Legal Terms & Definitions
Grossman Law Offices Legalese Glossary
Legal terms can be a bit puzzling to those who don't use them on a daily basis. In our effort to educate the public regarding personal injury laws and strategy it only makes sense to help site visitors understand the terminology used on this site and in all Dallas courts. We've also added some terms used in criminal court. Pick a term, read, repeat. Enjoy.
Find The Term You Are Looking For By Selecting A Letter Of The Alphabet
Legal Terms "A"
Accident: In personal injury litigation, accident refers to a harm suffered by a plaintiff from a defendant and done without specific intent or criminal intent.
Actionable: An injury that is compensable and may be adjudicated by a civil court.
Adjudication: The final resolution of a civil trial where a judge or a jury has rendered a final judgment.
Ad Litem: An individual appointed by the court to represent either a minor child or an adult who does not have the capacity to represent themselves.
Affiant: A person who signs an affidavit. The affiant is swearing before the court that they have personal knowledge of the contents of the affidavit and that the information contained is true and correct.
Affidavit: A statement of facts made by an individual placed in written form and sworn to before a person authorized by law and signed by the affiant.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Alternative Dispute Resolution can include negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. It is an alternative means to resolve a legal dispute rather than taking the case to trial.
Appellate Court: Appellate courts are superior to trial courts and have the authority to review their decisions. An appellate court can uphold a lower court decision, reverse their decision, or remand the decision back to the lower court for a new trial. The highest appellate court in the land is the United States Supreme Court.
Arbitration: A type of alternative dispute resolution, usually required by contract, where two parties litigate their legal grievances in front of an arbitrator rather than a judge or jury.
Arbitrator: The individual who oversees the arbitration and has final adjudication powers over the matter before him. Many times they are retired judges.
Attestation: The act of witnessing the execution of a document. Documents that have been attested to will include an attestation clause signed by the witness. The signature is then used as evidence to show that the attestation document, a will or a deed, has been properly executed.
Automobile Accident: The term used to describe the collision between a vehicle and another vehicle, multiple vehicles, or other property. More information.
Legal Terms "B"
Bar Examination: An examination of legal proficiency that an individual must pass prior to being granted a license to practice law.
Bench Trial or Non-jury Trial: Trial before a judge and without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge decides questions of law and questions of fact.
Bench Warrant: Usually issued when a defendant has failed to appear, this is an order for the individual to be detained and brought before the judge.
Beneficiary: Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.
Birth Injury: A personal injury to a child which occurs during the birthing process. More information.
Brief: A document prepared by an attorney summarizing the facts of a case, the applicable law that should be used by the court in making a judgment on the matter asserted, and the requested relief the attorney is seeking from the court.
Burden of Proof or Standard of Proof: The level of proof required to prove a case. In the majority of civil cases, it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence or by clear and convincing evidence. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Legal Terms "C"
Car Accident: The term car accident refers to an automobile accident involving normal passenger vehicles as opposed to commercial vehicles. More information.
Case Law: Case law is law based on previous decisions of prior courts as opposed to statutory law which is written by the legislature. A lower court is required to follow case law from a superior court that governs their jurisdiction.
Causation: The act by which an effect is produced. See also "legal cause" and "proximate cause."
Cause of Action: The basis of a plaintiff's lawsuit. When a plaintiff has been harmed and there is a legal remedy for that harm, then there is a "cause of action".
Certiorari: A writ sent to a superior court requesting judicial review of a case. Also used to indicate a writ sent by a superior court to a lower court requesting the written record of a lawsuit.
Civil Cases: A civil lawsuit based in tort or contract whereby a plaintiff seeks monetary compensation or an injunction from a defendant for actions that are harmful but not criminal in nature.
Claim Petition: In on-the-job injury cases, the injured files a claim petition to seek initial compensation. This occurs when there has been a Notice of Denial - no workers' compensation payments have been made or medical benefits have not been paid.
Class Action: A unique form of civil case where one individual is allowed to act as a representative of a similar class that has a similar cause of action and similar injuries.
