Some of the phrases most commonly used in personal injury law can be confusing, especially as you grapple with healing, wage losses, and paying bills. But even as your case in Houston, TX, moves forward, you can establish familiarity with a few phrases; doing so will help you understand what you’re facing and what needs to happen to successfully resolve your case.
16 Personal Injury Law Phrases and Terms Everyone Should Know
Filing a claim is the first step in a personal injury case. Any person injured emotionally, mentally, or physically by another’s negligence – intentional or not – may be able to file a legal claim against the responsible party.
2. Statute of Limitations
All civil actions are bound by time limitations. The statute of limitations defines the time available to a plaintiff for filing a claim against the defendant. It’s crucial you pay attention to this window; if the statute has expired, your claim is likely no longer valid. Statutes vary from state to state, with residents in Houston, TX, allowed two years from the date of the injury to take legal action.
3. Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is defined as a wrongful or negligent act that results in the death of another person. This is generally recognized as a gray area – wrongful death is neither murder nor manslaughter. It can therefore be difficult to prove and requires evidence showing the defendant had a duty of care to the deceased person.
In addition, that duty must have been breached by either failing or refusing to act with reasonable attention. Last, the breach must have directly resulted in the injuries that led to death. The most common causes of wrongful death include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Workplace accidents
4. Duty of Care
We mentioned this a moment ago and need to explain its meaning. The phrase “duty of care” or simply “duty” refers to a party’s obligation to provide a specific level or type of care to another person. In failing not to provide that care, a party may very well have failed to meet their legal responsibility and may be found liable for the resulting injuries and/or damages.
5. Standard of Care
Standard of care and duty of care are two distinct elements that work hand in hand. They must also be proven in order. Once a duty of care is established, the standard of care comes into play. In a medical malpractice suit, the standard of care refers to general expectations that a medical provider will protect his or her patients.
6. Negligence in Houston, TX
When a person or party fails to take basic action and care for another’s well-being, they may be guilty of negligence. A perfect example is choosing not to repair a cracked sidewalk that runs in front of a store. When someone trips on the crack and breaks an ankle, the owner may be found guilty of negligent behavior.
7. Assumption of Risk
Life is pitted with plenty of dangers, including some that we create ourselves. The assumption of risk means people realize an activity is dangerous before engaging. To illustrate, driving a car over the speed limit is widely recognized as risky behavior; if the driver gets into an accident, the burden is on them because they knew the inherent risks.
8. Premises Liability
The owner of a property is responsible for protecting the safety of visitors and/or those simply walking by. Failure to provide that safety falls under the umbrella of premises liability. To better understand, leaving an aggressive dog unchained in a front yard opens others to an attack and may form the basis of a premises liability suit.
9. Burden of Proof
The burden of proof falls to the plaintiff, meaning they must have sufficient evidence to prove the allegations they’ve brought forth. Depending on the type of case being litigated, several different thresholds can apply to the burden of proof. In personal injury law, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s actions more likely than not led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
A plaintiff in a lawsuit seeks to recover damages. In personal injury cases, the damages are provided as sums of money and can be separated into two distinct categories: economic and non-economic damages. The former are quantifiable and can be proven with receipts or other paperwork. Examples include auto repair bills, wage loss, and medical expenses.
Non-economic damages are slightly more difficult to prove because they’re intangible. For instance, seeking money as compensation for depression and anxiety caused by personal injuries fall under this category.
Discovery is the process by which the defendant and plaintiff both collect and investigate evidence to substantiate their claims. Discovery occurs in three essential ways: document production, depositions, and written discovery.
Discovery allows each party to ask the other for their evidence, thereby helping them understand and dissect what will be presented at trial. In this way, trial by ambush is prevented, in which one side does not learn of witnesses or evidence until the trial is already underway.
Any wrongful act not labeled as a crime and that does not arise from a contract is a tort. Nearly all civil suits, including personal injury suits, arise from a tort. Examples include wrongful death and negligence.
Torts comprise lawsuits that seek damages to make plaintiffs whole. Criminal cases, on the other hand, do not provide for damages. They are brought by the state expressly to pursue justice and punish criminals.
13. Strict Liability
Strict liability is a legal theory that holds parties accountable for acts that cause damage, regardless of wrongdoing or fault. To illustrate, farmers are strictly liable for the behaviors of their horses. If several horses leave their pasture and trample a neighbor’s crop, the farmer is responsible regardless of any fault.
Today, strict liability is most frequently applied to cases involving defective products. The burden of proof essentially shifts to the defendant, such as the manufacturer, in which they must prove they’re not liable for harm sustained by the plaintiff.
One of the most important elements of any personal injury case is identifying fault or liability. As a matter of law, liability means “responsible or answerable,” and much of the discovery process is devoted to finding fault.
Many times, personal injury claims are resolved with a settlement. Both the plaintiff and defendant agree on a monetary amount that compensates for injuries and other important issues identified in the case.
Settlements are typically faster, more efficient, and less stressful than taking a case to court. Your lawyer will advocate on your behalf during settlement talks and, if you both feel the monetary award is sufficient, documents will be signed and monies disbursed to you. Your case is then closed.
A verdict is another means of resolution to end a personal injury lawsuit. This decision, however, is not reached by both sides but instead made by a judge or jury at the conclusion of a trial.
Many other legal phrases are commonly used in personal injury cases, but it is your lawyer’s job to ensure you understand every step of the process. We are the oldest plaintiff’s trial law firm in the Lone Star state and committed to protecting your rights. If you or a loved one has been injured in Houston, TX, we’re here to help. Request a free consultation today by contacting the office of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner.