Acquit: To find a defendant not guilty; the opposite of conviction of a defendant.
Allege Claims or assertions made which the parties then attempt to prove through testimony and evidence.
Arbitration: A proceeding in which the parties present their cases to one or more arbitrators, who then make a decision that can either be binding (the final decision by which the parties must abide) or nonbinding (a suggestion for what the arbitrator(s) believe to be a fair resolution to the case).
Arraignment: An initial step in the criminal process wherein the defendant is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge against him in the indictment or information. The charge is read to him and he is asked to plead “guilty” or “not guilty” or, where permitted, “nolo contendere.”
Battery: Deliberate and unlawful physical contact with a person against that person’s free will which involves some type of injury or offensive touching.
BUI: The acronym for the criminal charge of operating a boat under the influence of alcoholic beverages, illicit drugs or medications, which impair one’s ability to safely operate a watercraft.
Burdenof proof: The standard by which a case is decided. For example, a civil case is decided on the basis of the preponderance of the evidence (see explanation below), while a criminal case must be decided within a reasonable doubt.
Case: A lawsuit filed with the court.
Case number: The identifying number assigned to a lawsuit file by the court.
Case style: The name of the case, along with the court in which the case is filed, and the case number. The case style appears at the beginning of each pleading filed in a case.
Cause of action: A lawsuit.
Civil: A type of case in which money damages injunctive relief can be awarded. The burden of proof in a civil case is different than in a criminal case. (See “Preponderance of the evidence” and “reasonable doubt”)
Complaint: The initial document filed with the court to open a file on a lawsuit. In this document, the Plaintiff explains the basis of their case against the Defendant(s).
Criminal: A type of case in which the person is charged with a crime and may face penalties including fines, jail time or imprisonment.
Damages: Injuries or losses, such as a broken leg or lost wages.
Defendant: The person or entity against whom a civil lawsuit is filed, or, in a criminal case, the alleged perpetrator.
Demonstrative aids: Devices used by witnesses to better explain their testimony. One example of a demonstrative aid would be a model of a skeleton that a doctor might use to illustrate a point in his testimony.
Deposition: A statement involving questions asked by attorneys in the case and the answers given by the witness whose deposition is being taken. Depositions are taken in the presence of a court reporter, who records what is being said by each person there.
Disability: The limitation or reduction of a person’s overall capability due to injury.
Discovery: The portion of a lawsuit in which the parties are gathering evidence through obtaining answers to written questions, getting documents from the opposing party, and taking depositions of parties and witnesses.
Domestic violence: Physical and/or emotional harm suffered by a person who is a family member of, or residing in the same home as, the offender who caused the harm or injury.
DUI: The acronym for the criminal charge of Driving Under the Influence of alcoholic beverages, illicit drugs or medications, which impairs one’s ability to operate a vehicle.
Evidence: Tangible object offered to provide proof of a fact in a case. Photographs are one example of evidence.
Family law: The area of law, which deals with separation, divorce, child custody and division of marital assets, as well as adoption.
Felony: A more serious crime than a misdemeanor; a crime, which is often punishable by death or imprisonment for a term of more than one year.
Impeachmentof witness: To call into question the truthfulness and/or credibility of a witness. This is done through the introduction of evidence that contradicts the testimony of that witness.
Impairment: Rating A percentage of injury determined by a physician based on specific guidelines, which correspond to the limitations suffered by the injured person.
Interrogatories: Written questions submitted to one party by the other through their attorneys. These questions are answered in writing and the party answering them must sign an oath verifying that the answers are true and correct.
Jury instructions: The legal instructions provided to a jury by the judge by which the jurors are to render their decision, or verdict, in a trial.
Juvenile: A young person who has not yet reached the age at which he or she should be treated as an adult for purposes of criminal law; also can be used in a noncriminal context, referring to a young person who is not yet legally able to marry or sign contracts because they have not yet reached the age of maturity, or adulthood.
Lawsuit: A legal proceeding filed with the court.
Liability: The responsibility for a risk or dangerous condition, which results in injury to a person.
Malpractice: Professional wrongdoing or unreasonable lack of skill that is normally applied by a careful member of a given profession with the result of injury, loss or damage to the recipient of those services. Doctors, lawyers and accountants usually use this term to describe misconduct.
Maximum medical Improvement: The level of medical recovery reached by an injured person when their physician determines that their condition is unlikely to improve further. This is also known as “MMI.”
Mediation: An informal settlement conference at which the parties and their attorneys present their positions to a neutral individual (the mediator). That mediator then speaks to the parties separately, in an effort to bring them to an agreement to settle the matter.
Misdemeanor: Criminal offenses that are less serious than felonies, a conviction of which carry with them lesser punishments than a felony offense.
Negligence: The careless actions of a person, or their failure to act, which places them at fault in causing or contributing to the injury or death of another.
No fault: A system of insurance whereby all persons who are injured in an automobile accident may be compensated for any injuries resulting therefrom, without regard to who was at fault.
Nolo contendere: A plea in a criminal case, which has a similar legal effect as pleading guilty.
Party: The individuals or entities involved in a lawsuit. (This can be either the Plaintiff or the Defendant.)
Personal injury: Injury to an individual, which can occur in any number of ways (some examples: automobile accident, a slip-and-fall incident, a dog bite, a boating accident, etc.).
Plaintiff: The person, people or entity, which files a lawsuit.
Pleading: A document filed with the court in a lawsuit.
Preponderance of the evidence: The standard of proof, which must be met in a civil court proceeding. Specifically, this would be the evidence, which cumulatively outweighs the evidence presented by the opposing party.
Product liability: The responsibility of a manufacturer or distributor for harm or injury, which results from a defective product. Examples of product liability could be injury to a child from a poorly constructed toy, or a severe physical reaction suffered by someone as a result of taking a particular medication.
Property damage: Damage to a vehicle or another property as a result of an accident.
Reasonable doubt: The standard of proof that must be met to prove a criminal case. If a jury has reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt, they must acquit that person.
Request to produce: A pleading filed with the court in which one party requests another party be required to provide documents, photographs or other objects pertinent to the case.
Rebuttal: Rebuttal testimony is when a witness is called to testify for the sole purpose of contradicting what another has testified to.
Settlement: When a case is resolved by agreement between the parties without the necessity of a trial or verdict.
Statute: A formal written enactment of a legislative body, whether federal, state, city or county. An act of the legislature declaring, commanding or prohibiting something.
Statute of limitations: Any law, which fixes the time within which parties must take judicial action to enforce rights or else be thereafter barred from enforcing them.
Testify: To give a statement under oath, either at deposition or at trial.
Tort: A wrong; a private or civil wrong or injury resulting from a breach of a legal duty that exists by virtue of society’s expectations regarding interpersonal conduct, rather than by contract or other private relationship.
Tortfeasor: A person who owes to another the same duty and whose negligence results in injury to such other person.
Trial: A court proceeding in which the parties present their cases through testimony and evidence.
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist insurance: A specific type of insurance coverage that provides for benefits if the at-fault driver does not have insurance, or has coverage which is insufficient to compensate you for your losses.
Verdict: The decision rendered by a jury or judge at the end of a trial.
Witness: Someone who may be called to testify, either at deposition or at trial, regarding what they observed, their knowledge of the facts.
Workers’ compensation: An area of law dealing with the benefits to which an injured worker is entitled.
Wrongful death: The basis for a lawsuit, which is filed due to a death caused by the negligence of another person.