Common Personal Injury Terms to Know

Personal injury terms to know in boxes on a table.

Whether you were hurt in a motor vehicle collision, slip and fall, pedestrian knockdown, bicycle crash, or any other type of accident, you are likely feeling scared and stressed — and you may be overwhelmed by the prospect of filing a lawsuit. However, taking legal action can be vital to hold the careless party accountable and to recover your damages. During the course of your lawsuit, you may see or hear many legal terms that are unfamiliar. The following are a list of essential personal injury terms to know as your case proceeds through the legal process:

Accident report — An accident report is a document that is generated by law enforcement. It is usually taken at the scene of the incident and documents critical details regarding what happened, witnesses who were present, and the injuries that arose.

Affidavit — An affidavit is a sworn written statement made by a witness or a party that can be used as evidence in court.

Alternative dispute resolution — Alternative dispute resolution refers to methods that may be used to resolve your personal injury matter outside the courtroom, including negotiation, arbitration, and mediation.

Answer — An answer is the formal response filed by the defendant after receiving the plaintiff’s complaint.

Appeal — If a mistake of law was made in the case that impacted the outcome, either party may file an appeal to request that a higher court review the matter.

Bodily injury — Bodily injury is another common personal injury term to know. This term refers to the physical damage a victim suffered in connection with an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. This can include soft tissue injuries, broken bones, nerve damage, concussion, lacerations, disfigurement, and other types of injuries.

Burden of proof — The burden of proof refers to the standard that must be met to prevail in a case. While the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a criminal case, it is “preponderance of the evidence” in a personal injury matter. In other words, a plaintiff must show it is more likely than not that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries.

Claim — A claim is an allegation for which an accident victim seeks compensation for their injuries.

Comparative negligence — Alaska is a “pure comparative negligence” state. This means a court will consider the conduct of both parties when determining who is at fault. However, a victim can receive compensation for their injuries even if they are 99% at fault for the accident. Their compensation would be reduced in proportion with their share of the blame.

Complaint — A summons and complaint initiates a personal injury lawsuit. The complaint is the legal document that sets forth the nature of the plaintiff’s claim and the allegations regarding the accident.

Contingency fee — A contingency fee is the compensation a personal injury lawyer receives if their client prevails.

Damages — Damages is one of the most crucial personal injury terms to know. Damages are the financial and non-economic losses suffered by an accident victim. These can include things like medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Defendant — The defendant is the party against whom the personal injury action has been commenced.

Deposition — A deposition is a question and answer session that is used by attorneys during the discovery phase of litigation to gain more information about the case.

Discovery — Discovery is the phase of litigation where the parties exchange information and evidence that is relevant to the case.

Expert witness — An expert witness is a person who possesses specialized knowledge about a particular matter related to the case. Physicians, accident reconstructionists, and economic experts are just a few examples of expert witnesses who may be brought in to testify at trial.

Fault — Fault refers to the conduct of a person that caused injury to another.

Gross negligence — Gross negligence is a lack of care that goes beyond ordinary negligence. Specifically, it is the reckless disregard or extreme indifference to the safety of others.

Interrogatories — Interrogatories are a formal set of written questions that must be answered by an adversary as part of the discovery process.

Judgment — A judgment is the court’s decision following a personal injury trial.

Liability — One of the personal injury terms to know that commonly arises is liability. This term refers to a party’s responsibility to pay for the damages in connection with the harm they caused another to suffer.

Litigation — Litigation is the legal process of resolving a lawsuit in court.

Motion — A motion is a written request to the court asking the judge to provide a ruling on a specific issue.

Maximum medical improvement — Maximum medical improvement occurs when an accident victim’s treatment has reached a plateau and there can be no further improvement of their medical condition.

Negligence — Negligence is one of the most important personal injury terms to know and the foundation of every personal injury action. It is the failure to exercise due care. To determine whether negligence exists, a court will consider whether the defendant 1) owed a duty of care; 2) breached their duty of care; 3) such breach caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries; and 4) the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.

Plaintiff — A plaintiff is the accident victim and the party who commences the personal injury lawsuit.

Pleading — A pleading is a formal written statement filed in the personal injury lawsuit that addresses one or more of the issues in the action. Examples of pleadings include the complaint, the answer, counterclaims, and cross-claims.

Premises liability — Premises liability is an area of personal injury law that specifically deals with accidents that arise due to negligence on someone else’s property.

Settlement — A settlement is one way a personal injury lawsuit can be concluded. This is an agreement made outside of court between the parties to hold the defendant harmless in exchange for a sum of money.

Statute of limitations — The statute of limitations is the amount of time a plaintiff has to commence a lawsuit from the date of the accident. Once the statute of limitations has expired, a plaintiff would no longer be able to pursue a claim.

Strict liability — Strict liability is the standard of liability under which a defendant is responsible for their conduct based on their violation of a law or statute. Negligence does not need to be established in such cases.

Tort — A tort is an act or omission that causes a plaintiff to suffer harm.

Vicarious liability — Vicarious liability is the legal doctrine that holds a party responsible for another’s actions. For instance, an employer may be vicariously liable for the negligent conduct of an employee.

Verdict — A verdict is the jury’s decision on a personal injury matter.

Voir dire — Voir dire is the process by which a personal injury attorney will select a jury. They are questioned by the attorneys and asked whether they believe they can be a fair and impartial juror.

Wrongful death — If an accident victim passes away due to their injuries, their family may commence a wrongful death action against the negligent party to recover the damages the victim would have been entitled to receive.

Contact an Experienced Alaska Personal Injury Attorney

The aftermath of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence can be overwhelming — but you don’t have to face it alone. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you navigate the process and explain the personal injury terms to know that are applicable in your case. Proudly serving accident victims in Anchorage, Soldotna, Kenai, Palmer, Wasilla, and other areas of Alaska, The Trial Guy, Eric Derleth, is committed to guiding clients every step of the way in their personal injury matters. Call 907-262-9164 to schedule a free consultation at our Anchorage or Soldotna office, or contact us online. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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