Legal Glossary

Accident Reconstruction Engineer:

These engineers investigate, evaluate, recreate, and explain what series of events led to an accident, such as an automobile wreck, tractor-trailer collision, fire and burn accident, or defective product case (see also—expert witness).

Administrative Code:

Rules and regulations passed by a state governmental agency that have the full effect of law.

Administrative Law Judge:

(ALJ) A judge who presides over Social Security Disability hearings. An ALJ has the power to administer oaths, take testimony, rule on questions of evidence, make findings of fact and of law, and make determinations of disability.

Administrator of Estate:

Someone appointed by a court to manage the estate of a deceased person who died without a will or testament (see also—executor of estate).

Affidavit:

A written and sworn statement made in front of a public notary—or authorized administrator.

Agency:

A relationship between two people where one person (the agent) has the legal power to act on behalf of another person (the principal). Agency can occur between an employee and an employer or between anyone who gives legal powers to another to act on his behalf (see also— respondeat superior).

Agent:

A person who legally acts on behalf of another (see also—agency, respondeat superior).

Annuity:

Fixed money payments set to be paid in a specified amount of time (see also—structured settlement).

Answer:

A written response by a defendant to the allegations made in a complaint filed by a plaintiff.

Appeal:

A request by one side of a legal case for a higher court to review a lower court’s decision regarding questions of law or fact.

Appellate Court:

A court that reviews a lower court’s decisions regarding questions of law or fact.

Arbitration:

An alternative to trial in court, arbitration is where the parties agree to appoint an individual or panel to make an award or decision based on the evidence presented. Arbitration may either be binding, which means it can’t be appealed, or non-binding, which means it can be appealed. When a group of individuals is chosen to arbitrate a case, they are called a panel, which is usually a group of three.

Arbitration Agreement:

An arbitration agreement states if a dispute arises, the dispute will be resolved by arbitration rather than by a court. Arbitration agreements are common in nursing home, hospital, and medical provider admission agreements. They are also common in other legal agreements, such as banking and credit card agreements.

Arbitrator:

An arbitrator is someone chosen to hear both sides of a dispute and make a decision and is usually a lawyer, retired judge, or other expert specializing in the field that is at issue in the case.

Bad Faith:

Bad faith is actions by a person or company designed to mislead. These claims are common in the context of an insurance company or adjuster attempting to mislead or refusing to hold a claim pursuant to contractual or legal obligation.

Bench Trial:

A case heard and decided by a judge, without a jury.

Beneficiary:

A person designated to receive benefits or property.

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt:

The standard of proof required in criminal cases in which the state must prove there is no reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the criminal act (see also—clear and convincing evidence, preponderance of the evidence, more likely than not).

Bodily Injury:

Bodily injury is an injury to a person that may result in physical, emotional, or psychological damages. Bodily injury claims in North Carolina typically include: amounts for past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, permanent injury, scarring and disfigurement, loss of consortium, emotional and psychological injury, and any other losses that can be proven.

Bodily Injury Adjuster:

This is an insurance claims adjuster who evaluates the circumstances of an injury, medical bills and records, lost wages, and other damages asserted by an injured person and then makes an offer on behalf of the insurance company and the insured to resolve the claim.

Breach:

The act of breaking a violation, law, or promise.

Brief:

A brief is a written document prepared by an attorney to serve as the basis for a legal argument. It includes a summary of legal points and precedent, together with arguments, to be presented to the court.

Business Records:

A common type of documentary evidence, which includes memoranda, reports, chart notes, billing ledgers, etc., created and kept in the ordinary course of doing business, which document acts, events, and conditions of a company.

Catastrophic Injury:

Injuries causing death or that require extensive, long-term and expensive medical treatment and care.

Causation:

The relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first.

CHAMPUS:

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS)—also known as Tricare— is a federally-funded program that provides healthcare for military personnel and other United States uniformed service members (see also—Tricare).

Chattel:

Tangible, moveable personal property, as opposed to real property or real estate.

Civil Law:

Laws such as statutes, regulations, administrative codes, and ordinances enacted by legislative bodies such as Congress, state legislatures, county, and city officials (see also—common law).

Civil Procedure:

The rules a court follows when handling civil lawsuits, as compared to criminal procedure, is civil procedure. Civil procedure controls how and where a lawsuit is filed, how parties are brought to court, depositions, the filing and answering of interrogatories, and how cases are presented to a judge or jury.

Claim:

A demand for compensation.

Claimant:

A claimant is a person who makes a claim or asserts a legal right. Once the case goes to trial, the claimant is referred to as the plaintiff. In a Social Security Disability case, the person applying for disability is referred to as the claimant. In a workers’ compensation case, the injured worker also is referred to as the claimant.

Class Action:

A form of lawsuit in which a large group of people who have similar claims collectively bring their claims together in court against a defendant.

Clear and Convincing Evidence:

This is a standard of proof where the party with the burden of proof must convince the judge or jury that it is more likely than not that the claim is true. This is a lesser amount than beyond a reasonable doubt, but more than preponderance of the evidence (see also—beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence, and more likely than not).

Clerk of Court:

An officer of the court whose responsibilities include maintaining the records of a court and administering oaths to witnesses, jurors, and grand jurors.

Closing Argument:

These are arguments made to a jury at the end of a trial. These statements are the last opportunity for the attorneys representing each side to discuss evidence presented during trial, make legal arguments about facts and the law, and explain why their side should prevail in the case.

Collision Coverage:

Automobile property damage insurance coverage that pays to repair an insured person’s damaged car caused by other vehicles or stationary objects (see also—comprehensive coverage, deductible).

Common Law:

Also known as case law, common law is developed by judges and the court system and result from the court system interpreting written laws as well as prior court opinions.

Comparative Negligence:

Comparative negligence is when fault is measured in terms of percentage and any damages are reduced in proportion to the negligence attributable to the person making a claim for an injury or loss. Most states use comparative negligence as the standard for determining fault, responsibility, and who pays what amount. North Carolina does not use this standard and instead uses contributory negligence (see also—contributory negligence).

Compensatory Damages:

Money awarded by a judge or jury in a civil case is compensatory damages. The purpose of the award is designed to replace what a person has lost and may include compensation for past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, emotional and psychological damage, pain and suffering, loss of use of the body, permanent scarring and disfigurement, and any other factors that can be proven (see also—economic damages).

Competency:

Competency is a decision by a judge or other court official as to whether a person is able to make informed choices about his or her living situation, finances, or healthcare. People who lack the ability to make these choices are legally referred to as incompetent or incapacitated.

Complaint:

A formal statement filed with the court by a plaintiff that sets forth the violations of law and any damages or losses that result from the breach of the law.

Comprehensive Coverage:

Automobile property damage insurance coverage that pays to repair an insured person’s car in the event of damage from non-collision related events, such as: storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, vandalism and theft, animal collisions, falling objects, and broken windows (see also—collision coverage, deductible).

Condemnation Complaint:

The notice you receive from a condemnor, which states why your property is being taken, how much is being taken, and how much it is believed to be worth.

Condemnee:

An individual or entity whose property is being taken for public use.

Condemnor:

An individual or entity condemning—or seizing—a person’s private property.

Contingency Fee:

A percentage fee paid to the plaintiff’s lawyer if the lawsuit is settled upon or won in court.

Contract:

A legally enforceable agreement between two parties with mutual obligations.

Contributory Negligence:

In North Carolina, in order to make a recovery for personal injuries or wrongful death, a plaintiff must prove the defendant was negligent in causing injury. If in response, a defendant can prove the plaintiff was also partially at fault, then the plaintiff can recover nothing. This rule has a very narrow exception called last clear chance (see also—last clear chance, comparative negligence).

Corporate Veil:

A legal concept that separates the personality of a corporation from the personalities of its shareholders, and protects them from being personally liable for the company’s debts and other obligations. This protection is not ironclad or impenetrable.

Counter Claim:

A legal claim in which a defendant counter-sues a plaintiff for damages that the defendant believes was caused by the plaintiff.

Court Rules:

The rules in a law court—each level of court has different rules that lawyers and their clients must follow.

Covenant Not to Enforce:

An agreement by a plaintiff not to enforce a money judgment against a defendant is a covenant not to enforce. This type of agreement is frequently used when a plaintiff receives money from a defendant’s insurance company, but the plaintiff wants to retain the right to make additional claims through the plaintiff’s own insurance company through underinsured motorist coverage.

