Personal Injury Legal Glossary Terms

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Raybin & Weissman, P.C., has been helping the people of Middle Tennessee resolve legal issues since 1976. Our clients (and prospective clients) frequently ask us about the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit, as well as the meaning of specific legal terminology.

To help you further familiarize yourself with common terms you’ll hear in a personal injury case, we have assembled the following Personal Injury Glossary of Terms. It includes legal terminology related to the process of filing and pursuing a personal injury lawsuit—terms like Complaint, Answer, Discovery, and Deposition—as well as definitions of legal rules, procedures and doctrines.

Personal Injury Legal Terms

Abrogate

to violate, cancel out, destroy, revoke or void out by formal or authoritative action.

Abstract of Title

a statement, usually prepared for a purchaser of a piece of property, summarizing the history of the property (including all conveyances, interests, liens and encumbrances) that affect the title.

Abuse of Discretion

legal standard applied by courts of appeal to review whether or not the discretion of the trial court, administrative agency or other entity exceeded the power the trial court had when it ruled.

Abuse of Process

the improper use of the legal process to obtain a result that is unlawful.

Acceleration

the shortening of the time for vesting in possession of an expectant interest.

Accord

legal word for an amicable agreement between two or more parties.

Accrue

to build up or to accumulate, as in an enforceable claim or right.

Act of God

an unpreventable event caused by forces of nature, such as a tornado.

Action (At Law)

a legal right whereby one party prosecutes another for a wrong.

Actionable

giving rise to a cause of action.

Actionable Tort

the failure to perform a legal duty created by statute or common law, where such failure results in injury.

Actual Damages

an amount awarded to compensate for injury or loss as a result of the wrongful act of another.

Ad Damnum

(lat.) the amount of damages claimed in the context of a lawsuit

Ad Litem

(lat.) for the lawsuit.

Additur

an increase by the court in the amount of damages awarded by a jury, usually with the defendant’s consent, to avoid a new trial on grounds of inadequate damages.

Adjourn

to suspend; to delay a court proceeding through recess.

Adjudicate

to rule upon judicially.

Adjudication

the process of deciding a case based on evidence presented.

Admiralty and Maritime Jurisdiction

the exercise of authority over actions related to events occurring on navigable waters.

Admission

voluntary acknowledgment that certain facts are true.

Alienation of Affections

a tort claim based upon willful, malicious or intentional interference of a marriage relation by a third party without justification.

Alter Ego

(lat.) the other self; a corporation used by an individual in conducting personal business may result in a court imposing liability on the individual by piercing the corporate veil.

American Bar Association (A.B.A.)

a national organization of lawyers organized in 1878 that aims to improve legal services and the administration of justice.

Amicus Curiae

(lat.) a friend of the court; not a party to the lawsuit but petitions the court or files a brief because they have a strong interest in the subject matter.

Annotation

a note that cites or explains a particular case or statute.

Annuity

an obligation that requires payment of a stated sum, usually monthly or annually, and often utilized to fund a structured settlement.

Annul

to make void or do away with.

Assumption of Risk

when a person voluntarily proceeds with a risk of loss, injury or damage despite known danger(s).

Bailiff

a court attendant or officer who maintains order during court proceedings.

Barrister

in England, a lawyer who is admitted to plead at the bar.

Battery

an intentional or unlawful application of force against another; an unlawful touching.

Bench Trial

a trial in which the court determines the case without a jury; trial by judge.

Best-Evidence Rule

an evidentiary rule requiring the original writing, recording or photograph (or a duplicate copy).

Burden of Proof

a party’s duty to prove a disputed assertion or charge.

Casualty Loss

the total or partial destruction of an asset resulting from an unexpected event, such as a fire or tornado.

Cause of Action

the existence of a particular set of facts and law that create a right sufficient to merit judicial action.

Caveat

(lat.) let him or her beware.

Cease and Desist Order

a court or agency order prohibiting the person or entity to which it is directed from continuing a particular course of conduct.

Circuit Court

part of a system of courts, which usually has jurisdiction over several counties or districts.

Circumstantial Evidence

indirect evidence of a fact; evidence based on inference and not personal knowledge or observation.

Citation

a reference to a legal precedent or authority, such as a case or statute.

Civil Action

a legal proceeding brought to protect a civil right created by common law or statute.

Civil Law

law of civil or private rights, as opposed to criminal law.

