Terms Used In Personal Injury Law You Should Know

If you have been hurt in an accident in Texas where another person’s negligence was at play, you may have a right to compensation. 

There are situations where you may need to fight to trial to recover compensation. However, in most cases, victims of accidents reach a consensus with the at-fault party and resolve the matter out of court. 

“Irrespective of which route your personal injury case takes, you are bound to encounter some technical legal terms along the way, and it is important to have a basic understanding of what they mean,” says Attorney Max Paderewski of Lone Star Injury Attorneys, PLLC. This guide describes the terms you will likely come across and what they mean. 

Plaintiff, Claimant, and Defendant

Plaintiffs, claimants, and defendants are all parties to a personal injury claim or lawsuit. In the US, the terms plaintiff and claimant are used interchangeably to refer to the person or entity who initiates a lawsuit or complaint against another who, in a personal injury context, is the victim. 

On the other hand, think of the defendant as the one in the legal hot seat – they’re the folks getting sued and usually have fingers pointed at them for causing some sort of injury.

Negligence

Liability for all personal injury lawsuits except defective product lawsuits is negligence-based. As such, the claimant has to prove the defendant’s negligence in their conduct and that their negligence was the cause of the accident. 

Negligence has four main elements, which are terms that may feature quite a lot in the claims process: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and harm.

When we talk about duty of care, it’s all about the level of attention and protection the defendant was supposed to give the victim – that whole responsible behavior thing they were on the hook for.

For example, a driver owes other drivers the duty of driving with reasonable care while sharing the road with other divers. If they fail to exercise this care, the legal term for this failure is breach of duty. Causation links the breach we’re talking about directly to the accident, whereas harm is all about the dough you can recover for damages that the accident caused.

Comparative Negligence States

States have different approaches to negligence, which in turn influences the amount of recoverable damages for victims who had a role in causing the accident. 

Texas follows a modified comparative approach, which allows victims to recover compensation as long as their percentage of fault is not over 50%. However, the recoverable damages decrease relative to the plaintiff’s percentage fault. 

Damages and Settlement

Damages are losses suffered in an accident, which fall into two main categories: economic (monetary) and non-economic (non-monetary). Economic damages include lost wages, cost of treatment, cost of medication, cost of buying living aids, etc. 

Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, and emotional and psychological distress. In some cases, the term punitive damages can come into play. Punitive damages may not fit the definition of losses but can be applied as punishment for the at-fault party’s gross misconduct, reckless conduct, or intentional tort. 

Settlement refers to the terms of settlement reached by the parties involved. The defendant agrees to pay the agreed-upon figure in exchange for the plaintiff signing release papers absolving them of any further liability. 

Final Words

The terms mentioned in this guide are the most common. But there are many more, and the only way of ensuring that your lack of knowledge of these terms doesn’t affect the outcome of your case negatively is by working with a skilled personal injury lawyer.