reviewed by senior lawyers and judges who use them to decide how to proceed with the case.
Any written record, including a letter or note that proves that a contract exists between two parties. This type of memo may be enough to validate an oral (spoken) contract that would otherwise be unenforceable because of the statute of frauds. (Under the statute of frauds, an oral contract is invalid if it can't be completed within one year from the date the contract is made.)
A single, very brief paragraph setting out a court's decision in a case. A memorandum decision does not usually include the court's reasons for reaching its result; those details may appear later in a comprehensive written opinion.
A requirement that must be satisfied before a defendant can be sued in a particular state. In order for the suit to go forward in the chosen state, the defendant must have some connections with that state. For example, advertising or having business offices within a state may provide minimum contacts between a company and the state.
In most states, any person under 18 years of age. All minors must be under the care of a competent adult (parent or guardian) unless they are "emancipated"--in the military, married or living independently with court permission. An adult must handle property left to a minor until the minor becomes an adult under the laws of the state where he or she lives. However, persons under the age of 21 are sometimes referred to as "minors" because they are not of legal drinking age in the State of Minnesota.
A trial that ends prematurely and without a judgment, due either to a mistake that jeopardizes a party's right to a fair trial or to a jury that can't agree on a verdict (a hung jury) If a judge declares a mistrial in a civil case, he or she will direct that the case be set for a new trial at a future date. Mistrials in criminal cases can result in a retrial, a plea bargain or a dismissal of the charges.
During a lawsuit, a request to the judge for a decision--called an order or ruling--to resolve procedural or other issues that come up during litigation. For example, after receiving hundreds of irrelevant interrogatories, a party might file a motion asking that the other side be ordered to stop engaging in unduly burdensome discovery. A motion can be made before, during or after trial. Typically, one party submits a written motion to the court, at which point the other party has the opportunity to file a written response. The court then often schedules a hearing at which each side delivers a short oral argument. The court then approves or denies the motion. Most motions cannot be appealed until the case is over.
Motion for summary judgment
A request submitted to the court before trial in an attempt to exclude evidence from the proceedings. A party usually makes a motion in limine when simply the mention of the evidence would prejudice the jury against that party, even if the judge later instructed the jury to disregard the evidence. For example, if a defendant in a criminal trial were questioned and confessed to the crime without having been read his Miranda rights, his lawyer would file a motion in limine to keep evidence of the confession out of the trial.
Back to Top
Failure to use care which a reasonable and prudent person would use under similar circumstances. Your attorney can advise you as to whether or not another party has acted in a negligent manner in a particular instance.
“Negotiation” is a process in which disputants communicate their differences to one another through conference, discussion, and compromise in an attempt to resolve them.
Next of kin
The closest relatives, as defined by state law, of a deceased person. Most states recognize the spouse and the nearest blood relatives as next of kin.
Car insurance laws that require the insurance companies of each person in an accident to pay for medical bills and lost wages of their insured, up to a certain amount, regardless of who was at fault. The effect of no-fault insurance laws is to eliminate lawsuits in small accidents. The advantage is the prompt payment of medical bills and expenses. The downsides are that the amounts paid by no-fault policies are often not enough to fully cover a person's losses and that no-fault does not compensate for pain and suffering.
In order to bring a claim for pain and suffering damages arising out of an automobile collision in the State of Minnesota, the injured person must meet a "no-fault threshold" unless at least one of the thresholds is met, the person is prevented from bringing any claim for their pain and suffering, although they may always be compensated for their out-of-pocket expenses for lost wages, medical bills, mileage, and property damage, whether or not they met a no-fault threshold.
The five no-fault thresholds in Minnesota are: Death, Permanent disfigurement,Medical bills in excess of $4,000(excluding x-rays), 60 days of disability(disability being defined as inability to engage in substantially all of a person's normal activities), Permanent injury(permanent injury being defined as an injury, which may improve or worsen, but is reasonably certain to persist to some extent throughout a persons' life).
Certification by a notary public to establish the authenticity of a signature on a legal document. Many legal documents, such as deeds and powers of attorney, are commonly notarized.
A licensed public officer, who administers oaths, certifies documents and performs other specified functions. A notary public's signature and seal is required to authenticate the signatures on many legal documents.