Criminal Procedure:

Criminal procedure is the rules a court follows when handling criminal cases, as compared to civil procedure. It controls processes such as how and where criminal charges may be brought, how the prosecution and defense must exchange information, and how cases are presented to a judge or jury.

Cross Claim:

When a defendant brings a claim against another defendant in the same lawsuit or identifies a new party not previously named by the plaintiff in the lawsuit, asserting that another party is responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.

Cross Examination:

The questioning of a witness by an opposing party or lawyer (see also—leading question).

Damages:

A monetary award paid to a person as compensation for a loss or injury.

Date Last Insured:

In a Social Security Disability claim, the date last injured (DLI) is the date after which an individual is no longer eligible for Social Security Disability insurance benefits. A claimant must be able to prove that his or her disability occurred before this date.

Decedent:

A person who has died.

Declaratory Judgment:

A ruling by a judge in a civil case that declares the rights, duties, or obligations of one or more parties in a dispute.

Deductible:

The amount of money a person must pay before an insurance company will begin to pay a claim is the deductible. Deductibles are regularly seen with health insurance and automobile property damage claims that involve comprehensive coverage or collision coverage.

Default Judgment:

When a defendant fails to formally answer a plaintiff’s complaint in a timely manner, the plaintiff may ask the court to give a default judgment against the defendant. Many times in personal injury cases, these judgments are set aside once the defendant begins to comply with the rules and initiates a formal defense by filing an answer.

Defective Product:

Any merchandise or products made and distributed that a manufacturer knew or should have known would cause injury in its normal course of use.

Defendant:

The party sued by a plaintiff is the defendant. A plaintiff makes a legal claim against a defendant alleging that the defendant is responsible for causing injury or harm. In a criminal case, a defendant is the person who is accused of committing a crime.

Defense Expert Witness:

A witness hired by a defendant to provide expert testimony in court (see also—expert witness).

Defense Medical Examination:

When a defendant hires his own medical expert to testify against a plaintiff regarding the plaintiff’s injuries; usually, this expert will testify that the plaintiff is not as injured as he or she claims in court.

Deposition:

Deposition is a form of discovery, whereby the attorney calling for the deposition has the right to ask questions and obtain answers from a party, witness, or expert while that person is under oath. Most depositions are done orally, although they can be done in writing as well. During an oral deposition, a court reporter writes a word-for-word transcript of everything said during the deposition. Depositions may also be videotaped (see also—discovery).

Direct Examination:

Direct examinations are done either in a deposition or during a court trial, and are the questioning of a witness by the attorney for the party on whose behalf the witness is called.

Directed Verdict:

When a party with the burden of proof fails to present enough evidence to support his or her claim, a judge may order a directed verdict instead of allowing a jury to hear the case.

Disbursement:

To pay money out of a settlement or verdict is disbursement. Personal injury and wrongful death disbursements take into account medical provider liens; rights of reimbursement for Medicare, Medicaid, and other government agencies; health insurance subrogation; attorney fees; and any other amounts due to others on behalf of the client.

Discovery:

Discovery is a process during a lawsuit in which both parties attempt to learn all the facts and information known to the other party that relate to the case. The discovery process includes: depositions, interrogatories, requests for admission, physical and mental examinations, permission to enter land and inspect documents, production of documents, and more. Information that is permitted to be obtained during discovery is broader than what is usually admissible in evidence at trial.

District Court:

The lowest level of trial court in North Carolina that includes civil, criminal, juvenile, and magistrate court is district court. Civil district court includes: divorce, child custody, child support, and any cases involving less than $10,000 in dispute. Criminal district court generally includes lower level crimes and traffic offenses.

Diversity Jurisdiction:

Diversity jurisdiction is when one party in a lawsuit resides in one state and the opposing party resides in a different state. In order to go to trial for this in a federal court, the amount of money in controversy must exceed $75,000.

Docket:

A calendar or agenda of court proceedings prepared by the clerk of the court.

Duty of Care:

Duty of care is legal obligation for a person to act with the same care, attention, and watchfulness that a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances would. If a person’s actions do not meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit as negligence (see also—negligence).

