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Personal Injury Glossary of Legal Terms

When you’re suddenly thrown into a situation — through no fault of your own — where informed decisions must be made, personal injury legal terms and jargon are frustrating at minimum. Your future is the topic of discussion, and you need to understand every word. Stein Law knows this and makes transparency a top priority.

The skilled attorneys at Stein Law have more than 75 years of combined experience in personal injury law. We’re assuming you have much less than that. Additionally, you’ve just experienced a traumatizing event due to someone else’s negligence. The last thing your legal team should do is add confusion and ambiguity to the powerlessness and overwhelm you are likely already feeling. 

To instill in you a sense of comfort and control during this challenging process, we’ve compiled a glossary of some of the most common personal injury legal terms. We highly recommend speaking with a personal injury lawyer for more explanation of any terms, as each case is unique.

Glossary of Common Personal Injury Legal Terms

Abstract of Title

Court filings and registered papers associated with a piece of property.

Accident Report

An official report that details the specifics of an event, such as a car accident, workplace accident, or other event, that could result in a personal injury lawsuit.

Act of God

Events without a human cause — for example, a natural disaster or pandemic.

Ad Litem

Someone who acts on behalf of someone who cannot represent themselves in a legal case. A child is a good example of this.


The resolution of a disagreement by an unbiased third party before the case goes to trial, which can often be a longer path to a settlement than court.

Assumption of Risk

When a person chooses to knowingly take a clear and present risk. When someone assumes risk, they are not entitled to seek financial compensation from anyone they deem accountable.

Bad Faith

A claim an insured person makes against their insurance company for failing to uphold its obligation to provide coverage.

Civil Rights

A set of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to everyone. Civil law allows anyone who feels a person, company, or government has violated their rights the ability to sue for compensation and change the actions that violated their rights.

Claim (personal injury)

A civil action brought in response to a defendant’s negligence that resulted in physical or mental harm to the plaintiff.

Claim Adjuster

The point of contact between the insured and the insurance provider who manages the claim on the insurer’s behalf. This individual is paid by the insurance company.

Class-Action Lawsuit

A lawsuit brought by a plaintiff(s) acting on their own behalf and the behalf of others, usually to hold a business responsible for damages caused by its products.

Comparative Negligence

Comparing a plaintiff’s role in the accident to the defendant’s carelessness or negligence. For example, if you slip on a spill, but there was a ‘Caution’ sign placed in front of it, part of the slip is your fault for ignoring the sign.


Something (usually money) that atones for a loss of something. For example, compensation to a worker injured on the job usually includes payment of lost wages.


Financial payment awarded in a civil court case for damage or loss caused by the negligence of another person. There are four types of damages:

  1. Economic Damages: Monetary amount paid for costs associated with the injury. This could include lost wages, medical and hospital bills, replacement costs, property damages, and more.
  2. Non-Economic Damages: Monetary amount covering subjective damages. This could include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of anticipated business, and more.
  3. Deductible: The amount the injured person is legally responsible for before the insurance company takes over costs.
  4. Punitive Damages: Money amount charged to the defendant as punishment for intentional wrongdoing.

The target of a civil lawsuit filed by the plaintiff.

Expert Witness

A witness who is permitted to testify in court because of their expertise or unique understanding in a topic relevant to the case.


A misleading or false claim made with the intent to influence someone else to give up a legal right or something of value; for example, fertility fraud.

Gross Negligence

Deliberate reckless disregard for the health, safety, or property of another person, sometimes referred to as willful negligence.

Hazardous Exposure

Proximity to possibly dangerous toxins, whether through physical or airborne contact. Product creator, installation firm, or the owner of the structure that houses the toxins can bear some or all of the liability for the exposure.

Lawsuit, or Suit

A court action filed by the plaintiff against the defendant to gain compensation for harm suffered or punishment for an injustice.


A requirement a person must fulfill to comply with the law.


The legal procedure for filing a lawsuit or initiating legal action against another person, business, or government entity. 

Loss of Consortium

Compensation granted to a family member of a deceased person for the loss of the relationship (usually awarded to a surviving spouse).

Medical Malpractice

Negligence that occurs when a doctor or other health care provider violates the standard of care, resulting in the direct or indirect harm to a patient.

Medical Malpractice Caps

Limits on how much compensation a person injured by medical malpractice can receive in a lawsuit.

Mitigating Circumstances

Conditions that may be used as an excuse for lessening the degree of fault without justifying or pardoning the offense.


Careless conduct that does not meet the standard of care to protect others from harm.


A type of car insurance policy that pays out benefits regardless of who is at fault (not available in all states).

Occupational Disease

A medical condition that resulted from continual employment in a specific career or location. For example, cancer caused by chemicals used in a factory.

Partial Disability

Less-than-total disability in a workers’ compensation lawsuit based on the injured employee’s earning potential.

Personal Injury

The area of law that focuses on physical, monetary, and psychological harm resulting from another party’s failure to provide reasonable care.


The person or party who files a civil lawsuit or brings legal action against a defendant; sometimes referred to as a complainant.

Premises Liability

The obligation under the law for a property owner to compensate someone who suffers certain accidents — for example, a slip and fall — on their property.

Preponderance of Evidence

The volume of proof required by a plaintiff to successfully win their civil case. Your evidence must be stronger or more convincing than the evidence put forth by the other party. 

Products Liability

The area of civil law that makes merchants, wholesalers, distributors, and other companies accountable for injuries their defective products cause the general public.

Proximate Cause

The main reason why damage or an injury occurred, and without which the injury or damage would not have happened.


A resolution agreed to by both parties in a lawsuit.

Specific Loss

Compensation related to the amputation or paralysis of a specific part of an employee’s body.

Standard of Care
The basic level of care a reasonable person would have used in the same situation in cases of negligence. 

Statute of Limitations

The window of time established by law for an injured party to file a claim; statutes of limitations vary by state and type of injury.

Strict Liability: Legal tradition that holds a person accountable for any damage they do, regardless of their intentions.

Third Party Litigation

When a defendant wants to add a third party to the lawsuit. For example, when an employer in a workers’ compensation case argues the injury was caused by a defective tool, not the employer.


A private harm or injustice done to someone or property that results in legal responsibility.

Total Disability

Damages granted to an employee in a workers’ compensation case when they are permanently disabled as a result of a workplace injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A brain injury that leaves a person in a reduced or altered level of consciousness, which can affect their cognitive performance, physical stamina, and/or their ability to operate emotionally or behaviorally.


The legal decision (issued by a judge or jury) of a case.

Workers’ Compensation (Workers’ Comp)

Required insurance for all employers to protect their workers from financial damages resulting from work-related accidents or illnesses.

Wrongful Death Action

A lawsuit filed against a person or business for causing someone’s death through carelessness or other illegal action.

Call Stein Law Today

If you are considering filing a personal injury case or you want help understanding any of the terms outlined in this glossary, contact Stein Law today for a free case evaluation.