Glossary of Personal Injury and Accident Legal Terms


Action – A complaint or lawsuit brought before the court. Your New York injury attorney will help you file your action with the court.

Affidavit – A factual detail of the events in question. These are confirmed under oath.

Allegation – A claim that needs to be backed up with evidence.

Answer – A defendant’s written response to a plaintiff’s claims. The answer will generally agree with or deny the claims.

Appeal – A request to a higher court to reconsider a court decision.

Arbitration – A moderated, out-of-court process used to decide legal disputes. Financial institutions frequently have mandatory arbitration clauses to help keep them out of court.

Assumption of risk – When the plaintiff knew about dangers associated with their actions and still chose to take the risks. For example, most ski accidents do not involve lawsuits because the skier had assumed the risk of their actions when they hit the slopes.


Bad faith – A willing intention to deceive someone.

Bench trial – A trial decided by a judge rather than a jury.

Beneficiary – Someone who will inherit property or money in a will. Generally, beneficiaries are eligible to file lawsuits for their deceased loved ones.

Benzene – A manufacturing chemical that has been linked to cancer.

Brain injury – A head injury that can lead to serious physical or mental problems.


Cancer – A dangerous, uncontrolled cell growth that can result in tumors and death.

Capacity defense – A defense that says a person is incapable to be held responsible for their actions, usually because they are too young or mentally ill to understand potential consequences.

Carcinogen – Any substance that may cause cancer. Asbestos, cigarette smoke and car exhaust are all carcinogens.

Case law –Law based on judiciary decisions, rather than the legislature. Tort laws like the right to privacy are generally based on case law.

Civil – The type of court used in disputes between two people that do not involve crimes or their punishment. Civil court is used for lawsuits, contracts, family law and debt collection. At Fitzgerald & Fitzgerald, P.C., we focus all of our work on civil court actions.

Civil lawsuit – A legal action that does not require proof of a criminal misdeed, but instead, private rights and the remedies for those rights violations.

Class action lawsuit

A lawsuit brought on behalf of multiple parties all wronged in the same manner by the same defendant. These types of cases are often used for product liability actions, as product defects often affect multiple people.

Clear and convincing evidence – The civil court equivalent to “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” A good New York accident lawyer can help you prove your case to this standard so you can win your case.

Cognitive functions – The brain’s basic functions, including memory, concentration, speech and more.

Common law – Law based on public customs and court decisions. The best-known example of this is the concept of “common law marriage,” where a couple living together long enough are legally considered married. New York does not recognize common law marriage.

Comparative negligence – The different responsibilities each party played in causing an accident. For example, if a driver was texting while driving when someone else hit them, the first driver may be 10% responsible since he may have been able to prevent the accident if he was paying attention. In this example, the court would reduce his reward by 10% to cover his responsibility –so of a $1000 reward, he would collect $900.

Compensation – A method of making up for a loss. Usually the court does this financially, but there have been situations where other methods of compensation have been used.

Civil complaint – The legal document filed by an injured party listing their claims and their desired remedy.

Contempt of court – The intentional disobeying of a judge.

Countersuit – A lawsuit filed by the defendant against the plaintiff.


Damages – Compensation due to the injured party.

Default judgment – A court decision against a defendant who failed to show up to court.

Defendant – The person defending their actions in a trial.

Demurrer – The idea that even if a plaintiff’s claims are true, the damage done is not enough to impose a liability.

Directed verdict – A judgment by a judge, without the jury.

Disability – The lack of ability to perform certain tasks.

Disfigurement – A major scar in a highly-visible place, usually on someone’s face, neck or head. In certain cases, other parts of the body may be included, for example, if a model has serious scarring to her legs, she would be disfigured.

Dismemberment – The loss of a body part, including the tips of the fingers and toes.

Dismissal with prejudice – The dismissal of a lawsuit banning the plaintiff from suing for the same cause.

