Personal Injury Glossary

Unless otherwise noted, each definition comes from Black’s Law Library. We have taken the liberty of cleaning up syntax and legalese for the sake of everyone’s sanity.


To give up or renounce something.

Accident Forgiveness

A form of optional auto insurance coverage wherein the insurer waves his/her right to increase the rate of the policyholder at fault of an accident.

Accident Report

An accident report from the local police department will be useful in the aftermath of your accident for both your attorney and insurance company. Even in a no-fault state like Michigan, insurance companies want to know the details of an accident before they pay a claim. If your accident is minor and police are unavailable to take the accident report, be sure to record the following information at the scene of the accident:

  • Description of the crash, including how many people were in both cars
  • Name and insurance information of everyone involved
  • Names of witnesses and their detailed accounts of the crash
  • Details about damages and injuries
  • Diagram of the accident scene
  • Photos of damage and video statements

Accidental Death

Any death that is due to an accident and not from any natural causes. It is an unexpected and not anticipated death.

Accrued Compensation

The compensation that is awarded and is due and payable.

Act of God

An event that directly and exclusively results from the occurrence of natural causes that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight or caution; an inevitable accident.
Courts have recognized various events as acts of God—tornadoes, earthquakes, death, extraordinarily high tides, violent winds, and floods. Many insurance policies for property damage exclude from their protection damage caused by acts of God.

Actuarial Solvency

Any death that is due to an accident and not from any natural causes. It is an unexpected and not anticipated death.

Added Damages

Damages that are added on to the amount that is actually due or damages that are added as a punishment for the defendant. Added damages is sometimes called smart money.

Additional Interest Earned

Concerning auto insurance, a party, such as a lienholder, who does not necessarily use the vehicle, but may nonetheless be named as an Additional Interest Insured and held liable for an accident involving that vehicle.

Administrative Remedy

Obtaining the redress or the enforcing of your rights by putting a matter before an administrative agency. If no remedy can be reached, then the matter is taken to court.

Adversary Proceedings

Any action in law where there are opposing parties.

Agreed Cost

The price agreed to by the claimant’s chosen auto repair shop and the insurance adjuster to complete the work necessary to fix damage to a vehicle.

Agreed Value

Concerning auto insurance, the amount the policyholder and the insurance company decide will be paid in the event of an accident that results in a total loss of the insured vehicle.

Aggravation of Damages

The increase in damages that is awarded to the plaintiff due to the circumstances surrounding the injury. For example, it could be due to the defendant using exceptional malice carrying out the offense.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term that refers to several different methods of resolving disputes outside traditional legal and administrative forums. These philosophically similar methodologies, which include various types of arbitration and mediation, have surged in popularity in recent years because companies and courts became extremely frustrated over the expense, time, and emotional toll involved in resolving disputes through the usual legal avenues.

Ambulatory Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction that is limited just to one area but can be effected in several different places.

American Specialty Boards

These are the organizations that by written and oral examinations determine a physician to become a specialist. A diploma from this board states that the physician is an expert in his field of medicine.

Ancillary Proceeding

A proceeding that complements a proceeding that is in another court. Or a proceeding that is subordinate and secondary to another action.


This is the person who files a petition or makes an application; the petitioner; or the person who is applying for a legal remedy to a problem.


Compulsory arbitration is that which takes place when the consent of one of the parties is enforced by statutory provisions. Voluntary arbitration is that which takes place by mutual and free consent of the parties. In a wide sense, this term may embrace the whole method of thus settling controversies, and thus include all the various steps. But in more strict use, the decision is separately spoken of, and called an “award,” and the “arbitration” denotes only the submission and hearing.

Assessment of Damages

This term fixes a value upon the amount of money that the defendant must pay to the plaintiff for damages caused.

Assignable Error

The error that has occurred during a trial that can be used and pointed out should an appeal be deemed necessary.

Assignment of Benefits

When the insured allows an insurer to pay the claim directly to a third party.


Regarding auto insurance, a driver whose conduct is held legally responsible for causing an accident. This term does not apply in Michigan as it is presently an “no-fault” state.

Attorney Client Privilege

Attorney client privilege secures the client from potential sensitive information being disclosed to people other than the attorney. The law requires that an attorney does not reveal any communications or letters between him/her and his/her client to any third party, which includes business associates, competitors, government agencies and even criminal justice authorities. This requirement helps the client to speak with his/her attorney honestly and without a fear that his/her sensitive information will be disclosed.

