Clients sometimes complain that they don’t understand their attorneys because they use legal jargon and discuss legal rules and concepts that the client does not know.
However, an effective attorney-client relationship is one in which the two are able to communicate and understand each other. Information needs to flow both ways. You need to be able to understand the advice being given to you by your attorney and be able to express to him your concerns.
Here is a list of important legal terms to know that will make it easier for you to communicate with your attorney and better understand the Oklahoma City personal injury process.
Terms Pertinent To Your Oklahoma City Personal Injury Claim
Adjuster – a person employed (internally or externally) by the insurance company to assess your claim, evaluate your statements and medical bills and negotiate a settlement with you.
Arbitration – a procedure in which two or more parties present their individual cases to an arbitrator who will assist them in settling a dispute outside of court. The arbitrator, acting in the capacity of a judge, will hear both sides and render a decision, which can either be binding on all parties involved, or not.
Burden of Proof – refers to the extent to which one must go to prove a case in a court of law. It pertains to the amount of and quality of evidence that must be shown to win the case. In increasing order of difficulty, the burden of proof necessary to be satisfied in a particular case can range in degree from prima facie, to a preponderance of the evidence, to clear and convincing evidence, to beyond a reasonable doubt.
Claimant – a person making a claim against an insurance policy.
Class Action – refers to a single lawsuit brought on behalf of a number of individual plaintiffs, because it would not be practical to bring each case separately. Typically, only a few individuals will be listed as representatives, who will be suing on behalf of all persons who have cause to sue for the same reasons. For instance, a class action lawsuit may be brought by a few individuals of a community, who are suing for themselves and on behalf of anyone else who has fallen ill as result of runoff from a chemical plant in their community.
Clear and Convincing Evidence – refers to a burden of proof that requires evidence to clearly indicate that a claim is most likely true. It is higher in degree than a preponderance of the evidence but less difficult to prove than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Comparative Negligence – a standard used in personal injury cases, under which the amount of damages you are awarded will be reduced by your own percentage of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20 percent at fault and a second party 80 percent at fault, you will be entitled to be reimbursed by the second party for 80 percent (a 20 percent reduction) of the damages you have sustained. This is in contrast to you being entitled to no compensation at all under the theory of contributory negligence. Oklahoma follows a form of comparative negligence called Modified Comparative Fault-50% Bar, meaning that, if you are held 50 percent responsible or more, you will be barred from receiving any compensation for your injuries. On the other hand, if you are 49 percent responsible or less, you will be entitled to receive damages in an amount reduced by your own percentage of fault.
Complaint – the formal document presented to the court and the defendant, which explains why the plaintiff is bringing a lawsuit and what damages are being sought.
Defendant – the person being sued in a personal injury case, or on trial in a criminal case.
Defense Lawyer – lawyer who represents defendants in civil cases. Contrast this to a “criminal defense lawyer” who represents defendants in criminal cases.
Deposition – testimony given by the defendant, plaintiff or witnesses, under oath and before a trial begins. Depositions are recorded to be used in trial to impeach a witness’s statements to the court or to allow testimony to be heard from witnesses who cannot be there to testify in person.
Direct Examination – the questioning of a witness by the lawyer who has called the witness to the stand. As opposed to ‘cross examination’ which is performed by the lawyer for the other party.
Discovery – the period or process, usually lasting six months to a year, in which the parties to the lawsuit begin compiling information and evidence to make their cases. This includes evaluating injuries, obtaining medical records, examining police reports, obtaining oral depositions, gathering witnesses and investigating all other aspects of the claim. This pretrial period is also the time when both sides exchange settlement offers and demands in an attempt to settle the case before going to trial.
Discovery Rule – This is an exception to the statute of limitations in a particular case, which allows a person to initiate a lawsuit even after the statute of limitations has expired, if they were legitimately unaware that they were entitled to file a suit before.
Economic Damages – Damages, such as your medical expenses, prescription drugs, loss of earnings, damage to property or anything that has a dollar amount or a receipt for it and is an economic loss. These are easily quantified and thus easier to be assigned.
Expert Witness – A witness who is certified by the court as an expert in a certain discipline and who may be called upon to give his or her opinion to the court in regards to any technical issues within that discipline.
Gap Insurance – Insurance that pays the difference between the amount your auto insurance pays for a car that has been proclaimed a total loss and the amount you still owe on the car.
General Liability Coverage – This is auto insurance that covers you for injuries and property damage you cause when using your car.
Independent Medical Examination (IME) – An independent medical examination is a medical examination performed by a doctor employed by the defense and intended to give a defendant the chance to hire a doctor who has never met or treated the plaintiff before to examine you and your medical records and offer his or her own medical opinion in order to see if it differs to that of the plaintiff’s doctor.
Intentional Tort – An Intentional tort is an act performed by someone with the intention of hurting you. Intentional torts often have criminal implications, such as in cases of libel, slander or assault and battery. Intention is not as easy to prove as it may seem and usually comes down to the court determining if the defendant knew that his or her actions would cause you harm.
This is a specific type of tort which is committed not accidentally, but on purpose. Often intentional torts are also crimes, such as assault and battery and theft, and also include the torts of fraud and defamation, among others.
Judgment – The outcome of a trial in which the judge has rendered a decision that one party is, or is not, liable for damages sustained by another.
Jurisdiction – The physical area or legal issues a court, or system of courts, are permitted to hear. That is, the type and location of the case, and if the court in question has legal authority to rule in cases in that location and of that nature.
