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Some Legal Terms You Should Know

Published on September 6th, 2016

If you are looking into hiring a Chicago injury lawyer for your personal injury case, you’ll encounter some legal jargon with which you may be unfamiliar. To help you along during the process, you should understand the basic legal terms that will be used frequently in your case. Here are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with before the case begins.



The plaintiff in a law suit is the party who brings the suit to court. They are the one(s) who have suffered the injury in question. Let’s say your personal injury case involves a dog bite. You have been bitten by another party’s dog, and you decide to sue—you are the plaintiff in this scenario.



The defendant in a personal injury case is the party allegedly liable for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. In the dog bite example, this would likely be the owner of the dog who bit the plaintiff.



The complaint is a written expression by the plaintiff of the injuries cause allegedly by the defendant. The complaint is what initiates the law suit when it is filed.



The answer to a complaint is the defendant’s formal response to the plaintiff’s accusations.  This states the position of the defendant.



Torts in the eyes of the law are actions that do not constitute criminal activity—usually the cause of action in civil cases like personal injury suits. Torts can include negligence, wrongful death, and trespassing among many others.



Negligence is a type of tort that occurs when a certain party fails act with reasonable care expected of them. To prove negligence, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant had an obligation to provide reasonable care to the plaintiff, that the defendant violated this duty of care, that this caused the injury in question, and that the injury actually exists. In the dog bite example, a plaintiff would have to prove that the defendant had a duty to keep people safe from their dog, that the defendant breached this duty by, say, letting the dog off a leash, that the dog in fact bit the plaintiff because it was let off the leash, and that an injury was sustained from the dog bite.



In personal injury cases, damages refer to the financial compensation the plaintiff seeks from the defendant in the case. Damages can either be economic or non-economic. Economic damages are those that can be quantified perhaps by bills or expenses. Non-economic damages may instead be something like money for pain and suffering.

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