Dismissal without prejudice – The dismissal of a lawsuit where a plaintiff may file their case again.


Eligible survivor – The survivor of a deceased person that is eligible to receive payments for the death.

Emotional distress – Extreme emotional anguish.

Evidence – A courtroom fact offered through a document, witness or object.

Exhibit – Physical evidence used in a trial.

Extenuating circumstances – A situation that make a wrongful act less bad than it would normally be.


Fraud – A lie used to manipulate someone into giving up something they are entitled to.


Gait – The normal walk of a person. This changes for every individual.

Gross negligence – A reckless failure to do a simple act, resulting in a dangerous situation. For example, refusal to clean up a cooking oil spill on a heavily walked through area of the local mall.


Hit and run – A situation where a driver hits a victim and then leaves without offering assistance or contact information. If this person is caught, they will face severe legal and civil penalties.

Hung jury – A jury that does not come to a conclusive verdict.


Inadmissible – Courtroom evidence that cannot not be used in the trial.

Incompetence – An inability to perform a basic duty.

Indemnify – The compensation used to ease the loss suffered by a victim.

Informed consent – When someone signs a consent form saying they know the dangers they are undertaking before they take part in a risky procedure.

Insurance adjuster – An insurance company’s accident investigator who works to minimize the financial loss to the company. A New York accident attorney provides victims a way to defend themselves from the insurance company’s efforts to pay out as little as possible.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress – When a person purposefully causes severe anguish to another person.

Invitee – Someone invited by the owner to visit a property.


Judgment – The court decision.


Larceny – Fraudulent collection of property.

Leukemia – A bone marrow cancer.

Liability – A person’s responsibility.

Licensee – A person with legal consent to enter a property.

Litigation – When a courtroom is used to settle a disagreement.

Loss of consortium – A type of courtroom damages for someone who has lost the companionship of someone close to them.


Malfeasance – Intentional misconduct.

Manslaughter – The accidental killing of another person.

Mistrial –A trial that has been invalidated.


Negligence – Neglecting to provide the level of care that a reasonable person in a similar situation would provide.

Nonfeasance – Failure to do a basic, required act.


Occupational disease – A disease caused by a long-term, work-related exposure to a danger or carcinogen. Carpal tunnel and mesothelioma are examples of occupational diseases.

Out of court settlement – A settlement of a dispute outside of a courtroom. Usually these settlements involve financial compensation. In our firm, we prefer to take cases to trial, as it usually results in a much larger cash reward.


Pain and suffering – Physical stress and pain, often long-term.

Perjury – A lie told while under oath.

Physical therapy – A medical treatment designed to reduce pain and improve movement in the long-term.

Plaintiff –The injured person in a personal injury case.

Possessor of land – The person who controls a property. Depending on the circumstances, this may be a land owner or a renter.

Premise liability –A possessor of land’s legal responsibility to keep their property safe.

Preponderance of evidence – The evidence needed to win a civil trial.

Product liability –A manufacturer’s responsibility to only distribute safe, non-defective products.

Professional services –Services that require degrees or credentials to perform, such as law and medicine.

Punitive damages –Damages beyond the financial losses suffered by the victim, designed to punish the defendant for their actions.


Rebuttal –The evidence used to counter the opposing party’s evidence.


Slip and fall –An injury caused by falling on cracks or slicks on a floor or stairway.

Speech therapy – A treatment used to improve speech and communication skills.

Statute of limitations –The legal limit on time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit.


Transcript –The record of a trial.

Trespasser –A person who has entered property without permission.


Unprofessional conduct –Unethical behavior by a professional.


Waiver –The willing surrender of rights -often, the right to sue.

Willful negligence –Intentional disregard of a danger.

Wrongful death – The death of someone due to the negligence, recklessness or ill will of another.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident, call our offices today to speak with an experienced New York injury attorney. The sooner you call Fitzgerald & Fitzgerald, P.C., the sooner we can begin to build you a winning case.