Something that interferes with the use of property by being irritating, offensive, obstructive or dangerous. Nuisances include a wide range of conditions, everything from a chemical plant's noxious odors to a neighbor's dog barking. The former would be a "public nuisance," one affecting many people, while the other would be a "private nuisance," limited to making your life difficult, unless the dog was bothering others. Lawsuits may be brought to abate (remove or reduce) a nuisance.
Back to Top
An attestation that one will tell the truth, or a promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling upon God as a witness. The best-known oath is probably the witness’ pledge “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” during a legal proceeding. In another context, a public official usually takes an “oath of office” before assuming her position, in which she declares that she will faithfully perform her duties.
The process by which one party takes exception to some statement or procedure. An objection is either sustained (allowed) or overruled by the judge. Your attorney will take care of all objections at your deposition.
Occupation Rehabilitation/Vocational Expert
Sometimes in injury cases the injured person is permanently, or for a lengthy period disabled from returning to their normal occupation or part of the job duties of that occupation. Occupational or vocational rehabilitation specialists can be of great assistance to such injured parties, who are forced to either significantly change their work duties or perhaps to seek a completely new line of employment. These occupational experts can help an injured person find a vocation that suits their physical abilities as well as their experience and expertise. These rehabilitation specialists also know the types and costs of relevant job re-training programs.
Personal injury lawyers frequently employ occupational and vocational rehabilitation experts. As expert witnesses, they can estimate the costs of retraining a permanently injured person and are also able to estimate the person's long-range prospects for employment. These considerations are often a major part of the monetary damages in a personal injury case.
“Occupational injury” is any such injury as a cut, fracture, sprain, amputation, etc., which results from a work accident or from a single instantaneous exposure in the work environment.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
The primary federal law establishing safety standards in the workplace. Generally, OSHA requires employers to provide a safe workplace by informing employees about potential hazards, training them to deal with hazards and recording workplace injuries.
A proposal to enter into an agreement with another person. An offer must express the intent of the person making the offer to form a contract, must contain some essential terms--including the price and subject matter of the contract--and must be communicated by the person making the offer. A legally valid acceptance of the offer will create a binding contract.
Offer of proof
At trial, a party’s explanation to a judge as to how a proposed line of questioning, or a certain item of physical evidence, would be relevant to its case and admissible under the rules of evidence. Offers of proof arise when a party begins a line of questioning that the other side objects to as calling for irrelevant or inadmissible information. If the judge thinks that the questions might lead to proper evidence, the judge will stop the trial, ask the parties to “approach the bench,” and give the questioner a chance to show how, if allowed, the expected answers will be both relevant and admissible. This explanation is usually presented out of the jury’s hearing, but it does become part of the trial record. If the matter is later heard on appeal, the appellate court would use the record to decide whether the judge’s ruling was correct.
A statement made by an attorney or self-represented party at the beginning of a trial before evidence is introduced. The opening statement outlines the party's legal position and previews the evidence that will be introduced later. The purpose of an opening statement is to familiarize the jury with what it will hear--and why it will hear it--not to present an argument as to why the speaker's side should win; that comes after all evidence is presented as part of the closing argument.
A decision issued by a court. It can be a simple command--for example, ordering a recalcitrant witness to answer a proper question--or it can be a complicated and reasoned decision made after a hearing, directing that a party either do or refrain from some act. For example, following a hearing, the court may order that evidence gathered by the police not be introduced at trial; or a judge may issue a temporary restraining order. This term usually does not describe the final decision in a case, which most often is called a judgment.
Back to Top
Pain and suffering
Physical or emotional distress resulting from an injury.
People who do legal work but who are not licensed to practice law or dispense legal advice. Independent paralegals (those who work directly with the public, not for lawyers) assist their customers by providing forms, helping people fill them out correctly and filing them with the proper court.
A person, corporation or other legal entity that files a lawsuit (the plaintiff or petitioner) or defends against one (the defendant or respondent).
Any person involved in a motor-vehicle accident that is not in or upon a motor vehicle or nonmotor vehicle. Includes persons injured while using a coaster wagon, child's tricycle, roller skates, etc. Excludes persons boarding, alighting, jumping or falling from a motor vehicle in transport who are considered occupants of the vehicle.