Commercial Insurance Adjuster: One who works for a commercial entity and represents them defending insurance claims against the company. More Information.
Commercial Insurance Policy: An insurance contract between a commercial company and an insurance carrier. if the commercial company is sued and the basis of the suit is covered in the contract then the insurance carrier will cover the cost to the company in the event the company is found liable and has to pay out financially.
Commercial Vehicle: Any vehicle purchased, owned, or utilized for the purposes of the business.
Compensation: An item or service provided to an injured party with the intent of making them whole.
Compromise and Release: A lump sum of monetary compensation paid out to an injured worker by an insurance carrier. In exchange for the agreed upon compensation, the worker signs a release relieving his employer from any future liability.
Consequential Damages: All foreseeable damages that are a result from an initial injury.
Contingency Fees: Contingency fees are the fees paid out by the plaintiff once a case has been resolved in their favor. If a case is not resolved in the plaintiff's favor, there are no fees owed to the attorney. Click to read about our law firm's contingency fees.
Counsel: Counsel refers to the plaintiff's attorney or the defendant's attorney. The term may also be used to refer to the act of an attorney providing legal advice to the client.
Legal Terms "D"
Damages: Damages refers to the amount of monetary compensation plead by the plaintiff. Damages can be based on economic loss or non-economic loss. Economic loss is the amount of money lost do to injury, lost wages, and medical bills. Non-economic loss can be based on emotional distress, mental anguish, or pain and suffering. Additionally, there can be damage awards based on prejudgment and post-judgment interest. More information.
Decedent: A deceased person. The term is typically used when discussing wrongful death cases and is considered more appropriate than using the term "deceased." It is worth pointing out that the decedent whose death a wrongful death case is predicated upon will have a claim in the lawsuit as well. The decedent's claim, known as the survival claim, is brought on behalf of the decedent by the executor of their estate. The purpose of such a claim is to hold the defendant responsible for the harm that they inflicted upon the decedent in the decedent's final moments. In other words, the executor of the estate will file suit against the defendant on the decedent's behalf.
Decree: An order of the court. A "final decree" is one that fully disposes of the litigation. An "interlocutory decree" is one that resolves a particular issue in dispute within a case but not the entire case itself
Default Judgment: A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or fails to respond to the plaintiff's petition.
Demurrer: A response by the defendant to the plaintiff's petition which argues that the plaintiff has failed to argue a complaint for which the court is able to provide a legal remedy.
Deposition: Process by which someone's testimony is taken under oath but not in the court house. For example, the witness to an accident may be called to tell their account of the story under oath but before the trial begins. In civil cases all parties involved in the incident are generally deposed in order to gather evidence prior to a trial.
Diversity of Citizenship: Diversity of citizenship refers to one of the requirements need to be fulfilled in order to remove a case from state court and have it heard in federal court. Diversity of citizenship requires that the parties be from different states. The second requirement is taht the amount in controversy must be at least $75,000.
Docket: An organized schedule use by the court to determine when counsel's pleadings are due and when hearings before the court will be held.
Dram Shop: Dram shop refers to a place of business that sells alcohol. Dram shop laws are based on a theory of accountability created by certain state legislatures in order to hold dram shops accountable for selling alcohol to intoxicated persons when that person then causes an injury to an unsuspecting third party. More information.
Denied Insurance Claims: An insurance claim that an insurance adjuster has refused to pay. Litigation or attorney representation may be required in order to get a legitimate claim, that has been denied, paid out to the claimant. More information.
Legal Terms "E"
Eighteen (18) Wheeler: A term used to describe commercial semi trucks and commercial tractor trailer vehicles. More information.
Emotional Distress: A claim for mental anguish brought on by a simultaneous physical injury or traumatic event such as witnessing the death of a loved one. More information.
Equitable Remedies: Originally founded in English courts of equity. Courts of equity had authority to order an adjudicated defendant to refrain from a particular action or to perform a particular action. Equitable remedies do not include monetary compensation.
