The following legal terms are specific to Wrongful Death 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.
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.)
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 violating an OSHA regulation 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.)
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.
Third Party Claim – A claim that an injury was caused by someone other than the injured or deceased person’s employer. An example would be a drilling rig hand who was injured by the negligence of someone on a cementing crew.
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).
Workers Compensation – a statutory scheme to provide medical care and payments to workers injured while performing their job. This provides protection to the employer from negligence claims of the employee, unless the employer was grossly negligent in causing a death, or, in New Mexico, an injury. It does not protect persons or companies other than the employer and the injured person’s fellow employees from suit.
Wrongful Death Claim or Action – A right, created by state statute, to recover for the death of a relative. Wrongful death claims were unknown under the Common Law of England, so each state’s wrongful death statute is different. In Texas, only the spouse, children and parents of a person who is killed by the negligent or intentional act of another may recover damages.
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