Civil Liability

liability for actions seeking enforcement of personal rights.

Civil Rights

a group of individual rights of personal liberty that are protected by the U.S. Constitution, including the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments.

Claim (personal injury)

a civil action relating to harm suffered by the plaintiff (or on behalf of the injured victim), due to negligence on the defendant’s part.

Class Action

a lawsuit brought by an individual or small group who represent the interests of a larger group.

Class-action Lawsuit

a suit filed by a plaintiff (or plaintiffs) on behalf of themselves and as representatives of others; most often, class-action lawsuits are filed to hold a company accountable for the liability of its products.

Clayton Act

a federal statute that prohibits price discrimination, tying arrangements and exclusive-dealing contracts if their effect might substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly.

Clean Hands

a legal doctrine that requires that a party that seeks equitable relief must not have committed any impropriety with respect to the transaction in question.

Clear and Convincing

evidence indicating that the thing to be proved is highly probable; a greater burden than mere preponderance of the evidence.

Common Law

the system of jurisprudence which is based on judicial precedent rather than statutory laws; comprises the largest body of law in the U.S.

Comparative Fault

a plaintiff’s own negligence that proportionally reduces the damages recoverable from a defendant.

Comparative Negligence

a plaintiff’s own negligence that proportionally reduces the damages recoverable from a defendant. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative fault system, a plaintiff may only recover compensation if his/her negligence is less than the defendant. In such cases, a plaintiff’s total damages are reduced by the proportion they are determined to be at fault.

Compensation

payment of damages, or any other act that a court orders. In workers’ compensation cases, it refers to payment to an injured worker or their dependents.

Compensatory Damages

damages sufficient to indemnify the injured person for the loss suffered.

Complaint

the first papers filed by the plaintiff in a civil action; it states the basis for the court’s jurisdiction, the basis for the claim and the demand for relief.

Compos Mentis

(lat.) master of one’s mind; having use of and control of one’s own mental faculties.

Conclusion of Fact

the conclusion reached through use of observed or proven facts.

Conclusion of Law

conclusion reached on a question of law, made as a result of a factual showing.

Conclusive Evidence

irrefutable evidence.

Conflict of Interest

a real or seeming incompatibility between one’s private interest and one’s public or fiduciary duty.

Conflict of Laws

applicable law of one jurisdiction which differs with the applicable law of another jurisdiction that also has an interest in the outcome.

Consanguinity

the familial relationship of persons united by the same blood or origin.

Consent Judgment

an agreement of the parties which is placed on record with the court having jurisdiction.

Consortium

the benefits that one person (usually a spouse) is entitled to receive from another, including companionship, affection and financial support.

Contempt of Court

a willful disobedience of a court order or a willful interference with the administration of justice.

Contingent Fee

a fee charged for a lawyer’s services only if a lawsuit is successful or favorably settled; usually calculated as a percentage of the client’s recovery.

Continuance

a postponement of a trial or other proceeding.

Contribution

a legal right of a party who is responsible to the victim for reimbursement from another person.

Contributory Negligence

the negligence of the injured party, which is recognized as playing a part in causing the plaintiff’s injury.

Costs

court-recognized expenses of the legal proceedings for which the successful party is entitled to reimbursement.

Criminal Negligence

an act of negligence that is so extreme that it is punishable as a crime.

Damages

monetary compensation claimed by or awarded to a person as compensation for loss or injury.

Damnum Absque Injuria

(lat.) harm without injury.

De Jure

(lat.) as a matter of law.

De Novo

(lat.) from the beginning; anew.

Declaratory Judgment

a determination by the court that determines the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the court on a question of law or interpretation.

Decree

a decision or order of a court, usually in a court of equity, divorce or probate; a final decree disposes of all matters before the court; an interlocutory decree disposes of only part of the suit and often may not be appealed until the conclusion of the entire case.

Defendant

the party against whom a civil lawsuit has been filed (by the plaintiff).

Defense

the defendant’s stated reason why s/he should not be liable to the plaintiff for the allegations made.

Delayed Discovery Rule

created as a way to protect negligence claims from the statute of limitations, which could have expired prior to the plaintiff knowing that s/he had a legal claim.

Deliberation

the process of pondering and weighing of facts, applying the law, and coming to a decision or taking some action.

