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Personal Injury Term Glossary

Information from a Top Oakland Injury Lawyer

Arbitration: The parties may agree to arbitration, which is similar to a trial. Instead of a judge, however, an attorney (or retired judge) will oversee the proceeding. The arbitrator has the power to rule on evidence and give an 'arbitration award' to the plaintiff. These are viewed as generally friendly for defendants but not for plaintiffs.

Attorney-Client Privilege: This is a form of protection for communications between an attorney and his/her client. Communications between an attorney and client are generally protected and need not be shared with anyone.

Cause of Action: A legal claim against someone else. Examples are "breach of contract," "negligence," "wrongful death."

Claim: An argument that some other person is responsible for paying compensation to you.

Damages: The injuries, wage loss, monetary loss, property loss, etc. that you attribute to an accident.

Date of Loss: The date of your accident.

Defendant: If you file a lawsuit, this is the person you are suing, who you claim is legally responsible for your damages.

Demand Letter: A letter we prepare with you to send to the insurance company outlining your claim, your damages and any other relevant issues. The letter closes with a demand for a certain amount of money.

Deposition: A recorded interview with a party to a lawsuit and attorneys for both sides. The interview is subject to the rules of evidence and, while it is informal, it is a very serious matter. A deposition comes only after you have filed suit.

Discovery: Once you have filed a lawsuit, 'discovery' is a set of formal procedures for obtaining information and documents from the other side. This may include Interrogatories (see below), a Deposition (see above) and Requests for Production of Documents (see below).

Dominant Hand: The hand one uses most often. For most people, this is the right hand.

General Damages: Damages for which there is no bill or invoice. A great example is "pain & suffering."

Interrogatories: Interrogatories are questions directed to a party in a personal injury lawsuit. They are intended to uncover facts related to an accident, your injuries and medical expenses, the identities of witnesses, etc.

Liable/Liability: Responsibility for your damages. We want to show that the other side is liable for your injuries.

Lost Wages: The wages that you lose due to your inability to work. It is important to document lost wages arising from a personal injury claim.

Med-Pay: Insurance you should have as part of your auto insurance. It pays for some of your medical expenses regardless of who is at fault.

Mediation: After a lawsuit has been filed, the parties may meet with a neutral attorney (or retired judge) to see if they can work out a settlement. This normally happens only after a lawsuit has been filed.

Medical Records: Records maintained by a medical professional relating to your treatment.

Medical Specials: The total medical bills you are claiming.

Mitigation of Damages: The concept that a plaintiff must try to lessen his or her damages. For example, if you rear-ended and your car is in storage for 30 days (at $40 per day), the other side might say that you failed to mitigate your damages by allowing these storage fees to build up.

Negligence: A legal theory against a defendant. It basically means that the other party was not reasonably careful and hurt you.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: A claim that you can make for emotional distress caused by an accident. This stress must be severe. It can often arise from your own injuries or from witnessing a loved one being hurt.

Party: One of the people who is part of a lawsuit (a Plaintiff or a Defendant).

Pedestrian Accident: An accident involving a pedestrian. These are usually pedestrian-versus-car accidents. Pedestrian accidents can cause severe injuries.

Personal Injury: An injury to one's body; a physical or mental injury (as opposed to property damage).

Physical Therapy: Treatment for musculoskeletal and neurological disorders provided by a licensed physical therapist. Usually involving exercise, electrical modalities, and myofascial techniques. Often referred to as "PT."

Plaintiff: The person starting a lawsuit (you).

Policy Limits: The most an insurance policy will pay for an injury. In California, the minimum auto policy is for $15,000.

Soft Tissue Injury: An injury of muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, connective tissues and other non-bony structures of the body. These can often heal more slowly than breaks or fractures of bones.

Spinal Fusion: A surgical procedure to form a bridge between two or more spinal vertebrae to eliminate movement over painful or unstable spinal segments.

Special Damages: Damages that can be counted by using bills or invoices.

Statute of Limitations: A law limiting the amount of time you have to either settle your claims or file a lawsuit.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Insurance you should have – it protects you in the case that you are injured someone with no insurance.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Insurance that protects you in case the person who hit you has insurance, but not enough to cover your losses.

UM/UIM: Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Vicious Dog Hearing: After a dog has bitten someone, the local animal control entity will often hold a hearing (known as a Vicious Dog Hearing) to determine whether the dog is vicious. If so, the dog may be euthanized.

Wage Loss Claim: Any earnings you did not receive because of a personal injury claim. These must be documented and cannot be "speculative."

Whiplash Injury: A sprain or strain syndrome of the cervical spine caused by a sudden acceleration or deceleration injury. This most commonly occurs in rear-end collisions.

Witness: Someone with knowledge pertaining to the facts of the case. Each party identifies his/her witnesses prior to trial or arbitration.

Wrongful Death: A claim brought by family member(s) for causing the death of a loved one. Normally, wrongful death claims are brought by children or parents. The basic idea is to compensate the family member who would otherwise have been supported by the person who passed away.