Latin for "while the action is pending." This phrase is used to describe matters that are contingent upon the outcome of a lawsuit. For example, the defendant with the court pendente lite may deposit money in order to compensate the plaintiff if the defendant loses the case. If the defendant wins, she gets her money back.
During jury selection, an opportunity for a party to a lawsuit to dismiss or excuse a potential juror without having to give a valid reason, as would be the case when a juror is challenged for cause. Depending on court rules, each party typically gets to make from five to 15 peremptory challenges. Although parties may generally use their peremptory challenges as they see fit, the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to prohibit their use to eliminate all jurors of a particular race or gender from a jury.
Permanent disability (or permanent impairment) includes any degree of permanent nonfatal injury. It includes any injury that results in the loss, or complete loss of use, of any part of the body, or any permanent impairment of functions of the body or a part thereof.
An injury not to property, but to your body, mind or emotions. For example, if you slip and fall on a banana peel in the grocery store, personal injury covers any actual physical harm (broken leg and bruises) you suffered in the fall as well as the humiliation of falling in public, but not the harm of shattering your watch.
Personal injury recovery
The amount that comes from a lawsuit or insurance settlement to compensate someone for physical and mental suffering, including injury to body, injury to reputation or both.
All property other than land and buildings attached to land. Cars, bank accounts, wages, securities, a small business, furniture, insurance policies, jewelry, patents, pets and season baseball tickets are all examples of personal property. Personal property may also be called personal effects, movable property, goods and chattel, and personality.
A formal written request made to a court, asking for an order or ruling on a particular matter. For example, if you want to be appointed conservator for an elderly relative, you must file a petition with a court. See also complaint.
A person who initiates a lawsuit. A synonym for plaintiff used almost universally in some states and in others for certain types of lawsuits, most commonly divorce and other family law cases.
The inability of a person to engage in some physical activity.
This "privilege" refers to a special degree of confidentiality under the law enjoyed by a physician and his/her patients regarding the patients' medical records, as well as any communications between doctor and patient. However, when an injured person commences a personal injury lawsuit to recover for their damages, this confidentiality, to a certain extent, is waived.
Piercing the veil
A judicial doctrine that allows a plaintiff to hold otherwise immune corporate officers and directors personally liable for damages caused by a corporation under their control. The veil is pierced when officers have acted intentionally and illegally, or when their actions exceeded the power given them by the company's articles of incorporation.
Plaintiffs (and Defendants)
In personal injury cases, the "plaintiffs" are the person or persons who sustained injury and are seeking recovery for damages by filing the lawsuit. (If this person(s) sought recovery prior to the lawsuit via an insurance claim, he/she would have been called the "claimant.") Conversely, the person(s) named as responsible for the injury in the lawsuit is know as the "defendants."
A defendant can be an individual corporation, or government entity. For instance, if an automatic railroad track barrier was not operating properly and caused a car-train collision, both the railroad and the local government could be liable. This is very important because all potential defendants must be brought into a lawsuit within certain time limits called statutes of limitations. If they are not, the person injured may permanently lose their right to recover damages from those parties not named.
A statement of the plaintiff's case or the defendant's defense, set out in generally accepted legal language and format.
Power of attorney
A document that gives another person legal authority to act on your behalf. If you create such a document, you are called the principal and the person to whom you give this authority is called your attorney-in-fact. A power of attorney may be "general," which gives your attorney-in-fact extensive powers over your affairs. Or it may be "limited" or "special," giving your attorney-in-fact permission to handle a specifically defined task. If you make a durable power of attorney, the document will continue in effect even if you become incapacitated.
Prayer for relief
What the plaintiff asks of the court -- for example, the plaintiff may ask for an award of monetary damages, an injunction to make the defendant stop a certain activity, or both.
A legal principle or rule created by one or more decisions of a state or federal appellate court. These rules provide a point of reference or authority for judges deciding similar issues in later cases. Lower courts must apply these rules when faced with similar legal issues. For example, if the Minnesota Supreme Court decides that a certain type of employment contract overly restricts the right of the employee to quit and get another job, all other Montana courts must apply this same rule.
Latin for "on its face." A prima facie case is one that at first glance presents sufficient evidence for the plaintiff to win. Such a case must be refuted in some way by the defendant for him to have a chance of prevailing at trial. For example, if you can show that someone intentionally touched you in a harmful or offensive way and caused some injury to you, you have established a prima facie case of battery. However, this does not mean that you automatically win your case. The defendant would win if he could show that you consented to the harmful or offensive touching.