Economic Damages:

Money awarded by a judge or jury in a civil case is compensatory damages. The purpose of the award is designed to replace what a person has lost and may include compensation for past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, emotional and psychological damage, pain and suffering, loss of use of the body, permanent scarring and disfigurement, and any other factors that can be proven (see also—compensatory damages).

Economist:

An economist is an expert in the field of economics and may be used as an expert witness in court to testify regarding the amount of economic losses or damages suffered by a plaintiff. These losses frequently include future lost wages, future medical care and needs, and the economic value of a life care plan.

Eminent Domain:

The legal power given to state and federal agencies and local public and private entities to condemn privately owned property for public purpose, benefit, or use.

ERISA:

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974—or ERISA—is a federal law that regulates many health care and insurance plans offered through employers. ERISA is useful in personal injury or wrongful death cases involving claims by health insurance companies for reimbursement out of settlements or verdicts, also known as subrogation claims (see also—subrogation).

Estate:

The whole of a person’s property, bank accounts, assets, possessions, and belongings at his or her time of death.

Estate Recovery:

A federal law requiring the state to take money or property from an estate in order to pay for Medicaid services spent on the person while he or she was alive.

Evidence:

Testimony, writings, material objects, or any other information that is admissible and introduced by a party in court to prove the existence or non-existence of a fact.

Executor of Estate:

Someone named in a will or appointed by a court to carry out the written instructions of a deceased person in regards to his or her estate (see also—administrator of estate).

Exhibit:

A tangible item presented as evidence in a court of law is an exhibit. Exhibits typically include documents, photographs, objects, or any other physical item, useful to a jury in determining a case.

Expert Witness:

An expert witness is a person who possesses specialized knowledge through skill, education, training, or experience beyond that of an ordinary person or juror, and whose knowledge will assist the judge or jury in reaching a proper decision. In personal injury cases, expert witnesses who frequently testify in court include: doctors, accident reconstruction engineers, economists, vocational rehabilitation, and life care planners.

Fair Market Value:

A reasonable price for an item both a buyer and a seller would willingly agree to is the fair market value. Fair market value is often used in deciding how much should be reimbursed after a motor vehicle accident or other accidents involving property damage.

Federal Courts:

Courts of the United States of America created by Article III of the Constitution or by Congress are federal courts. Federal courts typically hear cases that involve federal law or lawsuits with parties from different states.

Federal Law:

Federal laws apply to all Americans regardless of where they live in in the United States. Federal laws are different from state laws, as state laws only apply to individuals and businesses that live, work, or have contact in a particular state.

Final Offer:

The last offer to compromise during negotiations before a lawsuit is commenced.

Fire Accident Reconstruction Engineer:

Scientists or fire experts trained to investigate, evaluate, recreate, and explain the series of events that led to a fire and resulting injury (see also—expert witness).

Future Benefit:

A benefit expected to be received at some point in the future.

Gap Coverage:

Insurance designed to pay the difference between the amount owed on a automobile and the fair market value of the automobile if it is damaged beyond repair (see also—upside down on a loan).

Guardian:

A person with legal power and a duty to act on behalf of another person.

Guardian Ad Litem:

This is a guardian appointed by the court to represent the legal interests of a minor or incompetent person. North Carolina personal injury and wrongful death cases involving a minor or incompetent person typically require having a guardian ad litem appointed (see also—minor settlement).

Hearing:

A proceeding where a judge, arbitrator, or other administrative officer makes determinations of fact or law after argument by all involved parties.

Hearsay:

A statement made by a person outside of testifying in court, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted is hearsay. Generally, hearsay is not allowed in court, although there are a number of exceptions to the rule.

Hydrocephalus:

This is a condition in which the body is unable to absorb cerebral spinal fluid.

Impairment:

An anatomical, physiological, mental, or psychological loss to a person that results in a loss of function or ability (see also—maximum medical improvement).

Impairment Rating:

The degree of permanent impairment assigned to a person with residual pain or loss of function once the person has reached maximum medical improvement.

