Legal Glossary

The following legal terms are specific to Auto Accident cases:

Accident insurance – Insurance against bodily injury or death because of accident.

Causation – It is necessary to prove that a person or company caused the injury to the other person or company in order to recover money damages.

Damages – Money payment recovered in the courts for an injury or loss caused by an unlawful act or omission or negligence of another.

Defendant – In civil law, the party defending a lawsuit; the party against whom the plaintiff seeks to recover damages from.

Hit and run – An accident caused by someone who did not stop to assist or provide the required and necessary information.

Independent Medical Examination – This is a misnomer, there is nothing independent about an “independent medical examination”.  These are often requested by the Defendant’s insurance company and/or lawyer in order to try to disprove your injuries.  The doctors who will ask to see you are chosen by the other party and are not expected to provide you with any treatment.  Their sole job is to disprove your claims and call your injuries into question, whether in challenging they were caused by the accident, or in challenging their severity, or your honesty in claiming them.   Do not ever voluntarily attend one of these.  My clients will only attend one of these if court ordered to do so.

Insurance adjuster – one who investigates insurance claims or claims for damages on behalf of an insurance company.

Insurance Policy – A written agreement between you and your auto insurance company that details what the company will cover, contract conditions and provisions and the amount you’ll pay for your coverage.

Liability – The blame or fault in a personal injury claim. Liability is synonymous with responsibility, who is responsible for causing the injury.

Lien – In the personal injury or wrongful death context, a claim by someone (usually a health care provider) who has provided services to an injured individual to be paid from their recovery.  (See also, “Subrogation”, below.)

Medical Payments Coverage also known as Med Pay – This is a less effective form of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage offered by insurance companies to replace PIP.  It will cover medical bills incurred up to the limits of the policy.  However, this coverage does not include the other damages available under PIP like lost wages and does require that you pay your insurance company back if your injuries were caused by a negligent third party and you obtain a recovery from them for your injuries.

Motor vehicle report (MVR) – A state record of licensing status, violations, suspensions, and other infractions a person has had over the last several years.

Negligence – failure to exercise the degree of care expected of a person of ordinary prudence in like circumstances in protecting others from a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm in a particular circumstance.  Negligence per se is injuring a person while violating a law that is designed to prevent that injury, such as running a stop sign and causing an accident.  Negligence is presumed in the latter situation, so it is much easier for plaintiffs to recover for their injuries.

Pain & Suffering –  mental or physical distress for which one may seek damages in a tort action.  (See “Tort”, below.)

Personal injury protection also known as PIP – This is a type of insurance coverage that provides benefits for you, on your policy for medical expenses, loss of income from work, generally up to 80% of your lost wages, essential services, accidental death, funeral expenses and survivor benefits.  This is a no fault insurance and will cover you and your family members whether or not you are in an insured vehicle at the time of the injury so long as the injury is caused by a motor vehicle.  It will also provide this protection to others riding in an insured vehicle even if they are not a named insured.

Plaintiff – the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an action) before a court.

Punitive Damages – Money or payment given or awarded to an injured party that exceeds the injured party’s losses so as to punish the defendant.

Statute of limitations – The period of time by which a plaintiff (injured party) must file a lawsuit after he or she has suffered an injury as the result of another’s negligence. If a statute passes and is not otherwise tolled (stopped) or extended, a party loses his/her ability to pursue the claim.

Subrogation –  A claim by someone who has paid the damages or health care costs of another person, to recover their payments from a third person who caused the injury or damages.  Typically the entity seeking to recover subrogation will be a health care provider or an automobile or health insurance company.

Tort – an action, or failure to act, that intentionally or negligently causes damages or injury to another person.

Uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage– Insurance coverage that pays for your property damages, bodily injury and related medical expenses when you’re injured in an automobile accident and the responsible party (other than yourself) doesn’t have auto insurance, has insufficient limits of insurance such that you are not made whole from the settlement with the other person’s policy or the offending party can’t be located (hit-and-run).

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