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Common personal injury lawsuit terms and definitions

If you are in the middle of a personal injury lawsuit or considering filing one, you may have heard a number of different legal terms associated with your case. While personal injury lawsuits and medical malpractice claims are complex pieces of litigation, there are some common terms and definitions plaintiffs should be aware of. Below is a selection of general legal terms and some specific to injury claims.


  • Duty – A legal obligation
  • Breach – Violating one’s legal duty to another
  • Causation – Suffering injury as the result of negligence
  • Damages
    • Compensatory damages – Money awarded as damages for an injury
    • Punitive damages – Monetary award to punish defendants for malicious conduct
    • Expenses – Money spent by a law firm to prosecute an injury lawsuit

Tort Law

  • Res ipsa loquitur – The occurrence of an accident implies negligence
  • Negligence per se – Actions considered negligent because they violate a state or federal law
  • Comparative negligence – Degree to which a plaintiff was responsible for his or her own injury reduces an award
  • Contributory negligence – Creating an unreasonable risk to one’s self, thereby negating any possible award
  • Intentional torts – Civil wrongdoing through an intentional act
  • Strict liability – Liability that does not depend on intent to harm
  • Last clear chance doctrine – Allows a negligent plaintiff to recover damages if he or she can show the defendant had the last chance to avoid an accident
  • Medical malpractice – Personal injury lawsuits arising out of a doctor’s failure to follow the medically accepted standard of care
  • Statute of limitations – The amount of time a plaintiff has after an accident to file a lawsuit against the defendant
  • Uninsured Motorist Claims/Under-Insured motorist claims (UIM) – Claims against the victim’s own insurance company under an uninsured motorist insurance policy
  • Federal tort claims act and State law claims – Before filing lawsuits against state or federal defendants, plaintiffs must file notice of claims with the appropriate entity
  • Class action & Multi-Party suits – Multiple plaintiffs with similar claims against the same defendant filing one single lawsuit
  • Jurisdiction/venue – The proper and most convenient court to hear a lawsuit

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The Cochran Firm handles Medical Malpractice, Catastrophic Personal Injuries, Motor Vehicle Accidents & Wrongful Death Claims for clients throughout the United States of America. The information on this website does not constitute legal advice nor form an attorney-client relationship. Please contact The Cochran Firm today to schedule a free consultation.