Escrow: An item, usually money, that is held by a disinterested third party for safe keeping.
Estoppel: The legal theory that an individual is prevented from making a claim of injury when the harm they received was due to their own action or inaction.
Et al: "And others." Used in case styles of legal pleadings when there are several plaintiffs or defendants being represented by one individual, business, or corporation.
Ex Parte: Ex Parte matters are brought by a single party to a suit without notice to any of the other parties. Ex parte matters are brought when there is an emergency and the party bringing the ex parte matter will suffer harm with no remedy. Ex parte matters are fairly common in family law where a party is asking for a temporary restraining order against another who will cause them physical harm.
Legal Terms "F"
Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration: The organization the regulates the safety practices in the commercial vehicle industry.
Final Receipt: A form from a company notifying their insurance carrier to stop paying benefits to a worker who has returned to work.
Flatbed Trailer: Sometimes referred to as a tractor-trailer, it is the cargo area of a semi-truck More information.
Legal Terms "G"
Gross Negligence: More severe than standard negligence, gross negligence means that rather than being ignorant of duty to another person, the grossly negligent is aware of the duty but ignores it anyway resulting in harm to another.More information.
Legal Terms "H"
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A managed health care system that acts as an intermediary between employers and medical service providers. The employer pays a portion of an employees medical bills.
Hearing: A proceeding brought before a judge to resolve an issue or a question of fact. Unless a formal trial, hearings are more casual and outside of the presence of a jury.
Legal Terms "I"
Indemnify: An activity undertaken to make an injured party whole again. Usually in the form of monetary compensation, court order, or injunction.
Informed Consent: Agreement made by an individual with appreciation and knowledge of the consequences.
Injunction: Originally formed in English courts of equity, an injunction is an order issued by a court to prevent a party from performing a particular action. Injunctions can be preliminary, temporary, or permanent.
Insurance Adjuster: The individual employed by an insurance carrier to investigate and evaluate the merits of an insurance claim. The adjuster will either approve or deny the claim based on their own individual analysis. More information.
Insurance Company: A company that writes insurance policies and offers them for sale to individuals or companies.
Insurance Policy: A contract that enables an individual, company, or municipality to avoid financial responsibility if they are directly or indirectly liable for an accident.
Legal Terms "J"
Judgment: The final decision of a court of law which resolves the cause of action of a lawsuit. See also decree, order.
Jurisdiction: There are two types of legal jurisdiction: personal jurisdiction, which is the authority of the court to rule over the parties and subject matter jurisdiction; the courts authority to adjudicate the subject matter of the lawsuit.
Jurisprudence: The philosophy and study of the law.
Jury: A collection of individuals selected by the attorneys to listen to the evidence and testimony of a case and make a judgment as to the facts of a case.
Legal Terms "L"
Lawsuit or Suit: A cause of action brought for the purpose of litigation.
Leading Case: A case of precedence that resolves a particular point of law for all later cases dealing with the issue.
Legal Cause: Under tort law, the initial conduct that results in harm to the plaintiff. See proximate cause.
Legal Fees: Money paid to attorney in exchange for legal representation. Grossman law offices' fees.
Liability: An obligation that an individual is legally required to keep or they could be accountable for damages that result from the failure to perform that duty.
Lien: An assertion by creditors to a legal claim against the property of a debtor.
Litigant: Parties to a lawsuit including the plaintiff or the defendant but not the attorneys or any witnesses.
Litigation: the term used to describe the process of filing, investigating, researching, and trying a civil lawsuit.
Loss of Consortium: A form of non-economic damages intended to compensate a victim for the loss of companionship from a spouse or child.
Lost Wages: Economic damages for lost income from work due to an injury. If the injury is serious enough to prevent the victim from working permanently, the lost wages from future income can be extrapolated for the working lifetime of the injured party.
Legal Terms "M"
Malfeasance: When a party commits an illegal act that contributed to the plaintiff's injury.
Material Fact: A fact in a case which is determinative of key issues in the lawsuit.