Demand

to claim as one’s due or to seek relief, typically the amount of money requested by the plaintiff.

Demonstrative Evidence

physical evidence that one can see and inspect; evidence which aids by its ability to demonstrate.

Depose

to examine (a witness) in a deposition.

Deposition

the taking of out-of-court statements prior to trial where all parties’ attorneys are present for the asking of questions; the proceedings are recorded for later use in court or for discovery purposes.

Derogation

the partial repeal or abolition of a law.

Directed Verdict

a verdict entered in a jury trial by the judge because the evidence permits only one reasonable verdict.

Discovery

a procedure utilized by attorneys to acquire information in preparation for trial.

Discretion

the exercise of an official prerogative to act in an official capacity.

District Court

a court having jurisdiction over a territorial district.

Due Care

a theory of tort law that explains the standard of care or the legal duty one owes to others; what a reasonable person would do under like circumstances.

Duty

an obligation of one party to another. In cases of negligence, a “duty” refers to an obligation to provide a certain standard of care. Failure to meet this obligation is negligence, and cause for legal action on the part of the injured.

Election of Remedies

a choice of possible remedies sanctioned by law for a particular injury or wrong.

En Banc

(lat., fr.) the full court, with all judges present and participating.

En Ventre Sa Mere

(lat., fr.) in the mother’s womb.

Enlargement

to increase in size or extend in scope or duration.

Equitable

what is just and fair under particular circumstances.

Erroneous

incorrect; inconsistent with the law or facts.

Estoppel

precluding from asserting a claim or right that contradicts what has been said or done before.

Ex Parte

on or from one party only, usually without notice to or argument from the adverse party.

Exemplar

an ideal or typical example.

Exhaustion of Remedies

the doctrine that if an administrative remedy is provided, a claimant must seek relief first from the administrative body before a court will consider the controversy.

Exhibit

a document, record, or tangible object formally introduced as evidence in court.

Expert Witness

a person who is allowed to testify at a trial because of special knowledge or proficiency in a particular field that is relevant to the case.

Fact-Finder

one or more persons that has the responsibility of hearing testimony and reviewing facts to rule on an issue.

Failure to Prosecute

the failure to proceed in a matter in litigation as expected by the court; a failure to pursue.

First Impression

first discussion or consideration of a particular matter or issue.

Forensic

the branch of science that employs scientific technology to assist in the determination of facts in the courts of law.

Foreperson of Jury

chairs the jury during deliberations, usually elected by the jury at the start of deliberations.

Foreseeability

the quality of being reasonably anticipatable; an element (along with actual causation) of proximate cause in tort law.

Forum Non Conveniens

(lat.) an inconvenient place to proceed

Fraud

a blatant false or deceptive statement of fact intended to persuade another person to give up something valuable or a legal right s/he is entitled to.

Gag Order

an order by the court restricting comment on, or the release of information about the proceedings by parties, attorneys, witnesses or journalists.

Garnishment

a procedure to take control over a person’s assets or income that have been judicially determined to be owed or to belong to another person.

Good Cause

significant or legally adequate reason for the doing of an act.

Good Faith

honesty in belief or purpose; free from improper motive or intent to defraud or seek unconscionable advantage.

Governmental Immunity

a legal precept of sovereignty of the government rendering it immune from being sued in its own courts without its consent.

Grand Jury

a group of individuals designated by law who determine whether enough evidence exists to merit indictment of the criminally accused.

Gross Negligence

intentional failure to perform a standard of duty by recklessly disregarding another person’s health or property; aka willful negligence.

Guardian

one who has legal authority to care for another’s person or property.

Guardian ad Litem

a guardian, usually an attorney, appointed by the court to represent an incompetent or minor party.

Guilty

the determination that the accused has committed a wrong, usually a crime.

Harmless Error

error which is not sufficiently prejudicial to require reversal of a previous finding.

Hazardous Exposure

physical contact with poisonous substances or proximity to toxic agents that are potentially harmful to health. Liability for hazardous exposure may rest on multiple parties, including the manufacturer of the product in question.

Hearsay Rule

a rule of evidence that requires the declarant be subject to cross-examination; there are exceptions to the rule.

Hidden Defect

a defect or condition which is not observable by a reasonable inspection.

Hung Jury

a jury whose members cannot agree in sufficient numbers to reach a verdict, unanimous in criminal cases.