Bad Faith Claim

The opposite of “good faith,” generally implying or involving actual or constructive fraud. This includes a design to misled or to deceive another or a neglect/refusal to fulfill some duty or contractual obligation, not prompted by an honest mistake as to one’s rights or duties, but by some interested or sinister motive.

Basic Limits of Liability

The least liability policy is written for based on published rates and the law.

Bench Trial

The trial where the judge will find the facts and also apply the law instead of letting a jury decide the law.

Benefit Triggers

The conditions that must be met before any benefits are paid to the party.

Binding Arbitration

An arbitration where the arbitrating parties must accept all of the findings and decisions of the arbitrator or arbitrators.

Board of Arbitration

A court-like body that is authorized to act in an impartial manner under all of the rules of arbitration.

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage

A type of auto insurance coverage wherein the insurer will cover the cost of bodily harm caused by the policyholder deemed at fault in an accident.

Burden of Evidence

The term that applies to the responsibility of a party starting a lawsuit to produce the evidence that will prove the case.

Burden of Proof

The necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a cause. The term “burden of proof” is not to be confused with “prima facie case.” When the party upon whom the burden of proof rests has made out a prima facie case, this will, in general, suffice to shift the burden. In other words, the former expression denotes the necessity of establishing the latter.

Catastrophic Injury

A catastrophic injury is the consequence of an injury that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.” A catastrophic injury usually occurs suddenly and without warning and can leave a person suffering from permanent disabilities for the rest of his/her life. Catastrophic injuries are any injuries that have serious, long-term effects on the victim. Catastrophic injuries can often put serious stress on the victim’s family because they may need constant supervision or assistance for the rest of their lives, as well as a lifetime of rehabilitation and medical bills.


Causation has two prongs. First, a tort must be the cause of a particular injury, which means that a specific act must actually have resulted in injury to another. In its simplest form, cause in fact is established by evidence that shows that a tortfeasor’s act or omission was a necessary antecedent to the plaintiff’s injury. Courts analyze this issue by determining whether the plaintiff’s injury would have occurred “but for” the defendant’s conduct. If an injury would have occurred independent of the defendant’s conduct, cause in fact has not been established, and no tort has been committed. When multiple factors have led to a particular injury, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the tortfeasor’s action played a substantial role in causing the injury.


  1. A legal assertion; a legal demand; Taken by a person wanting compensation, payment, or reimbursement for a loss under a contract, or an injury due to negligence.
  2. Amount a claimant demands.

Collision Coverage

Along with Comprehensive Coverage, the most common form of auto insurance coverage. Collision Coverage covers the cost (minus a deductible) of repairing damage to a vehicle.


The complaint is the first or initial pleading on the part of the plaintiff in a civil action. It corresponds to the declaration in the common-law practice.

Comprehensive Coverage

The most common form of auto insurance coverage, alongside Collision, covering damage that is the result of non-collision factors, such weather and theft.

Contingency Fee

A term given to the fees paid to an attorney where the client pays a sum based upon the size of the award.

Continuously Insured

An insured person who has had no time period during which he or she was uninsured since first taking out an auto insurance policy.


A pecuniary compensation or indemnity, which may be recovered in the courts by any person who has suffered loss, detriment, or injury, whether to his person, property, or rights, through the unlawful act or omission or negligence of another.


The amount or percent of an insurance claim that the insured is responsible for and the company deducts for payment. It can be voluntary but is usually given to the insurer to not pay many small claims. AKA excess.


The person defending or denying; the party against whom relief or recovery is sought in an action or suit.


Much of the evidence presented at a trial is in the form of testimony from witnesses who are brought in by one of the parties. There is a risk to putting a witness on the stand to testify during a trial without knowing in advance what the person is going to say. Depositions help reduce this risk by giving the attorneys for the litigants the opportunity to question the witness well before the trial begins.

Deposition Process

Depositions usually occurs as part of the discovery phase of civil or criminal litigation. Discovery is the process by which the parties exchange evidence and information with each other about the case.

Depositions usually are held away from the courthouse in the office of an attorney for the one of the parties. A stenographer is present to take down what is said during the deposition and produce a written transcript of it. Some jurisdictions allow for the video recording of a deposition as long as the attorneys involved in the case agree to it.


This term means to make known, a revelation or the uncovering a thing that is kept hidden.