Independent Medical Examination:

Independent medical examination (IME) is when a medical doctor who has not previously been involved in a person’s care examines an individual in order to offer opinions to a court regarding cause of injuries, permanent impairment ratings, future expected treatment, or other factors relating to the individual. In North Carolina, independent medical examinations are controlled by Rule 35 of the NC Rules of civil procedure.

Industrial Commission:

The governmental agency in charge of administering the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

Insurance Claims Adjuster:

An insurance claims adjuster is a person who works for an insurance company that investigates claims, inspects property damage, reviews medical records and bills, and other factors to determine responsibility on behalf of the insurance company. Adjusters usually negotiate the claim on behalf of the insurance company and the people they ensure (see also—property damage adjuster, bodily injury adjuster).

Insured:

A person who purchases an insurance policy or is otherwise covered by it.

Insurer:

A company that sells an insurance policy.

Interrogatories:

Written questions submitted by one party to another party in a lawsuit that require written answers sworn under oath are interrogatories. Interrogatories are part of the discovery process (see also—discovery).

Joinder:

The joining of two parties in a single lawsuit.

Judgment:

A final order that concludes a lawsuit or legal claim is a judgment. A judgment typically will set out the final ruling of a judge or jury, as well as the amount of money one party must pay another.

Juror:

A member of the jury.

Jury:

A jury is a group of persons selected in court that are empowered to indict a person for a criminal offense and determine innocence or guilt, or in a civil case, to decide questions of fact and award money damages for someone who was harmed by another. In personal injury cases, either party may ask for a trial by jury, under the North Carolina Constitution. A jury in North Carolina typically consists of 12 people, and verdicts must be unanimous.

Jury Trial:

A jury is a case heard and decided by a jury.

Last Clear Chance:

The last clear chance is a reply pled by a plaintiff in response to a defendant’s allegation of contributory negligence. Under the doctrine of last clear chance, a plaintiff may recover if he is able to show that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident, but failed to do so (see also—contributory negligence).

Lawsuit:

A claim or cause of action instituted against persons or entities in a court of law is a lawsuit. In order to properly commence a lawsuit, a complaint must be filed with the court and the defendant must be served or given a copy of the summons and complaint.

Lay Witness:

A lay witness is a person with knowledge based on his firsthand observation of facts or events. A court will allow a lay witness to testify at trial if the testimony may help determine a fact at question in the trial.

Leading Question:

A question that suggests an answer with which the witness is asked to agree and usually illicit a “yes” or “no” response, leading questions are allowed during cross examination, but typically are not allowed during a direct examination.

Liability:

Responsibility or fault for an incident resulting in injuries and damages to a person or property.

Liability Insurance:

Insurance coverage that protects the insured in the event he or she is sued for claims that fall within the coverage of the insurance policy.

Libel:

Publishing an untrue statement that is considered damaging to a person’s reputation.

Lien:

A right to take, hold, or sell property in order to secure payment of a debt (see also—medical lien).

Life Care Plan:

A life care plan is created by a medical expert and outlines the future needs for a seriously injured person. Plans typically take into consideration the need for: future medical care, surgeries, therapies, counseling, prescriptions, medical equipment or devices, adaptive equipment, transportation needs, specialized housing, daily attendant or nursing care, education, vocational rehabilitation, etc.

Liquidated Damages:

An amount of money agreed upon by the parties in a contract that must be paid by one or the other in the event that the contract is breached.

Litigation:

The process of filing a lawsuit and then prosecuting or defending that lawsuit.

Malpractice:

Misconduct in a professional capacity through negligence, carelessness, lack of skill, or malicious intent.

Maximum Medical Improvement:

When a doctor diagnoses that a patient has recovered from his or her injuries as much as possible, the person has reached maximum medical improvement. If the patient’s level of permanent function is less than prior to the injury or illness, then the patient may be entitled to a permanent impairment rating (see also—impairment rating).

Mediation:

A procedure by which an impartial third person, called a mediator, meets with both parties in a dispute and attempts to informally settle the claim is mediation. Personal injury and wrongful death cases filed as lawsuits in North Carolina must go through mandatory mediation. Cases are occasionally mediated prior to the filing of a lawsuit.

Mediator:

An impartial third person in a dispute who works with both parties in a lawsuit in an attempt to reach a settlement or agreement is a mediator. A mediator can’t force the parties to resolve their claim or differences, but instead works to encourage a free exchange of information and open discussions regarding reaching a settlement. In most cases, a mediator is a lawyer, retired judge, or expert in the field of the dispute.

