Personal Injury Glossary
The law can be an intimidating subject for many reasons, not the least of which is the confusing vocabulary
The Eastern KY personal injury attorneys of the Johnson Law Firm recognize this unfortunate limitation and offer these easy-to-reference definitions as a service to potential clients who may have personal injury matters. Of course, everyone’s situation is unique, and specific questions should be directed to a lawyer. For more than 15 years, the Johnson Law Firm has been in the business of helping injured people and fighting insurance companies. Stop by or call for a free, confidential consultation and you’ll understand why the Johnson Law Firm is known as the “nicest place in town.” We can be reached at 606-437-4488 or by using this online contact form.
Comparative Fault: If the plaintiff is partly to blame for the incident that is the subject of the lawsuit, his or her award of damages can be reduced according to the amount of fault. Different states follow different rules. If the incident happened in Kentucky and it turns out that plaintiff is partly responsible, the court will assign percentages of fault among all the parties and the damage award will be apportioned accordingly.
Complaint/Answer: The complaint is the written expression of the plaintiff’s grievances that is filed with the court. This is what formally starts a lawsuit. In response, the defendant files an answer, which serves to notify the plaintiff and the court of the defendant’s position regarding the allegations.
Damages: This is what the plaintiff is seeking to recover by filing suit. Damages in a personal injury lawsuit are equal to money. Economic damages are quantifiable damages such as current and future medical expenses, wages lost while out of work due to the accident, wages lost due to decreased earning capacity in the future because of the injuries, and repair bills. Non-economic damages are not specifically quantifiable and include such things as pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress. In a car accident, for example, your $15,000 hospital bill would be an economic damage, while the $10,000 you are seeking due to the anxiety and insomnia you have suffered because of your injuries would be considered non-economic damages.
Negligence: Is a failure to act with reasonable care. Duty, breach, causation and damages are the backbone of nearly every personal injury case. To prove negligence, a plaintiff has to show:
- that the defendant had a duty or obligation to the plaintiff,
- that the defendant violated or breached that duty,
- that the breach caused damage to the plaintiff, and
- that actual damages exist.
Continuing with the example above, a car driver has a duty to use reasonable care toward other road users that are reasonably foreseeable to be affected by his actions. Perhaps he breached that duty by failing to stop at a red light. Because he breached his duty, his car collided with yours, causing you physical and financial damages. The driver of the other car was negligent.
Plaintiff/Defendant: The parties to a lawsuit. The plaintiff is the party that brings the lawsuit. The defendant is the party that is allegedly responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, if you are injured in a car accident and you sue the driver of the other car, you are the plaintiff and the other driver is the defendant.
Statute of Limitations: The time period during which a lawsuit must be filed. If the plaintiff does not file suit within the appropriate time, he or she is forever barred from doing so. Limitations periods are set by state law, vary from case to case depending upon the circumstances, and can be quite complicated to apply to a particular set of facts. There are often complex questions about when the injury was or should have been discovered, which is what starts the limitations clock. In Kentucky, suits arising from motor vehicle accidents generally must be filed within two years. The statutes of limitation for other types of personal injury claims may be shorter or longer.
Torts/Intentional Torts: From the French word for “wrong,” a tort is a wrongful act that causes injury. If the act is done on purpose, then it is an intentional tort. Nearly every cause of action in a civil suit is a tort, including negligence, vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, defamation, and wrongful death. Some intentional torts may also be crimes, such as assault, battery, fraud, trespass, and wrongful death (manslaughter, murder, etc.). Tort law is one of the major areas of law, along with contract, real property, family, and criminal law.
Wrongful Death: When an individual’s death is the fault of another person or entity, the surviving members of the victim’s family may sue to be compensated for their loss. Before a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought in Kentucky, someone must appear before the probate court and qualify as the personal representative. After the personal representative is appointed, the wrongful death action can then be filed and pursued like any other negligence action.
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