Immaterial

lacking any logical connection with the issue in question.

Immunity

a grant of freedom from a duty, liability, or responsibility.

Impact Rule

a requirement of tort law whereby a physical contact with the person must occur in order for damages for emotional distress to be recoverable.

Impanel

to bring together in the courtroom the people selected to serve as the jury.

Impleader

a rule of procedure whereby a third party is brought into an existing lawsuit, usually by a defendant who seeks to shift liability to a party not sued by the plaintiff.

Implied Consent

a consent that is drawn from the facts of the surrounding circumstances.

Implied Contract

a contract not expressly agreed upon in written terms but one created by the conduct of the parties.

Imputed Liability

liability for the acts of another person which arise out of the operation of law.

In Absentia

(lat.) in the absence (of someone).

In Camera

(lat.) in chambers, usually the judge’s private chambers.

In Forma Pauperis

(lat.) in the manner of a pauper. Typically refers to a right granted by the court to allow a party to proceed without the payment of costs due to financial inability.

In Limine

(lat.) at the outset.

In Loco Parentis

(lat.) in the place of a parent; of or relating to the temporary caretaker of a child.

In Personam

(lat.) against the person

In Re

in the matter of (a judicial proceeding).

In Rem

(lat.) against a thing, as opposed to an action against a person.

Indemnity

a duty to make good for loss, damage or liability that has been sustained by another.

Informed Consent

a consent that is obtained after a full disclosure of the facts and risks involved; sometimes an allegation in medical negligence cases.

Inherent Defect

a defect that exists and is natural to the item.

Injunction

a court order that requires a person or entity to refrain from pursuing a particular course of conduct or activity.

Injuria Absque Damno

(lat.) injury without damage; a legal wrong that will not sustain a lawsuit because no harm resulted.

Injuria Non Excusat Injuriam

(lat.) one wrong does not justify another injury or injury inflicted upon another.

Instruction

the law given by the court to the jury prior to their deliberations, which states the applicable law to the issues in the case.

Inter Alia

(lat.) among other things.

Inter Vivos

(lat.) between the living.

Interim Order

a temporary order.

Interlocutory Order

a ruling that determines an intermediate issue, but does not dispose of the case in chief.

Interpleader

a suit to determine a right to property held by a usually disinterested third party, who is in doubt about ownership and deposits the property with the court to permit interested parties to litigate ownership.

Interrogatories

a pretrial discovery tool in which written questions are sent by one party to another to be answered under oath.

Intervention

a proceeding permitting a person who has a stake in the outcome to enter into a lawsuit already in progress.

Invasion of Privacy

the wrongful intrusion into a person’s private life or personal activities.

Invitee

one who comes upon the premises of another in the wake of express or implied invitation.

Ipse Dixit

(lat.) he himself said it; something asserted but not proved.

Irreparable Injury

a loss for which no remedy at law would be sufficient and therefore a court sitting in equity may order a special relief other than money damages.

Issue

a point in dispute between two or more parties.

Issue Preclusion

an issue that has been decided in a previous litigation and is precluded from being re-litigated.

J. D.

abbreviation for Juris Doctor, the degree that is bestowed upon graduation from law school.

Joinder

uniting of parties or claims in a single lawsuit.

Joint and Several

sharing of liability between parties, individually as well as jointly.

Joint Enterprise

an agreement of two or more parties to take on a particular goal or project.

Joint Liability

a doctrine of liability making all parties who are responsible for a loss to each share full responsibility.

Joint Venture

a business undertaking by two or more parties engaged in a single defined project.

Jones Act

a federal law that grants a seaman who suffers injury to his or her person during the course of employment to recover damages for the injuries in a negligence action against the employer.

Judge-Made Law

law that is decided by judicial interpretation as opposed to legislative enactment.

Judgement

a court’s final determination of the right and obligations of the parties in a case.

Judicial Notice

a rule of judicial convenience that negates the need for proof of matter.

Jurisdiction

the authority of a court to hear and determine a matter.

Jurisdictional Amount

an amount of money in controversy; required for a court to have the authority to hear and determine a matter.

Jurisprudence

the study of the general elements of a legal system, as opposed to its practical and concrete details.

Jurist

one who has thorough knowledge of the law, usually a judge or legal scholar.

Juror

an individual who has been impaneled as a member of a jury.