In a general sense, the ascertainment of that which was previously unknown; the disclosure or coming to light of what was previously hidden; the acquisition of notice or knowledge of given acts or facts; as, in regard to the “discovery” of fraud affecting the running of the statute of limitations, or the granting of a new trial for newly “discovered” evidence.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving means driving while not fully paying attention to the road. Many people think of texting and driving or talking on the phone when driving; however, you can also be distracted by:

  • Reaching for your phone
  • Changing the music
  • Using an app
  • Checking your GPS or map
  • Taking a photo
  • Checking email or posting to social media sites
  • Eating and drinking
  • Putting on makeup/grooming

Even talking to a passenger in your car can be a distraction. You are distracted ANY TIME your mind and/or your eyes are off the road.

Duty of Care

A legal requirement in certain systems where the BOARD OF DIRECTORS and executives must make informed decisions in discharging their FIDUCIARY responsibilities. An informed decision is generally based on gathering all relevant facts and material, giving such information due consideration, and then making a decision. A breach of duty of care can lead to legal action by shareholders.

Expert Witness

The party that gives their expert evidence. For example, a psychologist would be considered an expert witness on the subject of mental health.

Field Adjuster

When an insured person files a claim, a field adjuster normally travels to the place where the accident occurred. She confirms that the claim is valid through reading police report and making sure the damaged vehicle was covered under the terms of the policy. She may ask the policyholder to produce pictures of the lost items or copies of value appraisals if the claim includes items such as jewelry, collectibles or fine art.

First Party Claims

Insurance that pays the insured for an accident and damages that occur no matter who caused it.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that protects the medical information of U.S. citizens. The HIPAA Law gives patients more control over their medical information by setting boundaries on both the release and the usage of that information. For example, the HIPAA Law holds violators of the law accountable by imposing upon them civil and criminal penalties of varying severity.

Income Replacement Benefits

Income replacement is the process of replacing lost income, due to factors such as extended rehabilitation or a permanent injury. The goal of income replacement is to substitute some other source of income for at least a portion of the lost income, usually enough to allow the individual to continue enjoying a standard of living that is similar to what he or she has enjoyed prior to the injury. Depending on the lifestyle of the individual, this usually means seeking income replacement that amounts to anywhere between sixty and ninety percent of the previous income.

Independent Medical Examination (IME)

An IME is a medical evaluation that is used to resolve questions about your medical condition(s). Usually, the insurance company requests an IME because it disagrees with a decision by your treating doctor about your course of medical treatment (especially if your doctor recommends surgery or other expensive procedures) or the extent of any permanent disability. In some cases, the judge or hearing officer assigned to your case may also order an IME to resolve a disputed issue related to your case.


  1. A set or series of written questions for the purpose of being asked to a party in equity, a garnishee, or a witness whose testimony is taken on deposition;
  2. A series of formal written questions used in the judicial examination of a party or a witness.

In taking evidence on depositions, the interrogatories are usually prepared and settled by counsel and transcribed in advance of the examination. Interrogatories are either direct or cross, the former being those which are put on behalf of the party calling a witness; the latter are those which are interposed by the adverse party.


The official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action or suit therein litigated and submitted to its determination.

When an attorney fails to perform according to the proscribed standards and codes of ethical and professional conduct.


The state of being bound or obliged in law or justice to do, pay, or make good something; i.e. legal responsibility.

Limitation of Risk

The maximum amount an insurer or reinsurer can be obligated to pay in any one loss event.


A Judicial command or precept proceeding from a court or judicial officer, directing the proper officer to enforce a judgment, sentence, or decree.

Maximum Medical Improvement

The point during recovery as designated by a physician, at which recovery is maximal.


The act of a third person who interferes between two contending parties with a view to reconcile them or persuade them to adjust or settle their dispute.

Medical Malpractice

The term to describe the improper or poor performance of a physician, dentist and other medical professionals.


An application to a court by the parties or their counsel to obtain some rule or order, which becomes necessary either in the progress of a cause, or summarily and wholly unconnected with plenary proceedings.

Named Insured

This person’s interests are protected under the policy that this insurance contract made specifically for this named individual or firm. This is typically the policyholder. More than one entity may be a named insured in some situation.


Negligence, in its civil relation, is such an inadvertent imperfection, by a responsible human agent, In the discharge of a legal duty, as immediately produces, in an ordinary and natural sequence, a damage to another.

