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Personal Injury Information Center

Personal Injury Glossary

We provide a glossary of some key personal injury terms for your convenience.

Preparing to Meet with Your Personal Injury Attorney
Before meeting with your attorney, it is wise to prepare information relating to your case. This checklist provides different types of information you may be asked to bring to an initial meeting with your personal injury attorney.

What to Expect in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
To have a personal injury claim, you (or a loved one) must have been injured due to the negligence of another. Injuries are often physical in nature, but they do not have to be; some injuries are emotional. The type and cause of injury may vary greatly depending on the circumstances of your case. In such a claim, the plaintiff (injured person) must determine who is responsible for the injuries suffered, establish that person's negligence and show the court the type and amount of losses incurred in order to be awarded compensation for injuries. The following article discusses the elements of a personal injury case and the types of damages you may be able to recover.

Personal Injury Glossary
Assault and Battery — Assault and battery are often heard together; however, they are separate legal claims. An assault is putting a person in immediate fear (or apprehension) of physical injury or offensive contact. Battery is actually using force to harm another individual.

Birth Injuries — Birth injuries are injuries to a baby, which occur during delivery and are caused by medical negligence. The type of injuries and degree of negligence may differ from case to case. Usually, birth injuries occur in situations where a medical professional failed to act or responded inadequately to a complication or medical condition during a birth.

Catastrophic Injuries — Catastrophic injuries are severe physical injuries that require extensive medical treatment and are often long lasting or permanent in nature. These injuries may result from any kind of accident and may affect all body systems.

Exploitation of a Nursing Home Resident — Exploitation takes place when an individual misuses a resident's personal property or funds for his or her own benefit. Often this is done without the owner's consent, through threats, coercion, deception or undue influence. Thus, the resident is taken advantage of.

Licensee — The term licensee is often used in a slip and fall case. A licensee is someone who enters the property of another with the owner's consent. The owner owes such a person a duty to keep the property safe and to warn the licensee of any known dangers. If the landowner fails this duty and the licensee is injured, he or she may have a claim against the owner for those injuries.

Medical Malpractice — Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, dentist or other medical/healthcare worker performs his or her duties in a manner that is negligent. This means, the worker's action or non-action does not meet the industry standard of care and, as a result, the patient suffers injury.

Soft Tissue Injuries — Soft tissue injuries may be caused from a single event or over a period of time (repetitive activity). Generally, soft tissue injuries are bruises, sprains or strains to the muscles, ligaments or tendons. Injuries to the internal organs or bones are not considered soft tissue injuries.

Workers' Compensation — Workers compensation refers to benefits given to workers who have been injured during the course of their employment. Employees may receive compensation for costs, such as, lost salary, medical treatment, job rehabilitation and other types of compensation depending on the situation. In return, the employer cannot be sued by the employee for the same injuries/incident. Such benefits are required for all United States workers by state and federal law.

Wrongful Death — A wrongful death claim is a legal action by survivors of a deceased individual. In order to have such a claim, the loved one's death must have been caused by the wrongful actions of another party. The decedent's loved ones, bringing the claim, may receive monetary compensation for their losses, as determined by the court. Every state has a wrongful death statute; however, the laws may differ greatly.

Preparing to Meet with Your Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident (car or other type of accident), or have suffered an injury due to the nonaction, negligence or actions of another, it is important to see an attorney to discuss your possible claim. Before you see your attorney, gather documents and other information you may have regarding the incident that caused your injury. Bring this information with you to give your attorney. You may have different types of information depending on your situation, or your attorney may ask you to bring additional information not listed in this checklist.

General information and documentation related to your injury may include:

  • Name and address of the ambulance company
  • Name and address of the hospital you were taken to
  • The dates of the incident that caused your injury
  • The dates that you were taken to the hospital/emergency room
  • Names and addresses of the doctors or chiropractors that examined you
  • Names and addresses of any witnesses to the incident that caused your injury
  • Dates you were unable to work due to your injuries
  • Name and contact information for your insurance company, insurance agent and any other insurance representatives you have talked to
  • A copy of your accident report
  • Copies of written statements
  • Applicable insurance policies: homeowners, renters or automobile
  • Health insurance documents, including your policy or coverage information
  • Disability insurance documentation
  • Veterans insurance policy
  • Any other documentation, including hospitalization
  • Copies of any correspondence you have had with your insurance company, including letters, Emails, etc.
  • Medical bills
  • Receipts for anything you've had to buy or fix because of your injuries
  • Documentation of lost wages
  • If your injuries are due to a car accident, there may be other types of documents and information you should bring to your attorney, including:
  • Proof of premium payments, including statements, bills, cancelled checks, receipts or anything you have to show that your insurance premium has been paid
  • Information exchanged at the time of the accident, including names, contact information from the other party or witnesses or any correspondence with any of the parties after the accident
  • Information you gave the police at the time of the accident, including the police report
  • Traffic tickets related to the accident
  • Photographs of any property damage caused by the accident
  • Any statements you may have given to your insurance company or the other party's insurance company
  • Medical records
  • Records of any psychological/psychiatric care or treatment needed due to the accident
  • Any information you may have about the other driver in the accident, pedestrians or witnesses, including name, address, phone number, make/model/color of car, license plate number, insurance company, location at the time of the accident and/or description of what they saw
  • Date, time, location of the accident

Establishing a Personal Injury Case
In order to prevail on your personal injury claim, you must be able to prove to the court that the defendant (responsible party) is responsible for your injuries. In most cases, this is done by showing the defendant's negligence. To do this, the elements of negligence must be established based on the facts of your case. The elements of negligence are as follows:

  • Duty of care — A reasonable person is held to a legally recognized duty of care. This means, a person must prevent reasonable harms to another by their actions or inactions.
  • Breach of duty — A defendant breaches this duty by failing to meet the standard of care. Based on the circumstances, this could mean a failure to warn, failure to keep the plaintiff safe or by behaving in a way (conduct) that caused the plaintiff's injury.
  • Causation — Causation is often the most difficult element to prove. The defendant must have been the direct or proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Generally, a "but for" test is used to show causation. The plaintiff's injuries would not have occurred if it hadn't been for the defendant's behavior (action or inaction).
  • Damages — The plaintiff must show that due to the defendant's breach, he or she suffered harm and incurred loss.

Damages in a Personal Injury Case
If each element is established in the plaintiff's case, the court may award damages for losses. Most damages awarded are compensatory in nature. They are to compensate the plaintiff for actual losses incurred or suffered. The court will consider many factors when determining the amount of compensatory damages. The factors may vary depending on the specific facts of your case. Some examples may be pain and suffering (physical and/or emotional), lost wages, medical expenses, future medical treatment, loss of consortium, loss of household duties, loss of quality of life, disfigurement, disability and loss of parental guidance.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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