Jury

the group of individuals selected according to law and given the power to decide questions of fact and return a verdict.

Jury Trial

the determination of a case by a jury, which decides the facts after the court instructs the jury of the law to be applied.

Justiciable

a matter that is capable of being determined by a court of law or equity with or without the aid of a jury.

Laches

unreasonable delay in pursuing a right to a claim in a way that prejudices the party against whom relief is sought.

Law of the Case

holds that a determination of law by a higher court is considered as correct during all subsequent hearings in the proceedings unless the question is being heard by a court higher than the court that made the ruling.

Lawsuit or Suit

a court action brought by one party, the plaintiff, against another, the defendant, with the goal of seeking compensation for injury.

Lay Witness

a witness that is testifying as a witness to a fact or an opinion, as opposed to an opinion given by an expert about a matter beyond the expected comprehension of the jury.

Leave of Court

a request to the court to obtain permission to follow a non-routine procedure or do something that otherwise would not be permissible.

Lex Loci Delicti

(lat.) the place where the wrong took place.

Liability

an obligation one is bound to by law to perform; typically involves the payment of monetary damages.

Licensee

one to whom a license is granted; also one who has permission to enter or utilize another’s premises, but only for their own purposes.

Liquidated Damages

a sum of money agreed upon by the parties that will be paid as damages if there is a breach of the contract.

Lis Pendens

(lat.) a pending lawsuit.

Litigation

the process of taking legal action and/or filing a lawsuit.

Long Arm Statues

statutory laws that empower a court to obtain jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant who has had contacts with the territory where the statute is in effect.

Loss of consortium

damages awarded to a family member of a deceased person for loss of companionship.

Lump-Sum Payment

an amount of money that is paid in one payment, as opposed to a structured settlement which is paid out over a period of time in multiple payments.

Magistrate

in the federal court system, this is a person who is appointed to serve as a representative of the court and is often given many responsibilities that would otherwise be performed by a federal judge.

Malfeasance

a wrongful or unlawful act.

Malice

the intent to commit an unlawful act.

Malpractice

negligence or incompetence on the part of a professional; to succeed in a malpractice claim, the plaintiff must also prove proximate cause and damages.

Maritime Law

the body of law that governs marine commerce, navigation and other activity in navigable waters.

Medical Malpractice

negligence by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor or surgeon, who departs from the applicable standard of care and by act or omission causes injury to a patient.

Medical Malpractice Caps

put limits on the amount of compensation a victim of medical malpractice can seek; in Tennessee, non-economic damages in most medical malpractice cases are capped at $750,000 per claim.

Mens Rea

a guilty mind.

Misfeasance

a lawful act performed in a wrongful manner.

Mistrial

a trial that the judge brings to an end without a determination on the merits, as a result of a procedural error or serious misconduct during the proceedings.

Mitigating Circumstances

conditions that do not constitute a justification or total pardon for an offense, but which may be used as a reason for reducing the degree of fault.

Mitigation of Damages

a duty owed by the party who sustained injury to his person or property to minimize or alleviate the affects of the injury.

Money Judgment

a judgment granting to one party the right to receive money from another party.

Moot Case

a matter or case in which a controversy no longer exists.

Motion

a written or oral request to the court asking it to take particular action with regard to the litigation.

Motion in Limine

a request made by a party asking the court to prohibit the discussion or presentation of a particular matter to the jury.

Negligence

failure to exercise the degree of care which an ordinary prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.

Negligence Per Se

an act or failure to act that is considered unreasonable conduct as a matter of law without the need to consider surrounding circumstances.

Next Friend

a person who appears in a lawsuit for the benefit of an incompetent or minor plaintiff, but who is not a party to the suit and not a guardian.

No Fault Insurance

insurance which allows every person injured in an automobile accident to be compensated, irrespective of who was at fault.

Nominal Damages

a minute sum awarded, often a dollar.

Nonfeasance

the failure to act when a duty to act existed.

Nonsuit

a plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal of a case or of a defendant, without a decision on the merits.

Nuisance

the hindrance or interference with the interests of others.

Occupational Disease

an illness or disease caused as a result of exposure to debilitating conditions or substances in the course of employment.

On All Fours

an expression used to characterize a case where facts and law are nearly identical to another case in all material ways.

On Demand

as soon as requested.

On the Merits

a decision or ruling that deals with the underlying basis of the case, as opposed to a rule of procedure.

