Glossary of Personal Injury Law Terms
Bad faith: Intention to mislead or deceive; conscious refusal to fulfill some duty. Implies active ill will, as opposed to negligence. Bad faith is not bad judgment; it requires conscious wrongdoing.
Bail: Money or other security (such as a bail bond) provided to the court to temporarily allow a person’s release from jail and assure their appearance in court. “Bail” and “bond” are often used interchangeably.
Bail Bond: An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as bond.
Bailiff: Court officer responsible for keeping order in the court, custody of the jury, and custody of prisoners while in court.
Bankruptcy: Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may be released from or “discharged” from their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt. Bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings. The person with the debts is called the debtor and the people or companies to whom the debtor owes money to are called creditors.
Bar: 1. Historically, the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. 2. More commonly, the term means the whole body of lawyers.
Bar Examination: A state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted and licensed to practice law.
Battery: The unlawful use of force resulting in the injury of another. Battery always includes assault. See assault.
Bench: The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.
Bench Trial or Non-jury Trial: Trial before a judge and without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge decides questions of law and questions of fact.
Bench Warrant: An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.
Beneficiary: Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.
Bequeath: To give a gift to someone through a will.
Bequests: Gifts made in a will.
Best Evidence: The most direct evidence possible, such as producing an original document to prove that the document exists and what it states. A copy of a document or testimony by a witness would be “secondary evidence.” The best evidence rule prohibits the introduction of secondary evidence unless best evidence cannot be obtained, so long as the party seeking to introduce the secondary evidence is not at fault in making the best evidence incapable of being obtained.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The standard in a criminal case requiring that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a crime has been proven by the prosecution. This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.
Bill of Particulars: A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant.
Binding Authority: Law that controls the outcome of a case. For example, a decision on the same point of law by a higher court in the same state must be followed by a lower court in that state. See precedent.
Bind Over: To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting a hearing finds probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime, the official will bind over the accused, normally by setting bail for the accused’s appearance at trial.
Booking: The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest.
Breach of Contract: Failure, without legal excuse, to perform all or some of the promises made in a contract.
Brief: Written document, usually prepared by an attorney, submitted to the court about a case, containing summaries of the facts of the case, relevant laws, and an argument showing how the laws support that party’s position.
Burden of Proof or Standard of Proof: Degree of proof required in a specific kind of case to prevail. In the majority of civil cases, it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.
Bystander: In products liability law, a person who neither buys nor uses a product, but who nevertheless is injured by the product and may have a cause of action.