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610-444-0933

When you or a loved one suffers an injury due to someone else’s negligence, understanding the personal injury claims process is vital. Although the best accident attorneys will guide you through your claim from start to finish, knowing basic legal terminology can be helpful.

Plaintiff – The plaintiff is the party who brings a civil lawsuit against an individual or entity in a personal injury claim. The injured victim is typically the plaintiff in a personal injury case.

Defendant – The defendant is the at-fault party or entity that the plaintiff is suing. In some personal injury cases, there may be more than one defendant.

Tort –Personal injury and wrongful death claims are based on tort law. A tort is a negligent or wrongful act that causes harm to another person. An intentional tort typically involves a deliberate act that causes injury, such as assault.

Duty of care – In certain situations, a person or entity has an obligation to protect themselves and others from harm. For example, a supermarket has a duty of care to keep the entrance free of ice, snow, debris, and other hazards that could cause someone to trip, slip or fall. In medical malpractice cases, the duty of care is often known as the standard of care, which means a medical professional’s conduct is compared to the accepted standard for their specialty or industry.

Negligence – Negligence is a vital element of most personal injury claims, negligence and occurs when a party or entity fails to take proper care. To successfully recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove negligence, which can be challenging. Experienced accident injury lawyers know how to prove all four elements of negligence:

  • That the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
  • That the defendant failed to meet that duty;
  • That the defendant’s failure caused harm to the plaintiff; and
  • That the plaintiff suffered injury, damages, or losses as a result.

Damages – There are two basic types of damages in personal injury cases. Damages are meant to “make the plaintiff whole,” or return them to the state they were in before an accident or injury. Economic damages are quantifiable and include medical bills, wage loss, property damage, and other accident-related expenses. It is more difficult to put a dollar amount on non-economic damages like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and emotional distress.

In rare cases, a court may award punitive damages, which are not meant to make a plaintiff whole, but to punish the defendant for particularly outrageous or egregious conduct and deter them and others from committing similar acts.

Statute of limitations – Each state places a time limit on how long a plaintiff has to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Although they vary from state to state, typically statutes of limitations for personal injury claims range from two to four years from the date of the injury.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of terms that are useful to know when filing a personal injury claim. To learn more about personal injury terminology, contact an injury lawyer.