Glossary of Personal Injury Legal Terms

Arbitration - A method of dispute resolution involving one or more neutral third parties. An arbitrator acts like a judge and hears the evidence through witnesses and/or documents. The arbitrator makes rulings of law and fact and, after hearing the evidence, issues are ruling as to liability (fault) and the nature and amount of damages, if any.

Automobile Insurance - Insurance purchased for cars, trucks, and other road vehicles. It is designed to absorb most of the risk of financial liability or loss a motor vehicle owner may face if their vehicle is involved in a collision restulting in bodily injury or physical and/or property damages.

Common Carrier - Any individual or organization that charges to carry a passenger, or system of equipment that carries passengers, as a part of a business operation open to the public. This includes airplanes, cable cars, ferries, taxis, moving walkways, elevators, escalators, ski lifts, airport shuttles, and more.

Compensation - Monetary award transferred from defendant to plaintiff to make up for some wrong, damage or injury caused by the defendent's actions or inaction.

Complaint - The initial pleading that starts a civil action and states the basis for the court's jurisdiction, the basis for the plaintiff's claim, and the demand for relief.

Contingency Fee - A fee charged for a lawyer's services only if the lawsuit is successful or is settled out of court. It allows you to hire an attorney, such as Attorney Colantuono, without paying any money down and without paying by the hour. We only get paid if you receive compensation for your damages either through a settlement or trial. We are paid a portion of what we recover for you. The fee is usually one-third (1/3), or one-fourth (1/4) if the plaintiff is a minor. Some firms increase their percentage is a lawsuit is filed - NH Injury Help does not.

Defendant - Someone accused of violating the law. The defendant in a civil suit is accused of being liable by the person whose rights have been violated and/or who has been harmed (the plaintiff).

Deposition - A form of legal question and answer process that takes place out of court. People with knowledge of facts important to prove liability and/or damages are questioned under oath and a written record of the proceedings is created by a court reporter. The attorney asks the deponent (witness) questions in an effort to evaluate the case for settlement and/or to prepare for trial.

Discovery - The legal process of exchanging information once a lawsuit has been filed. This allows the parties to obtain information to determine who is liable for what happened, who is at fault, and what damages someone is entitled to receive.

Economic Damages - Out-of-pocket losses including the following: medical expenses, wage loss, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, property damage, funeral expenses, towing, rental car, household help and other expenses caused by the wrongful conduct. These damages are the easiest to calculate because you can obtain bills, recepits, and estimates.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance - If you have been the victim of unlawful harassment, discrimination, retaliation or you have been denied your legal rights to accommodation, medical leave, pregnancy leave or have been wrongfully terminated, you may be entitled to compensation under this form of insurance. The insurance is purchased by the employer to protect their company from damages if one of their employees has violated your legal rights in the workplace.

Expert Witness - An individual with a specialized skill, training, or experience whose testimony is felt to be of assistance in helping the trier of fact, be it a judge or a jury, understand matters outside of their common experience. Usually, experts deal with technical matters, medical issues, customs and practices in an industry, and/or scientific materials.

General Liability Insurance - This is a form of insurance that is purchsed by a company to pay damages if one of their employees is negligent and causes someone to suffer an injury while at work.

Hit and Run - A type of automobile and motor vehicle accident in which the person responsible for a collision with a person, personal property, or another vehicle leaves the scene of the accident without declaring himself/herself. Injuring another person or their personal property in an automotive accident may make you liable to repay damages.

Homeowner's Insurance - This is insruance that people take out to cover any liability for negligence that occurs on their property because of their actions (with certain exclusions). Usually, this insurance comes into play in a slip and fall, dog bite, stair collapse, or other injury-producing event linked to the property. In addition to covering any liability as a result of negligence, homeowner's insurance often provides medical payments coverage for medical treatment for injuries that happen regardless of fault. Therefore, if someone is injured on another person's property, that injured party may be able to recover their medical expenses even if no one is at fault.

Injunction - Written order by a court prohibiting a specific action from being carried out by a person or group. A preliminary injunction is granted provisionally until a full hearing can be held to determine if it should be made more permanent.

Insurance - Protects someone from financial damages if they negligently cause injury to another. There are many forms of insurance. Just because someone has insurance does not mean that you are automatically paid for your damages. You must, in most cases, demonstrate that someone's negligence makes them liabile for the injuries you have suffered.

