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Glossary Of Legal Terms

Glossary of Legal Terms

A glossary of legal terms from the personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Lewis & Williams:



Admission - A statement of a party involved in a claim, admitting all or some part of the other party's claims is called admission

Admissible evidence - Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Advisement – The process by which a judge takes time to consider, deliberate and/or consult on a matter prior to ruling.


Affidavit - A voluntary sworn statement of fact made before an authorized officer of the court


Affirm - A ruling of an appellate court confirming a decision or order of a lower court.


Agent - A person authorized to act for and under the direction of another person when dealing with third parties.


Alternative Dispute Resolution - A means of settling a legal dispute short of going to court. Examples include mediation and arbitration.


Alternate Juror - A juror selected as a substitute in case another juror must leave the jury panel.


Amend – Improve, correct or change a complaint or other pleading.


Anesthesia - The loss of feeling due to the administration of an anesthetic drug. Anesthesia is administered prior to certain tests and surgeries to assist the doctor with intubation and to assure the patient does not move. Anesthesia helps the patient to not feel pain and not remember the procedure.


Anoxic Brain Injury (Anoxia) - An injury to the brain that occurs due to a lack of oxygen supply to the brain.


Answer - A defendant's written response to a plaintiff's initial court filing (called a complaint or petition). 


Appeal - A means of asking a higher court to review and reverse a lower court’s decision


Appearance - The act of coming into court as a party to a suit either in person or through an attorney.


Appeal - A proceeding brought to a higher court to review a lower court decision.


Appellate court - A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court's procedure.


Arbitration - A means of resolving a conflict between two parties by both sides agreeing to an impartial party who will render a decision based on evidence presented


At Issue – Matters are “at issue” when the complaining party has stated his/her claim, the other side has responded with a denial, and the matter is ready to be tried.


Bad Faith - When a person or party knowingly plans to deceive the other person or party by not fulfilling their responsibilities


Bench - The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.


Bench Trial - Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts as well as the law.


Best evidence - Primary evidence; the best evidence available. Evidence short of this is "secondary." For example, an original letter is the"best evidence," and a photocopy is "secondary evidence."


Bifurcated Trial - A trial that is divided into stages: one stage to establish guilt or liability, and the other stage to establish damages or punishment.


Birth Injury - Any kind of damage to an infant’s body before, during or directly after birth. Examples include Erb’s Palsy, Anoxia, Hypoxia, Cerebral Palsy and shoulder dystocia.


Breach - The act of violating a legal obligation or a failure to do a duty.


Brief - A document written by an attorney that summarizes the critical facts and arguments of the client’s case


Burden of Proof - The duty placed on a party to prove his/her claim(s) against another party is true


Capacity - Having legal authority or mental ability. Being of sound mind. 


Caption - Heading or introductory party of a pleading.


Case law -Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court.


Catastrophic Injury - A life-impacting injury (significant permanent injury including traumatic brain injury, paralysis, quadriplegia, etc.)


Cause of Action - A set of facts, which may entitle a person with a right to sue another person.


Caveat - A warning; a note of caution.

Challenge - Term used in a jury trial for an attemp to exclude a potential juror.

Chambers - A judge’s private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge’s office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

Charge to the jury -The judge's instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.

Civil Law - Rights of a private citizen as set forth in a written body of law used as a means of resolving non-criminal disputes. Typically a civil case involves individuals and/or companies fighting over money or contractual obligations.


Civil Procedure -The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.


Claim - A demand for payment that is believed to be owed or due.


Claimant - The person or party making the demand for payment due.


Class Action - A lawsuit brought forth by a person or persons on behalf of a group who have the same claim.


Closing Argument - A summary of evidence presented to the jury at trial by the attorneys.


Commercial Vehicle - Any vehicle registered to a company that is used for transporting goods or passengers.


Comparative Negligence - A legal means of determining fault and damages based on the degree of responsibility of each involved party.


Compensatory Damages - The money awarded by the court to an injured party to make up for their loss or injuries.


Complaint - [Civil] The initial paperwork filed in a civil action that states the claim for which relief is sought; in the complaint the plaintiff states the wrongs allegedly committed by the defendant.


Consolidation - Joinder of two or more separately filed criminal or civil complaints, so that the charges may be tried together.


Contingency Fee - A financial arrangement between a lawyer and client where the client pays no fee up front but agrees to pay the lawyer a percentage of the money recovered in a successful case.


Continuance - To continue a matter, hearing, or trial to another time. 


Contract - A legally enforceable agreement between two or more persons or parties.


