ResourcesGlossary of Terms

Navigating the legal landscape can be daunting, especially when faced with unfamiliar terminology. That's why we've curated this glossary of terms to offer clarity and insight into commonly used legal terms and phrases. Dive into our glossary of terms to enhance your understanding of the law and feel more confident in your legal interactions.

Glossary of Terms

  • Appeal – A challenge to a previous legal determination.
  • Assumption of risk – A legal defense asserting that a defendant is not entitled to damages because they ‘freely and knowingly’ assumed risking injury.
  • Comparative negligence – A tort principle used by the court to reduce the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover in a negligence-based claim according to the degree of negligence each party contributed to the incident.
  • Compensation – Any form of payment made to an individual for services rendered.
  • Contingency fee – A type of fee arrangement in a case in which an attorney or firm agrees that the payment of legal fees will be contingent upon the successful outcome of the case.
  • Contributory negligence – A common law tort rule which bars plaintiffs from recovering for the negligence of others if they too were negligent in causing the harm.
  • Damages – Money awarded for a loss or an injury. In civil cases, damages are the remedy that a party requests the court award in order to try to make the injured party whole. Damages typically take the form of monetary compensation to the harmed party.
  • Deposition – A witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. Often used in the discovery process, and possibly at trial.
  • Discovery – In preparation for the trial, both sides will engage in a formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll be presenting at trial.
  • Expert witness – A person with extensive experience or knowledge in a specific field or discipline beyond that expected from a layperson.
  • Insurance – A contract in which one party agrees to indemnify another against a predefined category of risks in exchange for a premium.
  • Jury – A group of people sworn to give a verdict in a legal case based on the evidence presented to them during the court case.
  • Liability – A party is liable when they are held legally responsible for something. Unlike in criminal cases, where a defendant could be found guilty, a defendant in a civil case risks only liability.
  • Lost wages – Also called lost income, refers to the money you would have earned but didn’t or couldn’t because you could not work after being injured. This can include hourly wages, but may also include sick or vacation days, tips, and commissions.
  • Medical malpractice – An act of omission by a health care professional during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient.
  • Negligence – A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).
  • Pain and suffering – The physical discomfort and emotional distress that are compensable as noneconomic damages. This refers to the pain, discomfort, anguish, inconvenience, and emotional trauma that is onset by an injury.
  • Personal injury – A physical injury or injuries inflicted to a person’s body by another person or entity. Does not include damage to one’s property or reputation.
  • Pre-existing condition – A health problem like asthma, diabetes, or cancer that you’ve had before the date that new health coverage starts.
  • Product liability – The liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of component parts, an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, distributor, and the retail store owner.
  • Settlement – An agreement that ends a dispute and results in the voluntary dismissal of any related litigation.
  • Statute of limitations – The maximum period in which one can wait before filing a lawsuit, depending on the type of case or claim. These time periods vary by state, and federal courts.
  • Tort – An act or omission gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability.
  • Verdict – A decision on a disputed issue in a civil or criminal case.
  • Wrongful death – A civil cause of action brought by family members and dependents against individuals who knowingly or negligently caused the death of another person. A wrongful death action may be brought against a person also facing criminal charge for the same event.

Whether you’ve been involved in an auto accident, a civil rights violation, or a personal injury, you can rest assured knowing a top-rate Richmond lawyer at Halperin Law Center will give you personalized attention, guidance, and support you deserve. We work tirelessly to help win the compensation and justice you deserve in your case.


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