After a car accident or other serious incident, you may think about hiring an attorney. However, if you aren’t an attorney or haven’t met with a lawyer before, you may not know all the terms that lawyers use. This guide will help you better understand the common personal injury terms, words, and phrases used in Alabama cases.
Of course, this guide does not – and cannot – include every term that you might hear. However, it includes many of the words that are commonly used in personal injury cases. This guide will define these personal injury terms and where helpful, provide examples.
General Personal Injury Terms To Know
Personal Injury – Personal injury refers to an area of law concerned with injuries caused by the actions of another. Car accidents and falls are examples of personal injury cases.
Injury – An injury is a harm that occurs to a person. An injury can be physical (broken leg, head injury, etc.), emotional (pain and suffering), reputational (defamation), or financial (loss of property, assets, wages, etc.) past or future earnings, breach of contract, or others.
Negligence – The law sets for standards of care that every person must follow. Generally, a person who fails to follow those standards may be considered negligent. Specifically, a person is negligent when it is proven that: (1) the person had a duty to behave in a certain manner; (2) the person failed to behave in that manner; (3) the person’s failure caused injury to another; and (4) the injury resulted in damages.
Phrases Used at the Beginning of a Personal Injury Case
Plaintiff – The plaintiff is the person who has been injured.
Defendant – The defendant is the person who caused the injury.
Complaint – The complaint is an important document that the plaintiff files with the court. The complaint will use very short sentences to tell the court why the plaintiff believes the defendant is at fault, the damages plaintiff suffered, and the remedy the plaintiff is seeking.
Prayer for Relief – Every complaint must have a prayer for relief. The prayer for relief tells the court exactly what the plaintiff wants. For example, the prayer will state how much money the plaintiff is requesting.
Answer – An answer is the defendant’s response to the complaint. The answer will either admit or deny the facts. The answer also lists any defenses the defendant might use.
Phrases Used After An Alabama Personal Lawsuit Begins
Motion to Dismiss – A defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case. In Alabama, a motion to dismiss can be filed for a variety of reasons. If the court grants the motion, the case will end.
Discovery – Discovery is the name for the process that allows the plaintiff and defendant to request information from each other. During discovery, lawyers usually ask the other side for documents. They can also request that you submit written responses to questions (interrogatories) or answer questions under oath (deposition). In a personal injury case, they can even request medical records or a medical exam.
Mediation – The mediation process allows parties to discuss their dispute with the help of a professional mediator. The mediator might be able to help the parties resolve the case. In Alabama, mediation is mandatory if both parties agree to it, one of the parties requests it, or the court orders it.
Summary Judgment – A motion for summary judgment is filed after discovery. This motion asks the court to find that there are no facts in dispute and that the undisputed facts do not prove a legal claim. If the motion is granted in full, the case will end. If the motion is granted in part and denied in part, the case will continue on some issues but not others.
Settlement – A settlement is an agreement reached by the parties. One party – usually the defendant – makes a settlement offer. If the plaintiff accepts the offer, the lawyers will file paperwork to dismiss the case.
Phrases Used During An Alabama Personal Injury Trial
Bifurcated trial – In a normal trial, the jury decides all issues at once. In a bifurcated trial, the trial proceeds in two parts. In a bifurcated personal injury trial, the jury will first decide who is responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. If the jury decides that the defendant is responsible, the court will then ask the jury to determine the proper amount of damages.
Voir Dire – Voir Dire is a French phrase that means “speak the truth.” During voir dire, lawyers will ask potential jurors questions to determine if they want them on the jury.
Question of Fact – A question of fact is an issue that must be decided by the jury. For example, the jury decides which witnesses to believe and which evidence is persuasive.
Question of Law – A question of law is an issue that must be decided by the judge. The judge will decide which topics the lawyers can bring up, which questions they can ask, and other legal matters.
Expert Witness – An expert witness is a witness who has specialized training in a certain area. For example, a doctor who is certified in orthopedics may be qualified as an expert.
Damages – Juries award damages to plaintiffs. There are two types of damages. Compensatory damages reimburse a plaintiff for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage, and similar items. Ideally, these damages put the plaintiff back in the same position they were in before the defendant’s negligence. Conversely, punitive damages are awarded to punish a defendant for particularly bad behavior. Punitive damages can go far beyond the amount of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff.
Phrases Used After An Alabama Personal Injury Case
Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law – If a party is not happy with the outcome of the trial, they can file this motion. If granted, this motion will reverse the jury’s decision.
Remittitur – A motion for remittitur allows the court to reduce the amount of a verdict.
Appeal – A party that is unhappy with a court ruling or the jury’s verdict can ask a higher court to review the decision. However, the appeal process can take months or years to finish.
More Questions about Alabama Personal Injury Terms?
Filing a lawsuit can be a stressful experience. Knowing some personal injury terms will hopefully reduce that stress a bit. If you have more questions about Alabama personal injury law, contact Collins Law LLC. The team at Collins Law will answer all of your questions and guide you through the process.