Parental Liability

law that obligates parents for certain wrongful acts committed by their children (prior to adulthood).

Partial Disability

in a workers’ compensation case, this refers to disabilities that are less than total. In these situations, benefits are generally measured by the injured employee’s earning capacity.

Pecuniary Damage

financial losses incurred.

Per Diem

(lat.) based on or calculated by the day.

Personal Injury

the area of law which covers physical, financial and emotional injuries caused by another person or party’s negligence in using reasonable care. Auto accidents and premises liability (slip/fall) are two of the most common types of personal injury cases.

Personal Injury Attorney

a lawyer who provides legal representation to those who claim to have been injured as a result or negligence or wrongdoing of others.

Piercing the Corporate Veil

a legal doctrine that imposes personal liability on otherwise immune corporate officers or directors for a corporation’s wrongful acts.

Plaintiff

the party who initiates a civil suit in a court of law.

Pleadings

papers in which a party to a legal proceeding responds to allegations, claims, denials or defenses.

Prayer

the relief sought by the plaintiff in the lawsuit as stated in court pleadings.

Pre-Emption

a judicial principle which states that a federal law can supercede an inconsistent state law or regulation.

Precedent

a deviation in a prior case which established a right or reasoning of law which must be followed in the present case.

Premises Liability

the legal responsibility of a property owner or occupier of a property to provide compensation for persons who sustain certain injuries while on their premises.

Preponderance of the Evidence

the standard of proof in most civil cases, in which the jury is instructed to find for the party, that on the whole, has the stronger evidence.

Presumption

a rule of law which allows the finding of one fact from the presentation of another fact shown.

Prevailing Party

the winning party.

Prima Facie Case

the existence of some evidence on each required point of a case.

Privity

the relationship between two parties, each having a legally recognized interest in the same transaction or proceeding.

Pro Hac Vice

(lat.) for this particular occasion.

Pro Se

(lat.) on one’s own behalf, it usually refers to a person who represents him or herself without a lawyer.

Product Liability

principle of law that holds a manufacturer (or other party who makes a product available to the public) responsible for injuries that a faulty product causes.

Proffer (of evidence)

to offer or tender evidence for immediate acceptance.

Proximate Cause

the primary reason why an injury or damage occurred and without which the accident would not have happened.

Punitive Damages

damages awarded in addition to actual damages when the defendant acted with recklessness, deceit or malice; punitive damages not only penalize the wrongdoer but make him/her an example to others, thereby deterring blameworthy conduct.

Quantum Meruit

(lat.) as much as deserved; damages awarded in an amount considered reasonable to compensate a person who has rendered services in a quasi-contractual relationship.

Quash

to annul or make void by judicial decision.

Question of Fact

the existence of a controversy that has not been authoritatively answered by the law.

Reasonable Care

the amount of care expected of an ordinarily prudent person under the same or similar circumstances.

Rebuttal

evidence disproving other evidence previously given.

Reckless Disregard

behavior or demeanor which evidences a lack of concern for consequences.

Remand

to send back, as in a case or claim.

Removal

usually refers to the transfer of an action from state to federal court.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

(lat.) the thing speaks for itself; the doctrine provides that in some circumstances, the fact of an accident’s occurrence raises an inference of negligence.

Res Judicata

(lat.) a thing adjudicated; an issue that has been definitely settled by judicial decision.

Rescission

the unilateral cancellation of a contract for a legally sufficient reason.

Respondent Superior

(lat.) let the superior reply; a legal principle whereby the employer is liable for an employee’s wrongful acts committed during the scope of employment.

Restitution

to make good the loss for injury or damage.

Reversible Error

error in a trial which is sufficient to cause the entire decision to be reversed or a new trial granted by a reviewing appellate court.

Scienter

(lat.) knowingly; a degree of knowledge that makes a person legally responsible for the consequences of their act of omission.

Scintilla

a minute amount of evidence.

Sequester

to separate; in law, refers to the isolation of the jury from the world outside the courtroom in order that they will not be influenced by events and information not presented at trial.

Settlement

an agreement between both parties in a lawsuit.

Seventh Amendment

the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the right to a jury trial in federal civil cases that have an amount in controversy exceeding $20.

Show Cause Order

a command from the court to appear before it and explain why something should not be done.