  1. The omission to do something which a reasonable person, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do.
  2. Or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. It must be determined in all cases by reference to the situation and knowledge of the parties and all the attendant circumstances.


A person who has been trained and holds authority to provide a specified number of legal services. A paralegal is not a lawyer, but is usually on their way to becoming one.


The person or persons directly interested in any case who is actively concerned in either the prosecution (plaintiff) or defense (defendant).

Pecuniary Damages

Damages that can be estimated in and compensated by money; not merely the loss of money or salable property or rights, but all such loss, deprivation, or injury as can be made the subject of calculation and of recompense in money.


A person or party who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a personal action and is so named on the record.

Post-Concussion Syndrome

Post-concussion syndrome is a complex disorder in which various symptoms — such as headaches and dizziness — last for weeks, months and sometimes years a head injury. In most people, symptoms occur within the first seven to 10 days and go away within three months. Sometimes, they can persist for a year or more.
Post-concussion symptoms include:

  1. Headaches
  2. Dizziness
  3. Fatigue
  4. Irritability
  5. Anxiety
  6. Insomnia
  7. Loss of concentration and memory
  8. Ringing in the ears
  9. Blurry vision
  10. Noise and light sensitivity
  11. Rarely, decreases in taste and smell

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either by experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.

Premises Liability

Premises liability is a legal theory stating that property owners are liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. The kinds of incidents that may result in premises liability claims can range from a slip and fall in a grocery store or office building to an injury at the zoo.

Liability depends on the laws and procedures of each respective state. Note that an occupier of land, like an apartment tenant, is treated in the same manner as a landowner in many situations.


  1. An adjudged case or decision of a court of justice, considered as furnishing an example or authority for an identical or similar case afterwards arising or a similar question of law.
  2. A draught of a conveyance, settlement, will, pleading, bill, or other legal instrument, which is considered worthy to serve as a pattern for future instruments of the same nature.


The prospect of recovery as anticipated from the usual course of disease or peculiarities of the case as determined by a physician.

Proximate Cause

Also known as direct cause. The result of a direct action and cause of loss to property that sets in motion a chain of events that is unbroken and causes damage, injury and destruction with no other interference. The loss is the result of one event.

Quality of Life

The daily activities that people undertake that have been enhanced by external factors. These relate to how well a person with a disability is able to live as near to normal life as possible following an accident.

Reasonable Care

The degree of care shown by a person who is responsible and trustworthy.

Rehabilitation Benefits

These are benefits that are provided under auto no-fault and workers compensation to someone that has been injured.


Following the legal judgement, the act by which parties who have been dealing together arrange their accounts and strike a balance. Also, full and final payment or discharge of an account.

Stack of Coverages

Stacked insurance is as simple as combining, or “stacking” your uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage limits on multiple vehicles to increase the amount you’d be covered for in case of an accident.

Statute of Limitations

Time frame set by legislation where affected parties need to take action to enforce rights or seek redress after injury or damage.

Strict Liability

When a plaintiff makes a motion to prove harm has occurred without having to show how or why to collect damages.


The process by which the attendance of a witness is required is called a “subpoena.” It is a writ or order directed to a person, and requiring attendance at a particular time and place to testify as a witness. It may also require that person to bring any books, documents, or other filings under his control, which that person is bound by law to produce in evidence.


The term used when a person who doesn’t owe the debt pays it and then is entitled to remedies offered by the creditor. This term is the device that forces the person who owes the debt to pay it.

Third Party Claims

A claim for property that is made by a third person who is not a party to a dispute that is in court relating to the property.


A tort is a legal wrong committed upon the person or property independent of contract. It may be either (1) a direct invasion of some legal right of the individual; (2) the infraction of some public duty by which special damage accrues to the individual; (3) the violation of some private obligation by which like damage accrues to the individual. In the former case, no special damage is necessary to entitle the party to recover. In the two latter cases, such damage is necessary.

Voire Dire

The process through which potential jurors are questioned by either the judge or a lawyer to determine their suitability for jury service. Also the preliminary questioning of witnesses (especially experts) to determine their competence to testify.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is a civil action which charges another with being liable for injury resulting in another’s death by reason of negligent actions or a failure to act which could foreseeably result in death. The plaintiff (the executor or administrator of the estate of the decedent, family member, or spouse) must prove that the decedent would not have died but for the negligence of the defendant.