A conversation that takes places within the context of a protected relationship. Most communications with your attorney are privileged and cannot be disclosed.
Pro hac vice
Latin meaning "for this one particular occasion." The phrase usually refers to an out-of-state lawyer who has been granted special permission to participate in a particular case, even though the lawyer is not licensed to practice in the state where the case is being tried.
A term derived from the Latin in propria, meaning, "for one's self," used in some states to describe a person who handles her own case without a lawyer. In other states, the term pro se is used. When a nonlawyer files his own legal papers, he is expected to write "in pro per" at the bottom of the heading on the first page.
A Latin phrase meaning "for himself" or "in one's own behalf." This term denotes a person who represents herself in court. It is used in some states in place of "in pro per" and has the same meaning.
The court process following a person's death that includes proving the authenticity of the deceased person's will appointing someone to handle the deceased person's affairs identifying and inventorying the deceased person's property paying debts and taxes identifying heirs, and distributing the deceased person's property according to the will or, if there is no will, according to state law. Formal court-supervised probate is a costly, time-consuming process, which is best avoided if possible.
A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers only cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' estate. Called "surrogate court" in New York and several other states, this court normally examines the authenticity of a will -- or if a person dies intestate, figures out who receives her property under state law. It then oversees a procedure to pay the deceased person's debts and to distribute her assets to the proper inheritors.
Proceeds for damaged exempt property
In a bankruptcy proceeding, money collected through insurance, arbitration, mediation, settlement or a lawsuit to pay for exempt property that's no longer exemptible because it has been damaged or destroyed.
Some injuries occur as the result of a defective product. An example of this might be the case of an automobile that bursts into flames when hit from behind by another car because of design problems in that particular make of car. A person injured in this kind of a case may have a product liability claim against persons and corporations such as the manufacturer of the product as well as any and all retailers and wholesalers of the product during its progress from the manufacturer to the purchaser.
Here it is vital to identify all potential defendants as soon as possible. It may also be important to research the history of the defective product to determine if it was involved in past product liability cases. Personal injury attorneys with access to product liability databases, etc. can find a vast amount of information that can help expedite new cases of this kind to a successful end.
Property control trust
Any trust that imposes limits or controls over the rights of trust beneficiaries. These trusts include (1) special needs trusts designed to assist people who have special physical, emotional or other requirements, (2) spendthrift trusts designed to prevent a beneficiary from wasting the trust principal; and (3) sprinkling trusts that allow the trustee to decide how to distribute trust income or principal among the beneficiaries.
Personal injury claimants, besides physical injury, can also seek compensation for damage done to their property in the course of the injury. For example, in an auto wreck, there can be damage to the person's vehicle, costs incurred for rental vehicles and sometimes damage to property that was in the car at the time of the crash, such as furniture, electronic equipment, etc.
Generally, property damage can be recovered through a client's own insurance company, which is usually quicker and easier. Or there is also the more difficult course of trying to recover the damages from the negligent driver's insurance company - or to at least recover the deductible amount from one's own insurance policy from the negligent driver or from his/her insurance firm.
It is wise in the case of property damage to one's car, to get at least two repair shop estimates. Doing this research thoroughly, will give a much clearer picture of value of your car and the cost of repairing it. It also places you in a much better position to successfully settle your property damage claim.
Someone appointed by a probate court to oversee probate proceedings when a person dies without a will or heirs, and his or her property is expected to pass to the state. Some states have public administrators who are responsible for temporarily preserving the assets of an estate if there are disputes about specific provisions in the will or about who will be appointed the regular administrator.
Sometimes called exemplary damages, awarded over and above special and general damages to punish a losing party's willful or malicious misconduct.
Back to Top
A situation in which a judge or prosecutor is removed or steps down from a case. This often happens when the judge or prosecutor has a conflict of interest -- for example, a prior relationship with one of the parties.
The act of changing a written contract when one of the parties can prove that the actual agreement was different than what's written down. A court may reform a contract when both parties overlooked a mistake in the document, or when one party has deceived the other.