Jury Instructions – These are instructions from the judge to the jury regarding how they are to process the evidence and information which they have acquired during the course of the trial to arrive at a verdict.
Letter of Protection – This is a letter from the attorney of a plaintiff in a personal injury suit to the doctor of an injured person that promises that if the doctor agrees to provide ongoing treatment to the plaintiff, and/or hold off on collecting any medical bills, the attorney will pay the doctor directly from the funds received from the lawsuit, before any funds are given to the plaintiff.
Litigation – The procedures and legal actions involved in a lawsuit.
Loss of Earning Capacity – Loss of earning capacity is your ongoing loss of ability to perform your job at all, or to perform it as well as you did before the accident. This is only an issue if you have future or permanent injuries that affect your ability to work.
For example, if you sustain a permanent or ongoing injury that limits your ability to stand for more than few minutes this will negatively affect your ability to perform most tasks and thus reduce your ability to be gainfully employed.
Maximum Degree of Medical Improvement – The point when your doctors say that your injuries have improved as much as they are going to and the physical state with which you will have to live until you die.
Mediation – This is a procedure in which two or more parties present their individual cases to a mediator who will assist them in settling a dispute outside of court. In contrast to an arbitrator, a mediator makes no decisions in the matter. Instead, he or she only assists in the capacity of a referee.
Med-Pay/PIP -No-fault insurance that covers your medical expenses and often your lost wages after an accident.
Motion – A written or oral request made by an attorney to a judge to take action on a particular matter in a court case. For instance, a defense attorney may make a motion requesting that the judge dismiss the case against his client for lack of evidence.
Negligence – Negligence under Oklahoma personal injury law basically means doing something carelessly or without regard for your own safety or the safety of others. More technically, a breach of a legal duty you have in regards to others.
No-fault – As it pertains to personal injury cases, no-fault means that it is not necessary to prove that a person has behaved negligently, and therefore is a fault, in order for them to be held liable for any personal injuries they cause. No-fault insurance will pay you regardless of who was at fault.
Non-Economic Damages – These are damages, such as pain and suffering and emotional trauma, for which a precise economic value is hard to determine. Because plaintiffs and insurance companies seldom concur on this point, the judge or jury in personal injury cases must often make this determination, based on range variables.
Parties – This refers to the plaintiff and/or defendant in a lawsuit.
Personal Injury – A personal injury is an injury caused to you by someone who was behaving negligently.
Plaintiff – The plaintiff is the person bringing a lawsuit against a defendant(s).
Preponderance of the Evidence – This refers to a burden of proof that requires the probability that evidence is true and accurate to be higher than its probability of it being false or inaccurate. This is the level of proof typically required in civil actions and is higher in degree than prima facie evidence but less than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is required in criminal cases.
Proximate Cause – In personal injury law, this refers to the primary cause of a person’s injuries.
Release – An agreement signed by a party to a civil action that absolves the other party from any future liability in regard to the matter, after it has been settled, and precludes the case from being reopened.
Statute – A law created by a legislative act.
Statute of Limitations – This refers to the length of time a person has to file a lawsuit. Generally once this time has passed, an injured party will be forever barred from filing a suit in the matter. In Oklahoma City personal injury cases, the statute of limitations starts the day you are injured and varies in length depending on the type of personal injury case you wish to file. Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for more precise information regarding the statute of limitations for your particular personal injury case.
Statutory Law – A law created by a legislative act, as opposed to “common law,” which is created by judicial action.
Structured Settlement – A settlement that will be paid to you in installments over time. For example, a settlement that pays you $50,000 a year for the next 10 years.
Subrogation – The right enjoyed by your insurance company to be reimbursed by the tortfeasor for expenses, such as medical bills, that they have paid on your behalf. In many cases, the insurance company has the right to be paid back from any money you receive in a settlement with the tortfeasor.
Summary Judgment – A decision made by a judge in a personal injury trial that ends the case because the plaintiff does not have enough evidence to possibly win the case against the defendant.
Third Party Benefits – Insurance benefit paid to you by another person’s insurance policy.
Tort – A tort is an act that breaches a legal duty that a person has to you or another. For example, a person who behaves negligently and causes you injury, say by driving recklessly, has breached his duty to drive in a responsible manner and to avoid causing injury to others, and thus has committed a tort.
Tortfeasor – A person who has behaved negligently in the eyes of the law and is responsible for your personal injury. For example, a person who runs a stop sign and causes an accident with you or other motorist has committed a tort and is referred to as a tortfeasor.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage – Insurance that pays you the difference between your claim for damages and the actual amount collectible from a person who has caused an accident with you and does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. For example, if you have been awarded $75, 000 in damages and the person who caused the accident is only insured up to $50,000, your underinsured motorist policy will pay you the additional $25,000 for your claim that the uninsured motorist does not pay.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage – Insurance that pays for you when you have been in injured in an accident caused by someone else who is not insured.
Verdict – The final judgment decided by a judge or jury in a court of law.
Oklahoma City Personal Injury Attorney
An experienced Oklahoma City personal injury attorney can help you understand what you need to in order to get the most for your Oklahoma City personal injury claim. For a free, no-risk consultation with a knowledgeable Oklahoma City personal injury attorney, call today: (405) 716-4878 (716-HURT).
If you prefer, you may send your question via e-mail using the form at the top right of this page. We’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible. Don’t wait another minute to find out what you may be owed. Call Personal Injury Law Office of Oklahoma City today!