Glossary of Personal Injury Law Terms
Negligence: In its broadest sense, carelessness. More precisely, conduct which falls below the standard of care established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risks of harm. In order to prevail in a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the following four elements: (1) that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; (3) that the defendant’s breach of his or her duty of care caused the plaintiff’s injury; (4) that the plaintiff suffered injury.
Negligence per se: Conduct, either by act or omission, that may be declared and treated as negligence without argument or proof of negligence, usually because the conduct violates a statute. A finding of negligence per se satisfies the plaintiff’s burden of proof that the defendant’s conduct was negligent. However, the burden remains on the plaintiff to establish that his injuries were proximately caused by the statutory violation.
Next Friend: One acting without formal appointment as guardian for the benefit of an infant, a person of unsound mind not judicially declared incompetent, or other person under some disability.
Nisi Decree: Interim decree or order that will eventually become final unless something changes or an event takes place.
Nonfeasance: Failure to perform some act which should have been performed.
No Bill: This phrase, endorsed by a grand jury on the written indictment submitted to it for its approval, means that the evidence was found insufficient to indict.
No-Contest Clause: Language in a will that provides that a person who makes a legal challenge to the will’s validity will be disinherited.
No-Fault Proceedings: A civil case in which parties may resolve their dispute without a formal finding of error or fault.
Non-Jury Trial or Bench Trial: Trial before a judge and without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge decides questions of law and questions of fact.
Non-Moving Party: The party to a lawsuit that is not presenting a motion to the court. A non-moving party may or may not contest or oppose the motion. Compare with moving party.
Nolle Prosequi: Decision by a prosecutor not to go forward with charging a crime. It translates “I do not choose to prosecute.” Also loosely called nolle pros.
Nolo Contendere: A plea of no contest. In many jurisdictions, it is an expression that the matter will not be contested, but without an admission of guilt. In other jurisdictions, it is an admission of the charges and is equivalent to a guilty plea.
Notice: Formal notification to the party that has been sued in a civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed. Also, any form of notification of a legal proceeding.
Nuisance: An unreasonable or unlawful use of one’s real estate that results in injures to another or interferes with another person’s use of his real property.
Nunc Pro Tunc: A legal phrase applied to acts which are allowed after the time when they should be done, with a retroactive effect.
Nuncupative Will: An oral (unwritten) will.