Request for admission
A discovery procedure authorized by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the court rules of many states, in which one party asks an opposing party to admit that certain facts are true. If the opponent admits the facts or fails to respond in a timely manner, the facts will be deemed true for purposes of trial. A request for admission is called a "request to admit" in many states.
Res ipsa loquitur
A Latin term meaning "the thing speaks for itself." Res ipsa loquitur is a legal doctrine or rule of evidence that creates a presumption that a defendant acted negligently simply because a harmful accident occurred. The presumption arises only if (1) the thing that caused the accident was under the defendant's control, (2) the accident could happen only as a result of a careless act and, (3) the plaintiff's behavior did not contribute to the accident. Lawyers often refer to this doctrine as "res ips" or "res ipsa."
Latin for "a new thing," used by courts to describe an issue of law or case that has not previously been decided.
A term used instead of defendant or appellee in some states -- especially for divorce and other family law cases -- to identify the party who is sued and must respond to the petitioner's complaint.
A fee paid in advance to a lawyer to secure her services. It acts as a down payment, ensuring that the lawyer won't get stiffed and that the client will be represented.
Any decision a judge makes during the course of a lawsuit.
Back to Top
Secret warranty program
A program under which a car manufacturer will make repairs for free on vehicles with persistent problems, even after the warranty has expired, in order to avoid a recall and the accompanying bad press. The manufacturer rarely advertises secret warranties, so consumers must pursue the manufacturer to discover and take advantage of them. A few states require manufacturers to notify car buyers when they adopt secret warranty programs.
A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a counterclaim filed by a defendant in a lawsuit. Banks may try to exercise a setoff by taking money out of a deposit account to satisfy past due payments on a loan or credit card bill. Such an act is illegal under most circumstances.
This term refers to the final solution or resolution of a claim or lawsuit, which can come at any stage before a jury verdict or a binding arbitration award. In other words, the parties involved have decided to "settle" the case by reaching a mutually agreeable value for the settlement. This is accomplished completely at the discretion of the parties involved. But once those parties enter into a settlement, it becomes binding upon all of them.
A letter or semi-formal document from one party to another in a lawsuit suggesting an agreement in completion of the suit. When you have completed your injury recovery, your attorney will prepare a settlement demand.
Small claims court
A state court that resolves disputes involving relatively small amounts of money -- usually between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on the state. Adversaries usually appear without lawyers -- in fact, some states forbid lawyers in small claims court -- and recount their side of the dispute in plain English. Evidence, including the testimony of eye witnesses and expert witnesses, is relatively easy to present because small claims courts do not follow the formal rules of evidence that govern regular trial cases. A small claims judgment has the same force as does the judgment of any other state court, meaning that if the loser -- now called the "judgment debtor" -- fails to pay the judgment voluntarily, it can be collected using normal collection techniques, such as property liens and wage garnishments.
(1) In the law of wills and estates, a person appointed by the court to take charge of only a designated portion of an estate during probate. For example, a special administrator with particular expertise on art might be appointed to oversee the probate of a wealthy person's art collection, but not the entire estate. (2) A person appointed to be responsible for a deceased person's property for a limited time or during an emergency, such as a challenge to the will or to the qualifications of the named executor. In such cases, the special administrator's duty is to maintain and preserve the estate, not necessarily to take control of the probate process.
Damages that cover the winning party's out-of-pocket costs. For example, in a vehicle accident, special damages typically include medical expenses, car repair costs, rental car fees and lost wages. Often called "specials."
See Special Damages.
Statute of Limitations
This is a legally determined time limit within which the injury victim must bring a case against the responsible parties. If a case is not begun within the statute of limitations, it is forever barred. Similar cases can have different statutes of limitations, which apply to different defendants. For example, in Minnesota, a lawsuit arising out of an automobile collision simply caused by the negligence of one of the drivers must be started within six years of the date of the collision. Serving it upon the responsible person or persons, called the defendant, starts a lawsuit. However, if the responsible person was a drunk driver, and their drunkenness was contributed to by an illegal sale of alcoholic beverages (called a "dram shop" claim), the bar must be given notice shortly after the collision, and the lawsuit against the bar must be started within two years. Similarly, if the automobile collision involved a defect in one of the vehicles, which would give rise to a products liability claim, the seller, distributor and manufacturer of the defective vehicle must be given notice shortly after the collision, and a lawsuit must be started within four years in the State of Minnesota.