Intentional Conduct - Different than negligence because negligence is usually not intentional, but is the result of carelessness, inattention or failure to take precautions. Intentional conduct is when someone deliberately does something to harm or kill another person, such as hitting them, poisioning them, damaging their property, defaming them with false statements of their character and/or conduct, or other knowing and deliberate conduct that causes injury. Often, intentional conduct is excluded from insurance coverage, but you may be able to obtain restitution through any criminal charges brought.

Liability (or Liable) - Fault in a civil action.

Loss of Consortium - When one or both parties in a marriage or domestic partnership suffers a serious personal injury or wrongful death, they have special rights to recovery. It is a form of non-economic damage. If injury causes one partner to be unable to engage in the things that the couple engaged in before, the other partner is entitled to recover for the loss they suffered because of the injury to their relationship. If sexual relations, social relations, recreational activities, companionship, child-rearing abilities, household responsibilities and/or other aspects of the marriage have suffered because of the negligence, the non-injured party may have their own, separate right to bring action as a plaintiff. These damages are in addition to other damages that the injured party may be able to recover and are the separate property of the non-injured spouse or domestic partner.

Medical Payments Coverage - This is insurance that you buy, generally on your motor vehicle policy, in case you get hurt. This provides for payment of your medical bills. You are entitled to coverage no matter who is at fault.

Negligence - The failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation. This requires people and businesses to use reasonable care in the management of their property, vehicles, animals, actions and business operations.

Non-Economic Damages - Include pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of use, humiliation, mental anguish, loss of love, support and companionship and emotional distress. These damages are more difficult to calculate and, many times, exceed the value of the economic damages. They are called non-economic damages because they do not represent out-of-pocket losses. Although they are called non-economic damages, money is paid to compensate people who have suffered these injuries. There is no fixed standard or method of calculating these damages - they vary by individual and case and are often referred to as subjective damages because they differ according to each individual's personal/subjective experience.

Personal Injury - When someone is hurt or killed because of the fault of another.

Plaintiff - Someone who claims that they have been harmed and who brings a lawsuit seeking to show someone else, the defendant, is liable (at fault) and responsible for their damages. In a personal injury action, they are the person who has been hurt. In an employment/discrimination action, they are the person who has been fired, harassed, denied accommodation or whose rights have otherwise been violated.

Preponderance of the Evidence - The amount of evidence needed for a plaintiff to win a civil action. A preponderance of the evidence is the greater weight of the evidence or the more convincing evidence in comparison to the evidence offered in opposition. A plaintiff can win by a preponderance of the evidence even if the plaintiff's evidence merely tips the scales in their favor.

Professional Liability Insurance - This is insurance that is purchased by doctors, hospitals, lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc., in case they are negligent in conducting their professional affairs and their negligence causes damages.

Settlement - An agreement reached between parties who have a dispute between them. This ends a controversy, often without going to trial, by spelling out the terms agreed to by the parties.

Standard of Care - In the law of negligence, the degree of care which a reasonable, prudent, or careful person should exercise under the same or similar circumstances. If the standard falls below that established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm, the person may be liable for damages resulting from such conduct.

Statute of Limitations - A law that bars claims after a specified period. The law requires that if you believe you have been harmed by the wrongful conduct of another, you must bring a lawsuit within a limited timeframe. Failure to bring a lawsuit or take required legal action, such as filing a claim where required with an administrative government agency, may eliminate your right to recover damages if someone is liable.

Towing and Rental Car Coverage - If you have been in an automobile accident, your insurance my provide for a rental car while your car is being repaired. Likewise, it may provide for towing reimbursement. If it does not, or as an alternative, you may seek to have the defendant's insurance provide you with a rental car while your car is being fixed. However, this service is not always provided.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage - Because many drivers carry the minimum insurance (or none at all), you can purchase uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage on your automobile to protect yourself if you are injured by the negligence of another. This allows you to have your damages paid for, including pain and suffering, by your own insurance company if the person who hits you has no insurance or less insurance than you.

Wage Loss - If someone is injured or killed because of the wrongful act of another or is denied promotion or wrongfully fired, they may be entitled to recover wage losses as part of their damages. This includes the loss of past income that has been lost or reduced, as well as future income that is reasonably certain to be lost or reduced.

Workers' Compensation Insurance - This is insurance that is required by law, for all businesses, to provide compensation to workers injured on the job. This type of insurance does not require that you prove anyone was negligent. It is "no fault" - meaning no one needs to be shown to be at fault for you to recover. In most instances, if you are injured on the job, you are entitled to compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. You are not entitled to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Wrongful Death - When someone is killed by the wrongful conduct of another.