Costs - Fees required in the course of a law suit, beginning with the docketing or filing fee, and may include service fees, witness fees, publication fees, etc. Does not include attorney fees.


Counsel -A legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.


Counter Claim - A claim brought by the defendant against the plaintiff in a lawsuit.


Court reporter - A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings, a deposition, or other trial-related proceeding.


Cross-examination - The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.


Damages - Financial compensation as the result of a claim for loss or injury.


Decision - The opinion of the court in concluding a case at law.


Default Judgment - A decision by the court in favor of the plaintiff resulting from the defendant not appearing in court to answer a complaint or a petition.


Defendant - In a civil case, the person or business entity being sued.


Defective Product - A commercial product for consumers that is unfit for its intended use as it is dangerous during normal use and such danger is due to the product being defectively designed, assembled or manufactured. A product can also be defective if it does not have adequate or proper instructions.


Deliberations -  Commonly used to describe the process of a jury discussing the facts of a case prior to reaching a verdict.


Demand Letter - A letter (usually drafted by an attorney) requesting payment or restitution for their client as the result of a loss or damages.


Dependent - One who derives existence and support from another.


Deposition - A witness’s oral testimony, given under oath, as taken by a lawyer and recorded by a court reporter for use in a trial or in the discovery phase of a lawsuit.


Diagnosis - The identification of a disease or health condition based on the evaluation of symptoms and signs.


Differential Diagnosis - The identification of a list of possible diseases when presented with signs and symptoms that are commonly associated with more than one disease.


Discovery - The required disclosure of information or evidence by the adverse party in a legal matter.


Docket - An abstract or listing of all pleadings filed in a case; the book containing such entries; trial docket is a list of or calendar of cases to be tried in a certain term. 


Eggshell Skull - A legal rule that a person who causes injury is at fault for all the consequences whether foreseen or not.


Entity - A person or legally recognized organization.


Evidence - Facts or testimony supporting a claim in a legal matter.


Ex parte - On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party.


Exhibit - A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.


Expert Witness - A person qualified to give subject-matter testimony based on his or her specialty before the court. Expert witnesses are paid for their services.


Eyewitness - A person who has actually seen or observed an event and can so testify in court Fact Finder - In a trial of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, the jury or judge (if there is no jury) who decides if facts have been proven.


File - To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court/court administrator to enter into the files or records of a case.


Filed in Open Court - Court documents entered into the file in court during legal proceedings.


Filing Fee - The fee required for filing various documents. 


Finding - Formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on issues of fact. Also, a conclusion by a jury regarding a fact.


Foundation - Preliminary questions to a witness to establish admissibility of evidence; i.e., "laying a foundation" for admissibility.


Good Faith – Honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person. This term is applied to many kinds of transactions.


Gross Negligence - Reckless disregard for the health and safety of another person.


Guardian - A person who is legally responsible for the care or property of another person.


Guardian Ad Litem - A court-appointed person who is responsible for the best interest of a minor, an unborn child or a person deemed incompetent.


Hearing - A proceeding, generally public, at which an issue of fact or law is discussed and either party has the right to be heard.


Home Owners Insurance - A policy purchased by the owner of a private residence to protect against damage to the property and liability of the homeowner against any accidents occurring on the property.


In camera - In the judge's chamber out of the presence of the jury and the public 


Inadmissible - That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence.


Indemnify - One party’s agreement or obligation to cover the damages or losses suffered on behalf of another party.


Invoke the Rule - Separation and exclusion of witnesses (other than parties) from the courtroom.


Implied Warranty - A guarantee that is not written down or explicitly spoken. 


Informed Consent - The responsibility of a medical professional to provide the patient with clear information about a surgery, test, treatment or procedure and any alternative treatments available.


Injury - Any harm caused by the violation of a legal right. This includes physical or emotional harm, damage to reputation and damages to property.


Insurance Adjuster - One who investigates insurance claims to determine damages and works to negotiate a settlement.


Insurance Claim - A formal request for payment to the insurance company asking for payment based on the terms of the insurance policy.


Insured - The person or party covered by an insurance policy.


Interrogatories - A list of questions that one party sends to the opposing party for a formal response given under oath to aid in discovery in a legal matter.


Intentional tort - Wrong perpetrated by one who intends to break the law.


Intubation - The insertion of a tube into a person’s body, usually via the nose or mouth, to aid in breathing or the addition or removal of fluids.


Judgment - A decision by the court resolving a legal matter.


Jurisdiction - The court’s authority to make decisions in a legal matter.


