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Glossary of Personal Injury Terminology

Easy to comprehend definitions of personal injury vocabulary

Our legal team has compiled a list of the personal injury terms you may hear during the claims process.

The aftermath of a personal injury accident can be a stressful time for victims. Beyond dealing with the injury itself, you’re suddenly thrown into a complex legal world that can be difficult to navigate.

If you’re a victim of a personal injury accident, this glossary of important terms can help you understand what’s happening as you fight for fair compensation.

For more help, contact experienced personal injury lawyers, like the team at Werner, Hoffman, Greig & Garcia. We can help you defend your rights and pursue compensation that reflects your damages.

You can contact us online or call us at (800) 320-HELP to schedule a free case evaluation.

Personal Injury Terms

Act of god: An event outside human control, such as a hurricane or tornado. Because these events are unforeseeable, they typically excuse a person or entity from liability.

Accident report:  A document filed by law enforcement or other involved parties that details the circumstances of an accident. This report may be crucial evidence in a personal injury case.

Appeal: The process of asking a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court, like in a VA disability appeal for additional benefits.

Bad faith: When an insurance company unreasonably delays or denies a valid claim.

Benefit: An economic award, such as medical care or financial compensation received by an injured person.

Bodily injury: Physical harm suffered by a person, such as bruises, broken bones, or nerve damage. These injuries can result from accidents, negligence, or intentional acts.

Burden of proof: The responsibility of proving a claim is true and accurate lies with the party asserting it. In a personal injury case, the plaintiff (the injured person) has the burden of proving the defendant’s (the responsible party) negligence.

Causation: The legal principle that establishes a connection between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff must prove causation to win a personal injury case.

Claim: An assertion by the injured party (plaintiff) that they suffered harm due to the defendant’s negligence and are entitled to compensation.

Complaint: A formal document filed with the court that initiates a lawsuit and outlines the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant.

Comparative negligence: A legal principle in Florida that allows an injured person to recover damages even if they are partially to blame for the accident. The courts will award compensation after they reduce it based on the injured party’s percentage of fault.

Contingency Fee: A personal injury lawyer’s fee arrangement. The attorney only gets paid if they win the case or secure a settlement for the client. The fee is typically a percentage of the recovered damages.

Damages: Monetary compensation awarded in a civil lawsuit to cover losses caused by the injury. There are different types of damages:

  • Compensatory damages: Reimbursement for actual losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
  • Punitive damages: Awarded to punish the defendant for gross negligence or intentional misconduct. These are rare in Florida personal injury cases.

Defective: Faulty or malfunctioning in a way that creates a danger. A product liability case may involve a defective product that caused injury, such as a defective medical device.

Demand letter: A formal document sent by the plaintiff’s attorney to the defendant’s insurance company outlining the claim and demanding a specific amount of compensation.

Discovery: The pre-trial phase of a personal injury lawsuit where both parties exchange information through interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions.

Duty of care: The legal obligation to act with reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. This is a fundamental personal injury term; without establishing this exists, you don’t have a case.

Emergency medical condition: A medical condition that manifests itself with such severity that an average person would reasonably expect the condition to pose an immediate risk of serious physical harm or death.

Excess judgment: The amount of a judgment that exceeds the limits of the defendant’s insurance policy. The plaintiff may be responsible for collecting this remaining amount from the defendant’s personal assets.

Expert witness: A qualified professional who provides testimony in court about a specific field relevant to the case, such as a medical doctor for injury severity.

Fault: Legal responsibility for causing an injury.

Good faith: Honesty and fair dealing. An insurance company is expected to act in good faith when handling claims. There can be serious consequences for insurance companies that act in bad faith.

Hazard: A potential source of danger or harm, such as a slip-and-fall hazard.

Independent medical examination (IME): An evaluation by a medical professional chosen by the defendant’s insurance company to assess the plaintiff’s injuries. Insurance companies may request an Independent Medical Examination in workers’ comp cases as well as other personal injury claims.

Insurance: A financial product that provides compensation for losses associated with certain events, such as car accidents or medical bills.

Judgment: The court’s final decision in a lawsuit, specifying which party’s case is stronger and the amount of damages awarded.

Litigation: The process of filing a personal injury lawsuit and taking it through the court system.

Loss: Money or property that is lost, stolen, or damaged. In a personal injury case, losses can include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.

Malpractice: Professional negligence by a doctor, lawyer, or other professional that results in harm to the client.

Maximum medical improvement (MMI): The point in a person’s recovery from an injury where their condition is no longer expected to improve with further medical treatment.

Mediation: A dispute resolution process where a neutral third party helps the plaintiff and defendant reach a settlement agreement.

Negligence: The failure to act with reasonable care, resulting in injury to another person.

Negotiation: A communication process where the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant or their insurance company attempt to reach a settlement agreement without going to trial.

No-fault: A system where fault is not assigned in certain accidents until after each party’s insurance company covers their own insured’s damages first. Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents.

Party: Someone involved in a legal case, such as the plaintiff, defendant, or witness.

Plaintiff: The person who files a personal injury lawsuit claiming the defendant’s negligent behavior caused their injuries.

Premises liability: The legal responsibility of a property owner to maintain a safe environment for visitors.

Product liability: A legal theory that holds manufacturers, distributors, and sellers responsible for injuries caused by defective products.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): A mental health condition that can develop after a traumatic event. PTSD can be a compensable injury in a personal injury case.

Quality of life: The overall well-being of a person, including physical and mental health.  Injuries such as TBIs can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Reasonable care: The standard of care that a person is expected to exercise to avoid causing harm to others.

Rehabilitation: Medical care designed to restore a person’s physical or mental function to the highest possible level.

Settlement: An agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant to resolve the case for a specific amount of money without going to trial.

Statute of limitations: The deadline by which a plaintiff must file their personal injury lawsuit in Florida.

Third-party claims: Claims filed against a party other than the main defendant in a personal injury case. For example, a car accident lawsuit might also include a third-party claim against a parts manufacturer for a defective car component.

Tort: A civil wrong that results in injury or damage to another person.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): An injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head or a penetrating object.  TBIs can cause a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional problems.

Witness: A person who provides first-hand information about the accident or injury.

Wrongful death: A type of personal injury lawsuit filed by the surviving family members of a person who died due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person.

Call WHG for Advice Regarding Your Personal Injury Claim

Victims of personal injury accidents can experience significant physical, emotional, and financial difficulties. If someone else’s negligence injures you or a loved one in an accident, we believe you deserve fair compensation for the hardships you have experienced.

Don’t be intimidated by unfamiliar personal injury terms. WHG will walk you through what you need to understand. The team of experienced accident injury attorneys at Werner, Hoffman, Greig & Garcia can help you pursue maximum damages with minimum stress. To schedule a free consultation, give us a call at (800) 320-4357 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you.

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