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Are you about to go through a personal injury case and don’t know what to expect? Knowing common personal injury terms is a vital way to help you better understand your case, the process and the outcomes that eventuate. While each personal injury case often differs in many ways, there are several terms that will be commonly used, regardless of the type of injury - for example: a workplace accident, motor vehicle accident or other negligent acts.

There is nothing more overwhelming than being in court and not understanding what is happening or what is being said about your own case. This is a stress that can be lowered by being familiar with important terms and by working with an experienced lawyer who guides you through the entire process. At Barfoot & Schoettker, we specialize in personal injury cases. Our attorneys can level the playing field in the court and throughout the claim process with our knowledge of the law. We also work with your doctors to get the most from your claim and talk to the insurance companies so that you can focus on what matters most - your well being.

At Barfoot & Schoettker, we want to help familiarize you with the terminology that will likely be used in your case. According to, “Knowing these terms will surely help you understand your situation and possibilities better and to communicate with a legal consultant effectively.”

What Constitutes as Personal Injury?

Personal injury is the legal term for damage to the body, as well as to the mind and emotions that someone else might be legally responsible for. Personal injury cases are different because they do not involve damage to property. These damages to the body, mind and emotions can either be due to negligent or intentional acts.

The most common kind of personal injury cases involve car accidents. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, car accidents make up 52% of all personal injury cases. Other common cases include slip and falls, medical malpractice and assault claims.

You do not want to fight a large insurance company on your own. An experienced lawyer possesses the appropriate knowledge to be able to present your case in a favorable light. By doing this, you will have a better chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.

Basic Lawsuit Terms

Plaintiff: The plaintiff is the person or party that brings the lawsuit before the court. The plaintiff is the person who is seeking legal remedies from the court. In a personal injury case, they will be seeking recovery of losses from the defendant.

Defendant: The defendant is the accused party and is allegedly liable for the injury of the plaintiff. A defendant can be several different parties, such as an individual, company, organization or a combination of these.

Complaint: The complaint is the document that is first submitted by the lawyer in a personal injury case. It is a formal claim for the awarded damages the plaintiff is seeking.

Answer: Once the complaint is filed by the lawyer, the defendant will then file an answer. An answer addresses the allegations made by the plaintiff and responds for what they believe they are liable or not liable for, and for which portion of the damages they believe they are liable for, if any.

Damages: The money received from the personal injury case is called damages. Damages are primarily filed into two categories, economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those awarded for actual, quantifiable damages such as medical expenses and wage loss. Non-economic damages are not quantifiable. They are classified as pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment or other injuries that cannot be counted monetarily.

Other Important Terms to Know

Statute of Limitations: This is the time period, set in law, in which one is allowed to file a damage claim. Personal injury cases commonly have a statute of limitations of two to three years. Other cases can vary from one year up to ten years or more.

Tort: A tort can be defined as a wrongful act that is not a crime which results in a lawsuit. A personal injury case is a tort. A tort defines the grounds for a lawsuit in which the plaintiff is seeking damages.

Burden of Proof: This is the plaintiff’s obligation to prove that his or her allegations are true or most likely true in order to recover damages. In a personal injury case, the plaintiff will usually provide evidence that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff will need to prove that the defendant was more than 50% at fault in order to recover damages.

As you can see, personal injury cases can be complicated and confusing. We hope the terms above will help you feel more confident as you move through your personal injury case with your lawyer. If you are unsure whether you should call an attorney for your personal injury case, keep in mind that engaging an experienced lawyer is always best. Even if you are familiar with the basic terms that will be used in your case, lawyers specialize in the law and the average individual, usually does not. The wealth of knowledge about personal injury law that an attorney can bring to the table will help you win your case and be compensated as you deserve.

At Barfoot & Schoettker, we have an excellent team that specializes in personal injury and we are ready to help you fight your case. Learn more here about our personal injury services or contact us today at (334) 834-3444.

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