Glossary of Personal Injury Law Terms
Pardon: A form of executive clemency preventing criminal prosecution or removing or extinguishing a criminal conviction.
Parens Patriae: The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.
Parole: The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his or her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he or she need not serve the rest of his or her term.
Party: A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.
Partial Disability: In a workers’ compensation case, this refers to any disability that is less than total. Workers’ compensation benefits are generally measured by earning power in this situation.
Patent: A government grant giving an inventor the exclusive right to make or sell his or her invention for a term of years.
Peremptory Challenge: A challenge that may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving a reason.
Perjury: Intentional false statement of material importance made under oath; lying under oath.
Permanent Injunction: A court order requiring that some action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action. It differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.
Person: Generally, a human being. Legally, a “person” may statutorily include a corporation, partnership, trustee, legal representative, etc.
Personal Property: Tangible physical property (such as cars, clothing, furniture, and jewelry) and intangible personal property. This does not include real property such as land or rights in land.
Personal Jurisdiction: The power of a court over a person. Compare with subject matter jurisdiction.
Personal Recognizance: In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his or her promise to return to court. See also own recognizance.
Personal Representative: One who stands in the place of another..
Person in Need of Supervision: Juvenile found to have committed a status offense rather than a crime that would provide a basis for a finding of delinquency. Typical status offenses are habitual truancy. violating a curfew, or running away from home. These are not crimes, but they might be enough to place a child under supervision. In different states, status offenders might be called children in need of supervision or minors in need of supervision.
Petition: A formal request that the court take some action; a complaint.
Petitioner: The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court. The opposing party is called the respondent.
Petition to Terminate, Modify or Suspend Benefits: In a workers’ compensation case, this is the petition filed by the employer/insurance carrier in an attempt to modify, suspend or terminate an injured employee’s compensation.
Plaintiff: In civil law, the person who brings an action or starts a lawsuit.
Plea: In a criminal proceeding, it is the defendant’s declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty. The defendant’s answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.
Plead: In civil law, a defendant’s formal answer to a plaintiff’s complaint.
Plea Bargaining or Plea Negotiating: The process through which an accused person and a prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of a case. Usually it is a legal transaction in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some form of leniency. It often involves a guilty plea to lesser charges or a guilty plea to some of the charges if other charges are dropped. Such bargains are not binding on the court.
Pleading: A document filed in a court that pertains to a case.
Pleadings: The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.
Polling the Jury: The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict.
Possessor of Land: A person who occupies land and intends to control it. Most often, it is the owner of the property.
Pour-Over Will: A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-maker’s death.
Power of Attorney: Written document authorizing one person to take certain legal actions on behalf of the person giving the power of attorney..
Precedent: Decision by a court that provides an example or authority for later cases involving a similar question of law. See binding authority.
Preliminary Hearing: Another term for arraignment.
Pre-Injunction: Court order requiring action or forbidding action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent injunction. It differs from a temporary restraining order.
Preponderance of the Evidence: The amount of evidence needed for a plaintiff to win in a civil action. A preponderance of the evidence is the greater weight of the evidence or the more convincing evidence in comparison to the evidence offered in opposition. A plaintiff can win by a preponderance of the evidence even if plaintiff’s evidence merely tips the scales in plaintiff’s favor.
Presumptively Capable of Negligence: Pennsylvania law places minors in three categories based on age. Minors under 7 are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence. Simply put, under the law, they cannot commit torts. Minors between 7 and 14 are presumed incapable of negligence, but the presumption is rebuttable or disputable, and the presumption grows weaker as the child nears his or her 14th birthday. Minors over 14 are presumptively capable of negligence. Simply put, under the law they are presumed as being able to commit torts. The burden is on the minor to prove incapacity.
Pre-Sentence Report: A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision.
Presentment: Declaration or document issued by a grand jury that either makes a neutral report or notes misdeeds by officials charged with specified public duties. It ordinarily does not include a formal charge of crime. A presentment differs from an indictment.
Pretermitted Child: A child borne after a will is executed, who is not provided for by the will. Most states have laws that provide for a share of estate property to go to such children.
Pre-Trial Conference: A meeting between the judge and the lawyers involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues in the suit, agree on what will be presented at the trial, and make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.
Prevailing Party: Generally, the winning party in a lawsuit.
Prima Facie: Literally means “at first sight” or “on the face of it.” “Prima facie evidence” is evidence that is good and sufficient on its face. A plaintiff makes out a “prima facie case” when he or she presents “prima facie evidence,” which means that the plaintiff is permitted to prevail on that evidence alone, unless the defendant can put forth sufficient evidence to overcome it.
Prima Facie Case: A case that is sufficient and has the minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the judicial process.
Primary Care Physician (PCP): A physician that is employed by or contracts with a managed health care system like an HMO that coordinates all of the member’s medical care. A PCP is usually afamily practitioner . PCP’s are also known as “gatekeepers” because they control a member’s access to medical care within a health plan.
Privileged Communication: Statement protected from forced disclosure in court because the statement was made within a “protected” relationship such as attorney/client. See attorney-client privilege.
Probable Cause: A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.
Probate: The court-supervised process by which a will is determined to be the will-maker’s final statement regarding how the will-maker wants his or her property distributed. It also confirms the appointment of the personal representative of the estate. Probate also means the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.
Probate Court: The court with authority to supervise estate administration.
Probate Estate: Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.
Probation: An alternative to imprisonment allowing a person found guilty of an offense to stay in the community, usually under conditions and under the supervision of a probation officer. A violation of probation can lead to its revocation and to imprisonment.
Procedural Law: Generally, the body of law establishing the method or procedure of enforcing rights or obtaining redress for invasion of rights. Compare with substantive law which establishes rights.
Process Serving: The method by which a defendant in a lawsuit is notified that a plaintiff has filed a suit against him.
Products Liability: Area of the law involving the liability of manufacturers and sellers of dangerous or defective goods or products.
Promulgate: To officially announce.
Property Damage Liability Coverage: Automobile insurance coverage required under Pennsylvania law that provides money to pay claims if your car damages the property of another person.
Pro Bono: (Latin: “for the good”) Used to describe the provision of services free of charge.
Pro Bono Publico: For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.
Pro Se: A Latin term meaning “on one’s own behalf”; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers.
Prosecutor: A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.
Proximate Cause: The proximate cause of an injury is the primary or moving cause that produces the injury and without which the accident could not have happened, if the injury is one which might be reasonably anticipated or foreseen as a natural consequence of the wrongful act.
Public Defender: Government lawyer who provides free legal defense services to a poor person accused of a crime.
Punitive Damages or Exemplary Damages: Compensation greater than is necessary to pay a plaintiff for a loss. These damages are awarded because the loss was aggravated by violence, oppression, malice, fraud or wanton and wicked conduct on the part of the defendant. Such damages are intended to punish the defendant for his evil behavior or make an example of him or her.
Purchaser: In products liability law, a person who buys a product.