Different statutes of limitations apply to medical malpractice cases (presently four years in the State of Minnesota unless a death is involved, in which case it is 3 years), in claims arising out of improvements to real property, such as buildings or elevators (two years). Obviously, bringing a claim within the applicable statute of limitations is vitally important. Early consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer is critically important to preserving an injured person's legal rights.
This is an order compelling a person to testify or to produce documents. In lawsuits, both plaintiffs and defendants can automatically require each other to respond to certain kinds of discovery or appear at various kinds of hearings.
Subpoenas must be served (by a process server) to various other people who are not actually parties to the case, but who have information relevant to the case. In this category may be, for instance: independent eyewitnesses, treating physicians, police officers (who may have prepared a traffic collision report) and others. Subpoenas are used to compel these types of persons to appear at depositions, arbitrations or trial and also to produce copies of written documentation they may have.
Instrument used to commence a civil action or special proceeding; the means of acquiring jurisdiction over a party. Your attorney will prepare the Summons to accompany the Complaint when your case is filed with the Court.
Back to Top
To provide oral evidence under oath at a trial or at a deposition.
An injury to one person for which the person who caused the injury is legally responsible. A tort can be intentional -- for example, an angry punch in the nose -- but is far more likely to result from carelessness (called "negligence"), such as riding your bicycle on the sidewalk and colliding with a pedestrian. While the injury that forms the basis of a tort is usually physical, this is not a requirement -- libel, slander and the "intentional infliction of mental distress" are on a good-sized list of torts not based on a physical injury.
The causing of harm by disrupting something that belongs to someone else -- for example, interfering with a contractual relationship so that one party fails to deliver goods on time.
A personal injury caused by exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos or hazardous waste. Victims can sue for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Traffic Collision Report
local police or the highway patrol at the scene of the traffic accident will usually do this report. It will summarize the statements of any witnesses to the collision; statements of any people actually involved in the collision and will relate numerous relevant facts concerning the people, streets, vehicles, weather conditions and other factors involved.
Personal injury attorneys closely examine the Traffic Collision Report to determine what facts are relevant. They may also have an investigator contact the listed witnesses. They then compare the location and the details of the accident scene with the material and facts in the report.
Since few police officers have much training in accident reconstruction or in what constitutes liability in a personal injury case, their traffic collision report is frequently just the beginning of determining liability in an auto-related case of this kind.
The doctor or other medical professional who cared for a patient during a specific time. It is very important to let you physician know everything that is bothering you following an accident.
Lawyerspeak for triple damages: To penalize lawbreakers, statutes occasionally give judges the power to award the winning party in a civil lawsuit the amount it lost as a result of the other party's illegal conduct, plus damages of three times that amount
If the opposing sides in a lawsuit cannot settle, the case goes to trial. In that instance, the case may already have passed through the settlement demand period, filing of the lawsuit, discovery, arbitration, mediation. Trial is the concluding stage of the court process ending in a jury verdict.
Being represented by a well-prepared personal injury attorney at trial has many advantages. Such an attorney must be completely aware of both the rules of the state and of the local court that apply to such factors as trial scheduling, jury selection, introduction of evidence, questioning of witnesses, requests for jury instructions, etc. in order to represent his or her client well.
Back to Top
A legal doctrine that prevents a plaintiff who has acted unethically in relation to a lawsuit from winning the suit or from recovering as much money as she would have if she had behaved honorably. For example, if a contractor were suing a homeowner to recover the price of work he did on the home, his failure to perform the work as specified would leave him with unclean hands.
Another term for an insurer, one who assumes the risk of another's loss and compensates for the loss under the terms of an insurance policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage
The portion of car insurance that compensates you for any injuries resulting from an accident with an uninsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver. Damage to your vehicle in such a situation is compensated by the collision coverage portion of your car insurance.
United States Attorney
The prosecutor in charge of enforcing the federal criminal laws of the United States. The U.S. Attorney can also enforce selected federal civil statutes, such as the Civil Rights Act. The President appoints U.S. Attorneys and the job is considered a political plum. Typical cases brought by the U.S. Attorney and Assistant U.S. Attorneys are immigration violations, drug importation, and securities fraud and bank robberies. Any offense committed on federal property (such as a military base or national park) may be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney.