Mediation: Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties agree to negotiate a solution to the parties issues with the help of a third party moderator.
Medical Expenses: All expenses that stem from doctor visits, hospitalization, medicine, and the treating of injuries.
Medical Malpractice: Negligent, grossly negligent, or reckless conduct committed by a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health care professional that results in injury to a patient. More information.
Mental Anguish: A non-economic damage claim brought about due to an accompanying physical injury or severe emotional trauma. See emotional distress.
Minor: A person under the age of consent. Typically, the age of consent to enter a contract is eighteen. In tort law, minors are not held to the same legal standard as adults. There are some exceptions to the rule. For example, if the minor is engaging a specialized adult activity such as flying a plane.
Municipality: The individuals of a city, town, or local government who are either elected or appointed to represent the goals of the government.
Legal Terms "N"
Negligence: Failing to maintain the standard of care to other persons that a reasonable prudent person would maintain. In order to litigate a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty, failed to maintain that duty, and that failure resulted in injury to the plaintiff.
Negligence Per Se: Negligent conduct which is self-evident and requires a lower standard of proof because the negligent conduct included the violation of a state or federal statute.More information.
Negligent Supervision: Negligent supervision is a cause of action in tort. Negligent supervision is applied to the master servant relationship and is proven in the same manner as general negligence. This type of cause of action is found in claims against employers and parents.
Non-Subscriber: A company or other employer who is not covered by a workers' compensation insurance program. More information.
Nuisance: There are two types of nuisance claims. One is private nuisance where an individual is using their own property in way that affects another person to the point that the person can not get quiet enjoyment or proper usage from their own property. The second is public nuisance which is when an individual is using their property in a way that detrimentally affects the public at large. The former is a civil wrong and the latter is a criminal wrong.
Nursing Home Abuse: A personal injury cause of action due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional mistreatment of the elderly or mentally ill residing in an assisted living facility. More Information.
Legal Terms "O"
Occupational Disease: An illness acquired due to exposure to a toxic substance while on a job site and/or in the course of employment.
Out-of-Court Settlement: A resolution to a lawsuit made by agreement rather than adjudication by a court of law. Alternative dispute resolution frequently ends in an out of court settlement.
Legal Terms "P"
Party: An individual, class of individuals, business, non-profit, or corporation who is either a plaintiff or a defendant in a lawsuit.
Payoff: Sometimes referred to as "accord & satisfaction", a payoff is a slang term for when an insurance provider pays a set amount of compensation to an injured worker in exchange for the worker's agreement to release the employer of all future liability.
Personal Injury: A specific type of tort where an individual or entity is caused harm do to another party's failure to exercise reasonable care. More information.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP): A clause of an insurance policy that specifically reimburses an individual for injuries to their person as opposed to their property. In The State of Texas your insurance company is required to offer PIP to you unless you specifically elect to decline such coverage. More information.
Personal Property: Personal property includes money and other tangibles that are movable as opposed to real property which includes land, homes, and other building.
Petition: The initial complaint presented to a court of law that outlines the cause of action, the liable parties, and the relief requested from the court .
Petitioner: The plaintiff in a lawsuit.
Physical Impairment: A temporary or permanent loss of function to an individual's physical abilities.
Physical Pain and Suffering: A type of damages caused by the defendant that results in non-economic damages.
Plaintiff: The party to a lawsuit that is claiming harm caused by the defendant and requesting relief from the court. See also petitioner.
Pleadings: The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.
Policy Limits: The financial compensation limits stipulated in the insurance contract for which the insurance company will pay to the covered individual for an injury.
Power of Attorney: Commonly included in wills, a power of attorney is the authority given to a person to represent a deceased or incapacitated individual in legal matters.
Precedent: A decision by an earlier court on a particular legal issue that is determinative for all later courts addressing the same issue.
Premises Liability: Premises liability is a cause of action that effectively states that a plaintiff suffered as a result of the actions or inaction of the owner or operator of a premises. Such cases usually require an experienced premises liability lawyer For example, a house, a building, a baseball field, etc. More information.