Medicaid:

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare for people with very limited income and resources. Every state has different rules for who qualifies for Medicaid. In many states, including North Carolina, people who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) automatically qualify for Medicaid.

Medical Lien:

Medical lien a legal security measure placed on a personal injury or wrongful death case by a healthcare provider to guarantee that any outstanding bills are paid when the case concludes. In North Carolina, medical liens are controlled by N.C. General Statutes 44-49, 49-50, and 44-50.1.

Medical Payment Coverage:

Optional insurance coverage on automobile insurance policies that will pay medical expenses regardless of fault for an insured or anyone in an insured’s automobile is medical payment coverage (MP). In North Carolina, most medical payment coverage has a limit of $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, or $5,000, although some can provide even greater coverage.

Medically Determinable Impairment:

A medical condition severe enough that a person can’t perform even basic work activities; a medically determinable impairment is the basic requirement in order to be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

Medicare:

Medicare is a federal program that provides healthcare for those older than the age of 65 or the disabled. People who qualify for Social Security Disability benefits are eligible for Medicare benefits after a wait period.

Mental Suffering:

Any emotional, psychological, or non-physical injury.

Minor:

In North Carolina, a person younger than 18 years of age is legally considered a minor—or legally incompetent.

Minor Settlement:

In North Carolina, when a minor receives money from a personal injury or wrongful death claim, an application must be filed with the court for appointment of a guardian ad litem, approval of the settlement, and disbursement of funds. The purpose of this judicial review is to ensure the proposed settlement is fair to the minor child and all interested parties. Except in very limited circumstances, any money that belongs to the minor child from the settlement will be held by or through the court until the child reaches the age of 18 (see also—guardian ad litem).

Mistrial:

A trial that is terminated before a final verdict is reached is a mistrial. A judge may declare a mistrial because of some extraordinary event, prejudicial error that can’t be corrected, or because a jury can’t reach a unanimous verdict. In personal injury or wrongful death cases, a judge may also declare a mistrial if a jury learns that a defendant has liability insurance, such as automobile insurance.

Mitigate:

To diminish or reduce; an injured party has a duty to mitigate his or her losses by taking reasonable steps to get better.

More Likely Than Not:

This is the legal standard of proof that requires a party to prove it is more likely an event happened than not, or in percentages terms, more than 50 percent likely. In many personal injury or wrongful death cases in North Carolina, a plaintiff must only prove that it is more likely than not his or her injuries were caused by the defendant (see also—preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, and beyond a reasonable doubt).

Motion:

A formal written request submitted by a party in a lawsuit for a judge to make a decision or determination on law or fact.

Motion In Limine:

A motion requesting a judge exclude or limit certain evidence or facts not relevant to the trial or that are unfairly prejudicial

Negligence:

Failure to exercise the degree of care considered reasonable under the circumstances, resulting in an unintended injury to another party.

Nominal Damages:

A small amount of money—sometimes only $1.00—awarded to acknowledge that a person has suffered a harm that was technical rather than actual.

Objection:

A lawyer may use an objection in court to call attention to improper evidence or procedures. Objections also can be used to identify evidence or legal issues that can be taken up on appeal to a higher court. When a lawyer cites an objection in trial, the judge will then determine whether to sustain (agree with) or overrule (disagree with) the objection.

Opening Statement:

An attorney’s first opportunity to tell a judge or jury what the case is about and to forecast the evidence that will be presented at trial.

Party:

A person or entity that takes part in a legal proceeding (see also—plaintiff, defendant).

Past Due Benefit:

A benefit that should have been paid, but was not.

Pattern Jury Instructions:

A set of legal rules read to a jury before deliberations that instruct them on the rules of court, what evidence to consider, what law should be followed, and how they are to reach a decision.

Peremptory Challenge:

Refers to a right in jury selection for a party to reject a certain number of potential jurors who appear to have an unfavorable bias without giving reason, additional potential jurors may be challenged by presenting a reason why they might be unable to reach a fair verdict.

Perjury:

The telling of a lie under oath.