A legal doctrine stating that if a person receives money or other property through no effort of his own, at the expense of another, the recipient should return the property to the rightful owner, even if the property was not obtained illegally. Most courts will order that the property be returned if the party who has suffered the loss brings a lawsuit.
Back to Top
People who are summoned to the courthouse so that they may be questioned and perhaps chosen as jurors in trials of civil or criminal cases.
State laws or court rules that establish the proper court to hear a case, often based on the convenience of the defendant. Because state courts have jurisdiction to hear cases from a wide geographical area (for example, Minnesota courts have jurisdiction involving most disputes arising between Minnesota residents), additional rules, called rules of venue, have been developed to ensure that the defendant is not needlessly inconvenienced. For example, the correct venue for one Minnesotan to sue another is usually limited to the court in the judicial district where the defendant lives, an accident occurred or a contract was signed or to be carried out. Practically, venue rules mean that a defendant can't usually be sued far from where he lives or does business, if no key events happened at that location. Venue for a criminal case is normally the judicial district where the crime was committed.
A legal relationship in corporate law that exists between companies in the chain of distribution of a product. This relationship creates responsibilities between the companies involved, including being liable for defects in the product.
When one person is liable for the negligent actions of another person, even though that first person was not directly responsible for the injury, as when, or when an employer is held liable for the acts of a worker. Your attorney will work to find all possible defendants to be sure you properly recover on your personal injury case.
Volenti non fit injuria
Latin for "to a willing person, no injury is done." This doctrine holds that a person who knowingly and willingly puts himself in a dangerous situation cannot sue for any resulting injuries.
Back to Top
A harmful act that is committed in an intentional and conscious way. For example, if your neighbor builds an ugly new fence and you intentionally run it down with your truck, that's a willful tort. But accidentally backing into the fence as you pull out of your driveway is not willful, though it's still a tort.
A declaration that dismisses all rights. A judgment barring the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause. The majority of personal injury cases are dismissed with prejudice.
A declaration that no rights or privileges of the party concerned are waived or lost. In a dismissal these words maintain the right to bring a subsequent suit on the same claim. Your attorney will know when you are able to dismiss a case without prejudice.
In personal injury cases, there are both lay witnesses and expert witnesses. Expert witnesses, for example, can be engineers, doctors or other kinds of professionals who are qualified because of their training and expertise to provide evidence during a case in the form of "expert opinions" related to the facts of that case.
Ordinary witnesses play a different role, but can also be critically important to concluding a personal injury case successfully. Witnesses who are not affiliated with either the plaintiffs or the defendants are frequently seen as neutral parties and, therefore, their apparently unbiased statements can be of considerable importance to the case.
There is a certain science to interviewing neutral witnesses. Experienced personal injury attorneys have one of their staff or an investigator interviews any and all such witnesses. This, however, has to be done judiciously so as not to create the appearance of biasing the witness. It is also important to know when to commit such witnesses' statements to a written and signed form and when not to do this, since the opposing party may acquire such written statements during discovery.
Legal jargon meaning, "to take notice of," used in phrases such as "On this day I do hereby witnesseth the signing of this document."
A program that provides replacement income and medical expenses to employees who are injured or become ill due to their jobs. Financial benefits may also extend to workers' dependents and to the survivors of workers who are killed on the job. In most circumstances, workers' compensation pays relatively modest amounts and prevents the worker or dependents from suing the employer for the injuries or death.
"Wrongful death" relates to a person dying due to the negligence of another party, resulting in a wrongful death claim. Generally speaking, the rules for both wrongful death insurance claims and wrongful death lawsuits are the same as for claims and lawsuits related to non-fatal injuries. There are, nonetheless, at least two considerations in wrongful death cases that are different. In Minnesota, a wrongful death claim is brought by a trustee or co-trustee designated by the court to bring the claim for all of the eligible members of the deceased person's family. In addition, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Minnesota is three years, instead of six years applicable to an ordinary negligence claim (see Wrongful Death).
Wrongful death recoveries
After a wrongful death lawsuit, the portion of a judgment intended to compensate a plaintiff for having to live without a deceased person. The compensation is intended to cover the earnings and the emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided. See Wrongful Death
Back to Top