Common Personal Injury Legal Terms You Should Know About
In Key West, and throughout Florida, individuals have the right to seek compensation from negligent parties if an accident results in injuries. Once you file a personal injury claim, you will encounter a lot of legal terms. To make sure you understand all aspects pertaining to your personal injury claim, it is crucial that you acquaint yourself with the legal terms often used in personal injury cases. Even though every personal injury case is different, certain legal terms are common to almost all cases. Once you know the meaning of these terms, you’ll be in a better position to understand what you’re up against and what you should do to help your case.
The following is a short glossary of some legal terms you are bound to come across in your journey to obtaining your rightful compensation.
Plaintiff is the party or individual that files a claim against the at-fault party. If, for example, you file a personal injury claim after being injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, you would be the plaintiff in the case. A plaintiff is also known as a complainant.
The defendant is the party or individual against whom the personal injury claim has been filed (i.e. at-fault party). Generally, the defendant is the party that is allegedly responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. Using the previous example, the other driver would be the defendant in the case. In some cases (i.e. uninsured motorist claims) the defendant is the insurance company.
Duty of Care
When it comes to personal injury law, the term “duty of care” refers to a party’s legal obligation to protect others and their well-being. For example, Florida drivers have a duty of care to other drivers on the road.
A tort is any wrongful non-criminal act (other than under contract) that leads to legal liability and can either be accidental or intentional.
Negligence is a tort that arises from the failure to act with ordinary and reasonable care. If a defendant actions are below the level of ordinary and reasonable care, they are negligent. To establish a claim of negligence, their has to be the (1) existence of a legal duty; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) causation of an injury; (4) an injury. In law school it is taught as: duty, breach, causation, harm.
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. Any negligence on the part of the plaintiff will reduce the amount of money the plaintiff can recover based on the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. If the damages are $100,000.00 and the Plaintiff is found 10% at fault, the damages owed by the Defendant would be $90,000.00.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof generally refers to a Plaintiff’s obligation to prove that their allegations are more likely than not true. In personal injury cases, plaintiffs must beat a “preponderance of the evidence” threshold of proof. With this threshold of proof, plaintiffs need to prove that there is more than a 50% likelihood that their allegations are true.
Statute of Limitations
This is the amount of time a Plaintiff has to file a personal injury claim against a Defendant. The statute of limitations may vary from case to case and from state to state. Unfortunately, once the statute of limitations expires, a personal injury claim may no longer be valid. On personal injury cases in Florida, the statute of limitations is four (4) years from the date of the accident.
In a personal injury claim, damages are what the plaintiff is seeking to recover (i.e. money). There are two types of damages: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are easily quantifiable and include lost wages and medical expenses. Non-economic damages are not specifically quantifiable and include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
Oftentimes, your attorney can settle your claim “pre-suit” or before litigation is commenced. When a case is settled pre-suit, the Court does not get involved and you do not “sue” the defendant.
Contact the Florida Keys Personal Injury Attorney
If you wish to learn about more terms or have been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence and need legal help, contact the skilled Key West & Marathon car accident attorneys at Florida Keys Injury.