Personal Injury Protection:

Personal injury protection (PIP) is automobile insurance coverage available in some states that covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. It is also frequently known as “no-fault” coverage. North Carolina automobile insurance policies do not provide personal injury protection coverage.

Piercing the Corporate Veil:

When a court allows individual owners, shareholders, or directors of a corporation to be held personally responsible for the acts of the corporation.

Plaintiff:

The party who files a lawsuit or claim that goes to court; in the pre-litigation process, the plaintiff is referred to as the claimant (see also—claimant).

Pleading:

A formal written document by a party stating claims, defenses, and/or arguments.

Policy Limits:

The maximum amount of insurance coverage an insurance company will pay in the event of a claim, regardless of the amount of damage done.

Power of Attorney:

A legal document that appoints a person or agency to use your money to pay your bills, make medical decisions, or any other choices necessary for you.

Pre-emption:

The legal principle that states a federal law rules over a conflicting state law.

Preponderance of the Evidence:

Preponderance of the evidence is the legal standard of proof that requires a party to prove it is more likely an event happened than not, or in percentages terms, more than 50 percent likely. In most personal injury or wrongful death cases in North Carolina, a plaintiff must only prove it is more likely than not that his or her injuries were caused by the defendant (see also—more likely than not, clear and convincing evidence, and beyond a reasonable doubt).

Preservation of Evidence Letter:

A letter sent to a party or person requiring the retention or protection of specific items, documents, videos, evidence, vehicles, equipment, computer files, or anything else that might be potential evidence in a case.

Primary Insured Amount:

The amount of monthly benefits a claimant would be entitled to receive from the Social Security fund, in the event he or she is approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

Principal:

A person who authorizes an agent to act legally on his or her behalf.

Pro-se:

When a party does not retain a lawyer and appears in court unrepresented.

Probate:

An official copy of a will that is legally certified as genuine and given to the executors to follow.

Property Damage:

This is damage to public or private property. In an automobile wreck claim, property damage includes any damage sustained to the vehicle, personal belongings in the vehicle, pets inside the vehicle, and any other objects damaged such as houses, signs, poles, etc.

Property Damage Adjuster:

An insurance claims adjuster who evaluates the circumstances of an automobile wreck and resulting property damage, and makes an offer on behalf of the responsible insurance company and the insured to resolve the property damage claim.

Punitive Damages:

Money awarded by a judge or jury intended to punish the defendant and deter similar future conduct.

Release:

A legal document issued when a claim or lawsuit is settled, which forfeits the right of a plaintiff to make any similar future demands or claims.

Request For Admission:

A request for admission is a set of statements from one party to another in a lawsuit for the purpose of having the opposing party admit or deny the truth of each statement. Requests for admission are part of the discovery process (see also—discovery).

Request for Production of Documents:

A legal request in a lawsuit to view or obtain copies of documents, electronically stored information, or other tangible items.

Residual Functional Capacity:

The resulting physical or mental limitations a person has after a significant injury or illness is residual functional capacity. In Social Security Disability cases, treating physicians will often conduct a residual functional capacity evaluation for a claimant and outline any limitations that a claimant has.

Respondeat Superior:

A legal principle that states an employer is responsible for the actions of an employee (see also—agency).

Rules of Evidence:

Court rules that control which testimony, documents, or objects can be submitted for consideration by a judge or a jury, and the weight that any admitted evidence should be given in determining a question of fact.

Service Connected Disability:

A disability condition that has resulted from or was aggravated by an injury or illness while a veteran was serving on active duty in the military.

Service of Process:

The rules regarding how a party is notified of a lawsuit against them.

Settlement:

A final resolution agreement by both parties in a claim.

Slander:

A false verbal statement that harms a person’s reputation.

Social Security Disability:

Social Security Disability (SSD) is a financial aid program designed to help those who are unable to work due to disability. All working Americans contribute to the SSD fund through a mandatory deduction in each paycheck.

Social Security Income:

Social Security Income (SSI) is a federal income supplement program for the aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income. The assistance is funded through general tax revenues of the government and pays people based on need. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

State Law:

Law passed by a state legislature or governor, which applies to those who live in or do business within that state.

