“It’s never pleasant to be embroiled in a legal case,” says James Johnson, ESQ, founder and head attorney of Johnson Attorneys Group, a group that specializes in personal injury law, “especially when it’s a personal injury case where you’re first priority is to get better. It helps if you’re forearmed with a little knowledge first, so these are terms with which you should be familiar.”
Personal injury is an area of law which allows an injured person to sue a wrongful party for causing their injuries. The wrongful party, which can be a company or person, causes the accident because of a failure to do something. It would be great if a plaintiff only needed to know that term. However, this area of law has numerous terms a plaintiff needs to know to understand and resolve their case.
TERMS THE PLAINTIFF SHOULD KNOW
- Medically Determinable Impairment: This term is used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to define a debilitating condition that prevents a person from working or earning an income. The condition may be physical or mental, but it must be tested for, verified and medically documented before a person can be eligible for benefits.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (DI): DI is part of the SSA program that pays retirement benefits to people. The insurance pays benefits to workers no longer able to work because of a mental or physical impairment or illness. DI payments are commonly known as disability payments.
- Medical Malpractice: Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to provide standard medical care to a patient. The substandard medical care given causes additional harm to a patient such as causing a patient to have a heart attack because the doctor gave the wrong medication. Medical malpractice often crosses over to negligence, which results in personal injury.
- Negligence: Negligence is the failure to act as a reasonable person would in the similar and/or same circumstances. For example, a reasonable person would stop at a red light, but an at-fault driver ran a red light. The at-fault driver would be liable because they did act as a reasonable person.
- Wrongful Death: A wrongful death is an untimely death of a person or persons caused by wrongful party. The family of the victim can sue the wrongful party for the untimely death of their loved one.
- Product Liability: This term refers to the any party in the chain of manufacture of any product being liable if the product harms or kills a consumer. The liability for a consumer’s injury includes to the designer, manufacturer or retailer. They are strictly responsible for compensating the injured consumer.
- Damages: Damages is the money owed to a plaintiff to compensate them for the injuries they sustained. Types of damages include punitive and compensatory damages.
- Compensatory Damages: Compensatory damages, also called actual damages, is the money given to a plaintiff to make them financially whole again after an accident. The accident-related expenses consist of medical bills, property damage and lost wages.
- Punitive Damages: These damages are ordered by the court to punish the defendant for being reckless or causing deliberate harm to the plaintiff. Sometimes called “exemplary damages,” the award can range from $1 or higher and is rarely given. For example, The Center for Justice Democracy at New York Law School reported that, In 2005, punitive damages were awarded in only one percent of product liability cases with a successful plaintiff,including asbestos and other product liability trials.
- Settlement: A settlement is an alternative to resolving the case at trial. It is a negotiated agreement between a plaintiff and defendant. In exchange for a lump sum of money or series of payments, the plaintiff agrees not continue the lawsuit. In addition, they give up all legal rights to hire an attorney and sue for any damages not covered in the settlement.
- Statute of Limitations: Statute of limitations is the amount of time a plaintiff has to sue for their injuries. For instance, a plaintiff may have two years to sue or be barred from recovering damages.
“This is why one should never delay speaking with an attorney,” said Johnson. “There are often statutes of limitations on certain events that could negatively impact your case.”