Sidebar

an area at the side of a judge’s bench where attorneys can converse with the judge beyond the jury’s earshot.

Sixth Amendment

the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that entitles the accused in a criminal trial the right to a speedy and public trial by a jury.

Sovereign Immunity

a doctrine granting immunity to the government unless the government consents to be sued.

Specific Performance

a remedy requiring a person who has breached a contract to perform specifically what was agreed upon.

Standard of Care

For cases of negligence, the degree of care which a reasonable person would have applied under the same or similar circumstances.

Standing

the legal right of a person or entity to make a legal claim or bring a lawsuit.

Stare Decisis

(lat.) to stand by that which was decided; the legal principle that a lower court will follow that which has already been decided by a previous case.

State Bar Association

An organization of members of the legal profession that have been admitted to practice law in a given state.

Statute of Limitations

the statutory law which establishes the time within which a lawsuit must be brought or be forever barred.

Stipulation

an agreement by the attorneys on both sides about select aspect(s) of the case.

Strict Liability

a legal doctrine that holds a defendant liable for harm caused by their actions regardless of their intentions or level of care. Typically, strict liability is used in defective products or products liability cases.

Sub Judice

(lat.) before the court or judge for determination.

Summary Judgment

a finding and entry of judgment by the court (after a hearing and review of the claims and the evidence of the parties prior to a trial) where the court determines that there is no genuine issue or dispute as to any material fact, and that the evidence, as a matter of law, is insufficient to allow such claim to continue and renders judgment in favor of one party.

Survival Statute

statutory law that creates a right on behalf of the estate of a deceased person to maintain a lawsuit for any cause of action that would have existed had the decedent not died.

Syllabus

a summary paragraph, usually prepared by the court, which precedes the body of a reported case that in some jurisdictions is the black-letter law of the jurisdiction.

Third Party Litigation

when a case is brought against a defendant who wants to add another party to the suit.

Tort

a civil wrong which causes injury as a result of a breach of a legal duty owed to another. Personal injuries arising from negligence are a common example of one type of tort.

Total Disability

in a workers’ compensation case, damages awarded to an employee when they are totally impaired due to a work-related injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury

an impact to the head that results in a diminished or altered state of consciousness and may impair a person’s cognitive abilities, physical capacity and/or a disturbance of emotional or behavioral functioning. Often occurs in auto accidents.

Trial

a formal proceeding or hearing of evidence in a court having jurisdiction over the persons, entities and subject matter for a determination of all issues between the parties based upon the applicable law.

Trial de Novo

a new trial on the entire case.

Ultrahazard Activity

conduct or any activity that involves such a great potential for harm or injury that the person or entity performing such activity is held strictly liable for the outcome.

Vacate

to set aside or to render void.

Verdict

a jury’s finding or decision.

Vicarious Liability

the imputation of liability upon one person or entity for the acts or failure to act of another person or entity.

Voir Dire

(fr.) to speak the truth; the portion of a trial where the potential jurors are asked questions by the attorneys or the court to determine their qualifications and suitability to sit as jurors.

Volenti Non Fit Injuria

(lat.) a volunteer suffers no wrong; that is, a person who consents to legal wrong has no legal right

Weight of the Evidence

an expression relating to the persuasiveness of some evidence as compared to other evidence.

Witness

a person who is sworn at a trial to provide evidence in a case.

Work Product

the work done by an attorney in the process of representing a client which is ordinarily privileged and not subject to discovery.

Workers’ Compensation (aka Workers’ Comp)

mandatory insurance that almost all employers are required to hold in order to cover their employees for economic losses due to a job-related injury or illness.

Wrongful Death Action

a lawsuit filed against an individual or company for the death of a person due to negligent or wrongful behavior. Wrongful death cases are generally filed by a surviving family member, who can recover damages for mental and physical suffering, lost wages, funeral and medical expenses for the deceased, loss of income & earning capacity, as well as loss of consortium.

Please note that these definitions—collected from publicly available sources—should not be construed as legal advice. For one, legal definitions can change or evolve based on decisions in court cases and changes to Tennessee law. Moreover, context is important—and these terms may have additional meaning(s) beyond the way they are defined here.

As a result, Raybin & Weissman expressly disclaims any and all liability for reliance on the definitions below. If you have any questions about legal or medical terminology or would like a free, no obligation consult with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers call us at 615-256-6666.

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