Glossary of Personal Injury Law Terms
Abstract of Title: A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.
Accomplice: 1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.
Acknowledgment: 1. A statement of acceptance of responsibility. 2. The short declaration at the end of a legal paper showing that the paper was duly executed and acknowledged.
Acquit: To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.
Action. In the legal sense, a formal complaint or a suit brought in court.
Additur: An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury.
Adjudication: Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also the judgment given.
Ad Litem: A Latin term meaning for the purposes of the lawsuit. For example, a guardian “ad litem” is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.
Administrative Agency. Governmental body responsible for administering and implementing a particular legislation, such as laws governing traffic safety or workers’ compensation. These agencies may have rulemaking power and judge-like authority to decide disputes.
Administrative Hearing. Proceeding before an administrative agency which consists of an argument, a trial, or both. Rules governing the proceeding, including rules of evidence, are generally less strict than in civil or criminal trials.
Administrator: Person appointed by a court to administer a deceased person’s estate. The person may be male (in which case, he would be referred to as the “administrator”) or female (in which case, she would be referred to as the “administratrix”).
Admissible evidence: Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.
Adversary Proceeding. Legal proceeding involving parties with opposing interests, with one party seeking legal relief and the other opposing it.
Affiant: A person who makes and signs an affidavit.
Affidavit: A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths. For example, in criminal cases, affidavits are often used by police officers seeking to convince courts to grant a warrant to make an arrest or a search. In civil cases, affidavits of witnesses are often used to support motions for summary judgment.
Agreement: Mutual assent between two or more parties; normally leads to a contract; may be verbal or written.
Aid and Abet: To actively, knowingly or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
Allegation. The claim made in a pleading by a party to an action setting out what he or she expects to prove.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.
Amicus Curiae. (Latin: “friend of the court.”) Person or organization that files a legal brief with the court expressing its views on a case involving other parties because it has a strong interest in the subject matter of the action.
Appeal. Request to a superior or higher court to review and change the result in a case decided by an inferior or lower court or administrative agency.
Appearance: 1. The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court. 2. A written notification to the plaintiff by an attorney stating that he or she is representing the defendant.
Appellate Court. A court having jurisdiction to hear an appeal and review the decisions of a lower or inferior court.
Arbitration: A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party and agree to abide by his or her decision. In arbitration there is a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.
Arbitrator: A person who conducts an arbitration.
Arraignment: A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. Sometimes called a preliminary hearing or initial appearance.
Arrest: To take into custody by legal authority.
Assault. A willful attempt or threat to harm another person, coupled with the present ability to inflict injury on that person, which causes apprehension in that person. Although the term “assault” is frequently used to describe the use of illegal force, the correct legal term for use of illegal force is “battery .”
Assumption of the Risk. When a person voluntarily and knowingly proceeds in the face of an obvious and known danger, she assumes the risk. A person found to have assumed the risk cannot make out the duty element of a negligence cause of action. The theory behind the rule is that a person who chooses to take a risk cannot later complain that she was injured by the risk that she chose to take. Therefore, she will not be permitted to seek money damages from those who might have otherwise been responsible.
Attorney-Client Privilege. Client’s privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications between the client and his or her attorney.
Attorney-in-Fact: A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a letter of attorney, or more commonly a power of attorney.
Attorney of Record: The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.