Jury - A group of people selected and sworn to hear evidence and give a decision as the result of hearing and viewing evidence in a legal proceeding.


Jury Instructions - The judge's written directions to a jury concerning the laws pertinent to the case under consideration.A set of jury instructions is given to the jury just prior to its deliberations.


Justiciable - Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.


Law - The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.


Lawsuit - A case brought before the court to determine legal rights and duties and to bring a dispute to a legal resolution.


Liability - Legal responsibility for actions.


Lien - The right to hold or encumber the property of another party to secure a debt.


Litigant - Any party to a lawsuit. This might include a plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, cross-complainant, or cross-defendant, but not a witness or attorney. 


Litigation - The act of bringing a law suit before the court.


Loss of Consortium - A legal claim brought as the result of the loss of companionship, love and affection of another person as the result of personal injury.


Lost Wages - Amount of income lost as the result of an injury.


Mediation - A voluntary and nonbinding means of resolving conflicts between two or more parties.


Medical Expenses - The itemization of any health related expenses associated with an injury.


Medical Malpractice - Negligence or breach in the standard of care by a medical professional.


Medical Records - Documents detailing a patient’s medical history including details of medical appointments, symptoms and complaints, diagnoses, medical test results and prescription records.


Memorialized - In writing.


Merits - The substantive claims and defenses raised by the parties to an action.


Misdiagnosis - An incorrect assessment of the medical condition of a patient.


Mitigation of Damages - A person who has suffered injury or loss must make reasonable efforts to minimize or avoid additional losses or damages.


Moot - (adj.) unsettled, undecided, not necessary to be decided


Motion - A request for a ruling by a judge in a legal matter.


Moving Party - The person making the request to the court in a case.


Negligence - The failure to perform with reasonable care resulting in loss or injury to another party.


No-Fault Insurance - Driver’s insurance that will cover an agreed to amount of loss suffered in a car accident no matter who is at fault. For example, in Kentucky, no-fault insurance covers medical expenses and lost wages for a vehicle’s occupants regardless of who caused the accident.


Non-jury trial - A case tried by a judge on the facts as well as the law.


Nursing Home Abuse - Physical, mental or financial injury or neglect of an nursing home resident.


Oath - A pledge to speak the truth.


Objection - The process by which one party tries to prevent the introduction of evidence or the use of a procedure at a hearing.


Opening Statement - The initial statement made by attorneys for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial.


Oral Argument - An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their positions before the court and also to answer the judges’ questions.


Order - A written or oral command from a court directing or forbidding an action.


Overrule - The court's denial of a motion or objection.


Pain and Suffering - The physical or mental pain or suffering incurred as the result of an injury.


Paralysis - Loss of muscle movement for one or more body parts.


Permanent Injury - Physical or mental damage that will indefinitely restrict the employment or other normal activities of an individual.  


Personal Injury Attorney - A lawyer who represents a person (plaintiff) alleging damages from a physical or mental injury.


Personal Injury Protection (PIP) - Automobile insurance policy that will cover medical expenses, lost wages and other expenses up to an agreed to limit incurred as the result of a car accident. PIP is also referred to as No-Fault Coverage.


Personal representative - The person who administers an estate.


Plaintiff - The injured party who initiates a lawsuit.


Pleadings - The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.


Policy Limits - The maximum financial extent of coverage for an insurance policy.


Polling the jury - The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict.


Power of Attorney - A legal document drafted so that a person can legally give another party the authorization to act on his/her behalf.


Prejudice - Unfair harm to one party.


Process - A legal means, such as a summons, used to subject a defendant in a lawsuit to the jurisdiction of the court


Product Liability - A company or manufacturer’s legal obligation for any injury suffered as the result of a product produced by that company or manufacturer. Product liability claims may be based upon claims that products were defectively designed or were improperly produced.


Preponderance of the proof - Greater weight of the evidence, the common standard of evidence in civil cases.


Punitive Damages - A financial award above and beyond compensatory damages which serves to punish the defendant and deter other parties from similar behavior or practices.


Quadriplegia - Partial or complete loss of muscle functioning in the limbs and torso.


Quash - To vacate, annul, or terminate.


Reasonable Care - The degree of caution and attention a professional person should exercise when treating or rendering service to another individual. It is a subjective measure representing what an ordinarily prudent person would do under similar circumstances.


Record - All the documents and evidence plus transcripts of oral proceedings in a case. 


Recovery - The reward received by an injured party in a lawsuit.


