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Ask a Lawyer: Essential Terms to Know When Filing a Lawsuit

Published on Oct 1, 2019 at 1:14 pm in Personal Injury.

Pen on notebook with open dictionary in front of it

In a lawsuit, a lot of terms are thrown around that you might not know as a non-lawyer. You shouldn’t be outside the loop just because you don’t know the terminology being used in your case. To help you understand more of what’s going on, here are some essential terms to know when filing a lawsuit.

Admission. Admission is a statement that acknowledges the truth of something or a situation. For example, if you apologize at the scene of a truck accident, that is considered an admission of guilt and can be used against you in a case.

Affidavit. A written statement of facts confirmed by oath or affirmation that is used as evidence in court is an affidavit.

Case. Your case is your lawsuit or action in court.

Civil law. This refers to non-criminal law and applies to private citizens or organizations and how to settle disputes between them.  A civil lawsuit is usually about negligence, a breach of contract, or land dispute, but can be about other disputes as well.

Credibility. If you are credible, it means that your story is not only believable, but is backed up with facts and proof. The more credible you are, the better your chances are at proving your point.

Damages. As a whole, damages are the money you are awarded for your injury or loss. There are two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are for any economic loss, like medical bills after a personal injury. Punitive damages are to punish the defendant for their negligence.

Default. A default is when you do not appear at the required legal time in legal proceedings. For example, if you miss your court day, you are in default and your side of the case will not be presented in court. Usually this results in you losing in your case.

Defendant. The defendant is the person being sued by the plaintiff. This could be a citizen, company, or institution.

Deposition. The deposition is the pre-trial testimony of a witness who will be called to the stand during trial and given under oath in response to the opposing party’s questions. The deposition is then transcribed to a written document.

Discovery. This is another pre-trial procedure where each party obtains evidence from the other party or parties in the case. Discoveries are done through interrogations as well as requests for documents, admissions, and depositions.

Discrimination. Discrimination is when a person or company either affords or denies certain privileges to a person or people because of their class, race, age, sex, religion, nationality, or disability.

Docket. The official court record book that lists the schedule for open or pending cases. If your case is on the docket, it means that you are on the list of cases to be heard by a court.

Harassment. Harassment is conduct that intentionally targets someone else by annoying, tormenting, or harming them. In Illinois, harassment includes anything that causes emotional distress of another person at minimum.

Hearing. A pre-trial hearing is usually shorter and more casual than when your case is at trial. A hearing takes place before a court, officer, or decision-making body and is used as an attempt to resolve the case without a trial or decide which evidence can be presented in the case.

Liability. Liability means legal responsibility. Illinois is an at-fault state, meaning the person deemed liable is responsible for any damages they caused.

Malfeasance. This is knowingly doing something legally or morally wrong. This could be something like dishonesty from a company or an employee embezzling money.

Malpractice. Similar to negligence, malpractice is when a doctor or medical professional intentionally or unintentionally harms a patient.

Motions. This is a legal device used by lawyers to bring up or dismiss an issue before court. A motion can also be used to ask a judge to rule on a certain legal matter of the case.

Negligence. Negligence is the failure to act with proper care in a situation. Even if it’s not intentional, negligence can cause serious damage to others. For example, texting while driving is a form of negligence that can cause a car accident that kills the driver, other drivers, and pedestrians.

Nonfeasance. When legally required to take action, if you fail to take action, you are liable for nonfeasance. For example, if you are a bystander who does not attempt to help a drowning person, you could be liable for nonfeasance.

Plaintiff. As a plaintiff, you are the person who made the claim or brought the case to court. You are the one seeking compensation for damages from the defendant.

Settlement. A settlement is the resolution between conflicting parties in a legal case. Usually this involves an agreement and monetary winnings. Sometimes a settlement is offered prior to trial in an attempt to keep the dispute out of court. A settlement can be awarded as a lump sum or structured. In a lump sum, you would get your compensation in one payment. A structured settlement splits your winnings into payments over a determined period of time.

Standard of care. Although this is subjective, the standard of care is the expected duty of a medical professional to care for a patient. When a doctor is negligent or injures a patient rather than helping, they are breaching the standard of care because they take an oath to heal and care for their patients. Failure to uphold the standard of care can bring cases like medical malpractice and wrongful death.

Testify. To testify is to speak under oath as a witness about any evidence or facts you know that relate to a case.

Tort. When a person or company infringes on another person’s rights or injures them, that is considered tort. The person at fault for tort is legally liable.

If you’re considering filing a claim after an accident of any kind, the legal terminology can be confusing and might keep you from wanting to follow through with your claim. Don’t let legal jargon keep you from getting justice. At our Chicago law office, Thomas Law Offices will fight for you and keep you informed every step of the way. Contact us today so we can talk about your case.

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Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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