Statute of Limitations:

The period of time in which a legal claim must be made is the statute of limitations. If a claim is brought forth after the statute of limitations deadline, it is barred by law. In most North Carolina personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of injury. In most North Carolina wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. There are exceptions to these general rules.

Statute of Repose:

The time period after the manufacture and purchase of a product within which a plaintiff can make a claim for an injury that results from that product is the statute of repose. As a general rule, for cases occurring after October 1, 2009, in North Carolina, a defective product claim must be filed or resolved within 12 years from the date of sale of a defective product. Defective products that involve real property have a six year statute of repose. In addition, a case is also controlled by a statute of limitations in North Carolina. Both statutes of repose and statutes of limitations apply to products cases. There may be exceptions to this general rule (see also—statute of limitations).

Structured Settlement:

A structured settlement is when a plaintiff’s money is paid in a series of payments, rather than as a lump sum. Structured settlements are typically paid through insurance annuity contracts (see also—annuity).

Subpoena:

A written command requiring a person to appear at a certain time and place to provide testimony at a deposition or other court proceeding; typically, a subpoena must give the person five days’ notice to be valid in North Carolina.

Subpoena Duces Tecum:

A written command requiring a witness to produce all documentation or tangible evidence he or she possesses or controls that is relevant to matters at issue in the case.

Subrogation:

A claim for reimbursement out of a plaintiff’s settlement proceeds by a health insurer for medical bills he or she paid on behalf of the plaintiff (see also—ERISA)

Summary Judgment:

A procedure in which one party seeks to persuade the court that there is no genuine controversy regarding the material facts, and therefore, that the party filing the motion is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.

Summons:

Notice to defendants that a lawsuit has been filed, that they have been named as defendants, and that they must respond within 20 days or a default judgment may be taken against them.

Superior Court:

The highest level of trial court in North Carolina that includes civil and criminal divisions is the superior court. Civil superior court handles all matters with more than $10,000 in dispute. Criminal superior court generally handles higher level crimes.

Testimony:

A formal written or verbal statement made by a party or witness under oath in a lawsuit.

Tort:

A wrongful act for which damages can be sought by an injured party.

Total Temporary Disability:

Total temporary disability (TTD) is a term used in workers’ compensation cases that refers to a person’s inability to work for a period of time.

Toxicology:

The study of the nature, effects, and detection of poisons and the treatment of poisoning.

Transcript:

A transcript is a written record of a legal proceeding prepared by a court reporter. After an oral deposition, a court reporter types a written transcript of all of the questions asked and answered (see also—deposition).

Treating Physician:

A doctor who provides medical care to a plaintiff.

Tricare:

A federally-funded program that provides healthcare for military personnel and other United States uniformed service members (see also—CHAMPUS).

Underinsured Motorist Coverage:

Automobile insurance coverage that protects an insured in the event he or she is injured negligently by someone who does not have enough automobile insurance.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage:

Automobile insurance coverage that protects an insured in the event he or she is injured negligently by someone who doesn’t have any automobile insurance.

Upside Down On A Loan:

Owing more on a wrecked car than the vehicle is worth (see also—gap coverage).

Venue:

The proper place where a plaintiff can sue a defendant is the venue. In North Carolina personal injury and wrongful death cases, the plaintiff may sue a defendant in either of the counties in which the parties involved reside.

Vocational Expert:

A professional in the area of vocational rehabilitation who gives opinions on a plaintiff’s ability to perform work, lost earning capacity, and any accommodations at work that might make work feasible for the plaintiff.

Vocational Rehabilitation:

Services and support that may help a person with disabilities obtain employment, go to school, or get a volunteer position such as job counseling, special training, and job search assistance.

Voir Dire:

Voir dire is the process of selecting a jury for a trial. Potential jurors are called and seated in the jury box. The judge and lawyers then ask a series of questions designed to disclose any predispositions or biases that may impact each juror’s judgment. Jurors may be excused from servicing for cause.

Will:

A document that gives specific instruction for the distribution and management of a person’s estate in the event of their death.

Witness:

Someone with knowledge in a case who testifies in court (see also—lay witness, expert witness).

Wrongful Death:

A wrongful death claim is a claim against another for negligently causing death. The claim is brought in a civil action by either an administrator or family member (see also—administrator).