Nobody can predict accidents. And when they do happen, they can completely transform a person’s life. Victims are often left with serious physical and emotional injuries that may take a while to heal. Then there’s the financial distress victims are forced to go through. All this will take a heavy toll on the victim.

This is why everyone should strive to know more about personal injury laws. They are aimed at helping accident victims get their lives back on track. But pursuing this journey alone is arduous.

This is where the expertise of a lawyer is required. They provide the assistance required to perform all legal tasks. Additionally, your lawyer also negotiates with insurance companies and the legal representative(s) of the defendant(s).

When filing a personal injury case, you will be exposed to lots of legal jargon. Understanding these terms without the right resources can be an uphill task. This article sheds light on 12 important terms used in personal injury law.

1. Plaintiff

Plaintiff refers to the individual or group of individuals who’re making the allegation against the at-fault party. It also includes the individual or group of individuals who file a case on behalf of a deceased person.

2. Defendant

The defendant is the individual or group of individuals against whom the allegation is made. Once the complaint is made, the defendant will have limited time to send a response.

3. Answer

An answer is a legal document that a defendant must draft in response to the plaintiff’s complaint. The answer notifies the plaintiff and the court of the defendant’s reply to the complaint. It also contains the counter-allegations made by the defendant.

4. Prayer for Relief

The prayer for relief is part of the complaint made by the plaintiff. It includes the damages and other remedies the plaintiff is expecting through the lawsuit.


5. Negligence

Negligence is defined as the carelessness of an individual in following the duty of care they owed to the victim during the accident. Negligence has four elements. They are:

  • Duty of Care
  • Breach of Duty of Care
  • Causation
  • Damages

The at-fault party’s failure to act on a potential breach of duty of care also falls under negligence.

6. Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the period of time set by the court of law. It determines the time period during which the victim can pursue the at-fault party legally. Failure to file a case within the statute of limitations removes the victim’s right to file a claim. The statute of limitations varies by state, and exceptions are made for specific cases.

7. Tort

A tort is just another word for injury. It is a harmful act committed by an individual, business, corporation, or other legal entity against another. Just about all civil suits fall under the category of torts. Torts can be intentional or unintentional.

8. Burden of Proof

This is one term that a victim in a personal injury case often comes across. It refers to the victim’s responsibility to prove their allegations to the judge, jury, or insurance adjuster.

Based on the type of case and the state in which the accident happened, the victim must prove that the at-fault party has more than 50% liability for the accident.

9. Damages

Damages are legalese for money. It is a sum that the victim expects as compensation for the injuries they sustained. Damages from personal injury are of two types.

  • Economic Damages: Includes out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills, lost wages, household services, and property damage.
  • Non-Economic Damages: Includes non-quantifiable damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, and humiliation.

10. No-Fault

No-fault is a legal theory under which the victim of an accident is expected to collect compensation from their own insurance company. This theory is commonly applied in auto accident cases.


There are certain physical and financial limits to the no-fault theory. All damages that are less than the mentioned limit must be compensated by the victim’s insurance company. This theory applies regardless of who was responsible for the accident or the injuries.

11. Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is another theory that is used to modify the total compensation amount based on the level of the victim’s involvement. It splits the fault of the two parties into percentages. This percentage is then deducted from the compensation the victim receives.

12. Contributory Negligence

States like Alabama, Maryland, and North Carolina practice contributory negligence. Under this rule, you are denied compensation if you share fault in the accident. You will not receive compensation if you’re responsible for just 1% of the accident.