When you’ve been hurt, you have enough on your mind to worry about without the additional confusion that may come from speaking with lawyers.  There are a lot of words, phrases and acronyms that will be thrown about (during the initial steps and then later, during settlement negotiations or a trial), and it can make an already stressful situation a bit hard to take.

What we’ve done is to collect some of the more common phrases you’ll hear and put them into a glossary of sorts.  This way, you have a reference in case you forget a word or definition – and you can enter the process feeling a little more confident.

  • Accident Reconstructionist: used most often in car accident cases, this person literally reconstructs the accident and how/why it may have happened.  Reconstructionists use data such as video surveillance, photos, and medical examinations (among other tools) to show that an accident was not the fault of the plaintiff, or that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the accident.
  • Compensation:  the money the insurance company pays to you after you’ve proved that you were injured.  Most lawsuits ask for compensation for medical expenses, lost wages (both what you’ve currently lost and any potential future earnings), loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.  A wrongful death suit may also sue for funeral expenses.
  • Contingency:  when fees, expenses and payments are ONLY collected if the plaintiff wins/ settles the lawsuit. If the plaintiff loses, he/she owes the lawyer nothing.
  • Civil suit:  a lawsuit that seeks compensation after a person’s actions damaged another person, company or property.  This is different from a criminal lawsuit, in that any criminal charges will not be addressed.  For example:  a man accused a murder may face a criminal lawsuit as well as a civil lawsuit for the wrongful death of the victim.
  • Damages:  also known as “compensation,” damages are awarded in three categories: economic damages, which encompass things like medical bills and expenses, and non-economic damages, which are awarded for things like pain and suffering or humiliation.  The third category, called punitive damages, is awarded when a plaintiff proves a defendant’s actions were done “maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly.”
  • Damage caps:  this is the set amount of money you can collect for specific types of damages. In Tennessee caps economic damages at $1 million, non-economic damages at $750,000 and punitive damages at $500,000.
  • Defendant:  the person or business against which the lawsuit is filed. If you fall on an icy sidewalk outside of a store, then the store owner might be the defendant in this case.
  • Independent medical examination (IME):  a medical exam performed by a doctor hired by the defendant’s insurance company.  The IME is supposed to ensure objectivity, but its primary motive is to prove that you’re not really hurt, and that the insurance company shouldn’t have to pay out compensation.
  • Negligence: a person’s failure to provide a certain standard of care
  • Plaintiff:  a person who brings a lawsuit against another person. In personal injury cases, the plaintiff is usually the injured person, or the loved one of an injured person.
  • Settlement:  an amount of money offered to a person an injury victim by an insurance company.  Settled cases do not go to trial.
  • Statute of limitations:  how long a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit.
  • Tort reform:  the process of changing the laws regarding how much compensation a person can collect after an injury.
  • Traumatic brain injury:  a type of severe brain injury that results in permanent damage, temporary or permanent loss of capabilities, a medical condition, coma or death.
  • Wrongful death:  a death that could have potentially been avoided had the other person involved not behaved in a negligent way.

We’ll add to this list of definitions as time goes on. For now, if you have questions about the legalese used in a personal injury lawsuit, we’re happy to answer your questions personally.