Preponderance of the Evidence: The amount of evidence needed for a plaintiff to win in a civil action.
Privileged Communication: Statement protected from forced disclosure in court. The statement was made within a "protected" relationship such as attorney/client.
Products Liability: Area of the law involving the liability of manufacturers and sellers of dangerous or faulty goods or products. More information.
Pro Bono: (Latin: "for the good") Used to describe the provision of services free of charge.
Property Damages: Economic compensation in relation to personal and real property as opposed to compensation for physical injury or non-economic damages suffered by the plaintiff. For example, the damage caused to your vehicle in an automobile damages. More information.
Proximate Cause: The primary cause that produces the injury, and without which, the accident could not have happened.
Punitive Damages: A sum of money that a Jury may order a defendant to pay to a plaintiff in order to punish the defendant for their involvement in an accident or other incident.
Legal Terms "R"
Reasonable Care: The societal duty to perform in the same manner as a reasonable prudent person would act.
Recovery: When a plaintiff is awarded compensation by the court.
Rollover Accident: Usually a product liability claim where an automobile has rolled over due to a product defect or negligence.
Legal Terms "S"
Settlement: An out of court agreement made by the parties to a lawsuit in order to resolve the case without a civil trial.
Social Host Liability: The liability of an individual, not a business, that provides alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person and that person then causes harm to a third party.
Soft Tissue Injuries: The term soft tissue injuries refers to the injuries such as pulled muscles, bruises, whiplash, etc. that are commonly suffered in car accidents. These injuries can range from moderate to severe and are generally tricky to diagnose since they may not show up on x-rays. More information.
Sovereign Immunity: The doctrine that mandates the government, state or federal, is immune from liability unless the entity gives its consent to be sued.
Statute of Limitations: The time limit that a plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit. For most personal injuries the deadline is two years. After that time period the claim is considered state and, barring a few exceptions, the plaintiff has no recourse. More information.
Stay: An order by the court to put a proceeding on hold.
Strict Liability: A legal standard in civil cases usually enacted by statute. This legal standard removes the mens rea requirement by making the perpetrator of the prohibited act liable regardless of their mental state. Strict liability is typically applied in product liability cases.
Subpoena: A legal order issued by the court instructing a individual to appear and provide testimony regarding a factual or legal matter.
Subrogation: Subrogation happens when a victim in an accident files a claim through their own insurance company. The insurance company will typically pay for the damages in the accident but the insurance company will then seek reimbursement from the party responsible for the accident.
Legal Terms "T"
Tort: A civil harm or injury which comprises the basis for a personal injury lawsuit.
Tort-Feasor: The perpetrator of a tort.
Tort Reform: Legislation passed in order to limit the amount of recovery a plaintiff may be awarded.
Totaled: A slang term to refer to a vehicle that has been damages greatly enough that it is no longer drivable or the cost to repair the car would be greater than the cost to purchase a brand new vehicle.
Tractor Trailer: A slang term referring to large commercial vehicles.
Legal Terms "V"
Vicarious Liability: The liability of a third party for the tortious actions of the defendant. Typically applied when an employer has vicarious liability for the negligent actions of an employee.More Information.
Legal Terms "W"
Waiver: Voluntary relinquishment of a right.
With Prejudice: Cases dismissed with prejudice means the plaintiff is barred from attempting to re-petition the court with the same matter.
Work-Related Accident: An injury that happens while employed or on the employers work site. Allow our Dallas work accident attorneys represent your case. More information.
Workers' Compensation: Insurance compensation paid to an employee who is involved in a work related accident. Employers who are subscribed to workers' compensation are many times immune from having the employee file a lawsuit against them. More information.
Workers' Compensation Act: Legislation that limits an employees ability to receive adequate compensation for their injuries and removes an employee's judicial options to have their claim adjudicated by an independent court of law.
Wrongful Death: A cause of action brought by the surviving family of one who has been killed due to the negligence of the defendant. More information.