Recuse - The process by which a judge is disqualified from hearing a case, on his or her own motion or upon the objection of either party.


Remand - To send a dispute back to the court where it was originally heard. Usually it is an appellate court that remands a case for proceedings in the trial court consistent with the appellate court's ruling.


Reply - The response by a party to charges raised in a pleading by the other party.


Request for admission - Also, Request to Admit. Written statements of facts concerning a case which are submitted to an adverse party and which that party must admit or deny; a discovery device.


Rest - A party is said to "rest" or "rest its case" when it has presented all the evidence it intends to offer.


Revoke - To cancel or nullify a legal document.


Rules of evidence - Standards governing whether evidence in a civil or criminal case is admissible.


Satisfaction - Discharge of a legal obligation, as in a "Satisfaction of Judgment."


Settlement - Resolution of a legal difference without a trial.


Shoulder Dystocia - A condition occurring during childbirth where the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This can cause nerve damage in the shoulder area of a baby resulting in paralysis of muscles in hand, arm and/or shoulder.


Soft Tissue Injury - Muscle, tendon, ligament or nerve damage as the result of an injury.


Standing - The legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person with some legally recognized interest at stake has standing to bring a lawsuit.


Statute - A law adopted by the legislature. 


Statute of Limitations - A time limit during which to bring legal action as determined by a federal or state law.


Stipulation: an agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings or trial


Strict Liability - Responsibility for injuries without regard to negligence.


Structured Settlement Annuity - A financial arrangement made as the result of an insurance settlement that is paid by making regularly scheduled payments as opposed to one lump sum pay out.


Subrogation - The right to recover money paid by one company or insurer (often health care providers or providers of payments for lost wages) that are the responsibility of another party.


Summary Judgment - A decision rendered by the court as a means to avoid an unnecessary trial. When the law and evidence makes it clear that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the court may grant summary judgment.


Summons - Instrument used to commence a civil action or special proceeding; the means of acquiring jurisdiction over a party.


Sustain - A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.


Testimony - Spoken evidence given by a witness, under oath, as distinguished by evidence derived by writings and other sources.


Third party complaint - A petition filed by a defendant against a third party (not presently a party to the suit) which alleges that the third party is liable for all or part of the damages plaintiff may win from defendant.


Tort - A non criminal wrong for which the injured party seeks compensation.


Tort Reform - The attempt to change laws so as to reduce the total rewards and compensation sought by plaintiffs in the legal system for civil wrongs.


Toxic Exposure - Contact with chemicals that have harmful effects.


Toxic Torts - Personal injury claims that injuries or losses that a plaintiff incurred were due to exposure to harmful toxins or chemicals.


Transcript - A copy of the record of a trial, hearing or other proceeding as prepared by a court reporter.


Trauma - Mental or physical pain suffered as a result of some force, for example, a car accident.


Traumatic Brain Injury - Damage to the brain from a head injury as the result of a physical force.


Treatise - A formal and systematic book or writing containing a narrative statement on a field of law.


Trial - A legal proceeding between two opposed parties in which a case is put before a judge or a judge and a jury for a verdict.


Uninsured (Underinsured) Motorist Clause - The section of an insurance policy that gives the purc INSERT INTO lwdb_content(title,alias,introtext) VALUES(ed in an accident with another driver with insufficient or no insurance coverage.


Vacate - To cancel or rescind a court order.


Vacuum (Vacuum Extractor) - An instrument that assists in delivering a baby by using suction in the birth canal.


Venue - The appropriate location(s), according to law and court rules, for a trial. 


Verdict - The jury’s decision at the end of a trial or the judge’s decision if the lawsuit is tried without a jury.


Vicarious Liability - Responsibility for a civil wrong that a supervisor bears when a subordinate or associate has actually committed the acts that give rise to the liability. 


Void - Invalid; a void agreement is one for which there is no remedy.


Voidable - Capable of being declared invalid; a voidable contract is one where a person may avoid his obligation, as a contract between an adult and a minor.


Voire Dire - An inquiry of prospective jurors, by the attorneys and by the judge, to determine if such jurors are fit for jury duty in a given case.


Waiver - A voluntary and intentional relinquishment of something, especially some known rights.

Witness - A person who gives testimony based on what he/she saw or heard or knows by personal experience.


Wrongful Death - When a person is killed because of the negligence of another person or party. A claim for wrongful death is made by a family member of a deceased person to obtain compensation for having to live without that person.


The personal injury attorneys here at the Law Offices of Lewis & Williams offer a free consultation. For more information call us today at 561-444-2260.

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