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Legal Jargon Demystified – Personal Injury Edition

Starting a full-time summer position as a law clerk at a general practice firm after your first year of law school is an exciting time. It remains exciting until you realize that even after an entire year of legal education, you still don’t understand most of the legal terminology the attorneys at the firm use.

Entering a law firm as a new law clerk or as a new client can be overwhelming. In order for attorneys to be successful, they spend numerous hours studying and learning the law. This includes developing a vocabulary that individuals outside of the legal field rarely need to use in their daily lives.

This vocabulary has claimed the name “legal jargon”. During my time at Lardiere McNair, LLC, I have developed a mental glossary of some of these legal terms. The following list of terms are those that are commonly used in personal injury cases. Should you ever need representation in a personal injury matter, you will hear our personal injury team use these words and phrases during our representation of you:

  1. Statute of Limitations: The time period that an individual has to bring a legal action. For personal injury claims, legal proceedings must be brought within two years from the day the personal injury was suffered.


  1. Plaintiff: A person who initiates a legal claim against another person and/or entity.


  1. Defendant: A person and/or entity who has a legal claim brought against them in a court of law.


  1. Tortfeasor: An individual who commits a wrongful act or interference of a right of another which causes injury to the other.


  1. Contingency Fee: A type of payment that attorneys may utilize. This type of fee is set up so that attorneys are only paid once the client has been awarded a sum of money for their civil claim. The attorney is paid for their services by acquiring a percentage of the client’s award. Our personal injury team works based off a contingency fee of 33.3% or 25%.


  1. Demand Package: A package addressed to the tortfeasor’s auto insurance company which includes: 1) the facts of the incident; 2) the economic and non-economic damages suffered by the injured party; and 3) the initial demand for a settlement amount.


  1. Economic Damages: In personal injury claims, economic damages refer to all medical expenses and/or property damages incurred because of the alleged incident.


  1. Non-Economic Damages: The damages an injured party incurs because of the alleged incident that are not represented by a dollar amount. Our personal injury team measures non-economic damages suffered by our clients through four categories: 1) nature and extent of physical injury; 2) effect on daily activities; 3) effect on general overall health; and 4) pain and suffering.


  1. Subrogation Liens: In most personal injury cases, while the injured party is treating and/or has not received compensation for their damages, a third party will pay for their medical expenses. Once the injured party has received their compensation, the third parties will have “liens” against the injured party, simply meaning that they are expecting repayment from the amount of the settlement.



  1. UM/UIM Insurance: (Uninsured Motorist/Under-insured Motorist Insurance) – In personal injury claims that arise out of car accidents some injured parties will have “UM/UIM Insurance”. This insurance policy is in place so that if they are in a car accident and injured by a motorist who either does not have car insurance or does not have a policy large enough to cover the medical expenses, this insurance policy will cover some or all of the settlement costs.


  1. Litigation: The act of taking a claim to the court of law. In personal injury claims, if claims cannot be settled between the parties’ representatives through negotiation, the injured party will file a lawsuit in the court of law which begins litigation.


  1. Discovery: This process takes place at the beginning of litigation and before the lawsuit is heard at court. Both parties obtain evidence from one another about the alleged incident. This information is used to prepare a case to heard at court.



  1. Settlement: An agreement between the parties that resolves the claim. In personal injury cases, this settlement is a sum of money to compensate the injured party for the economic and non-economic damages he/she has suffered.


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