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Glossary of Personal Injury Terms

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Personal injury cases are often complex. Navigating the legal jargon can be overwhelming, especially when you’re already trying to cope with financial challenges and injury recovery. Whether you’re dealing with a car accident, medical malpractice, or any other type of personal injury, understanding the terminology used in these cases is essential. 

A glossary of personal injury terms can help break down some of the most common phrases you’ll encounter as you try to make sense of the personal injury claim process. When you’re overwhelmed, attending a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer can help point you in the right direction.

Breach of Duty

Glossary of Personal Injury Terms

Succeeding in a personal injury case requires first establishing negligence. You can do this by demonstrating the other party had a duty of care and failed to uphold that duty. The legal term for this failure is called breach of duty

Proving breach of duty differs by case. For example, a drunk driver demonstrates a breach of duty by choosing to drive while intoxicated, thereby endangering others on the road. 


Causation refers to proving that the breach of duty by one person directly led to the other person’s injuries. It’s typically not enough to prove that a breach of duty occurred. A personal injury lawyer must also demonstrate that the breach of duty caused the injuries. This is called establishing causation.

Class Action

A class action lawsuit is a personal injury case that involves many people who suffered similar injuries from the same source. A class action allows many separate cases to be combined into one. Class actions are most common in product liability cases, in which some type of product or drug leads to injuries or illness for many consumers.

Comparative Negligence

In some personal injury cases, the injured person can also share some responsibility for the accident. Comparative negligence allows the court to assign a percentage of fault to each party involved and adjust the final compensation accordingly. 

Contingency Fee

Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means they only receive payment if they win the case. Fees are usually a percentage of the final settlement or verdict amount. 

The percentage a lawyer takes for their contingency fee can differ by firm. Some contingency fees are all-inclusive, while others only cover certain costs. In these cases, a client might have to pay additional costs out-of-pocket.


Damages is the legal term for the personal injury compensation you seek in a case. Personal injury damages can be broken down into three categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive. 

Economic damages refer to demonstrable costs, like medical bills. Non-economic damages refer to aspects of the injury that don’t have a dollar value, like emotional anguish. Punitive damages are relatively rare and only awarded by a court as an additional payment amount in cases involving intentional harm or extreme negligence. 

Damages Cap

Some states limit the compensation you can receive in a personal injury case. These damages caps vary by state and type of case and can apply to different types of damages. For example, many states place a damages cap on the amount of non-economic compensation you can recover in medical malpractice cases. 


The defendant is the party against whom a personal injury lawsuit is filed. If it becomes necessary to take your case to court, the person or company who caused your injuries through negligence is the defendant. The injured person in this context is called the plaintiff.

Duty of Care

Duty of care is the legal obligation to act in a way that prevents harm to others. In personal injury cases, the duty of care often depends on the specific circumstances. But, it usually requires individuals or entities to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to others. 

The duty of care for a doctor entails providing appropriate, attentive care. For a manufacturer, it involves making products that don’t cause harm to consumers. 


Liability refers to being legally responsible for the impact of your actions or failure to act. In personal injury cases, proving negligence results in establishing liability. Once liability is established, the other party can be held financially responsible for your injuries and the costs associated with them.


Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party mediator helps both parties in a personal injury case attempt to reach a settlement agreement. If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will go to court as a lawsuit, and the judge’s verdict determines the outcome. Many personal injury cases are resolved via mediation.


Negligence is one of the central concepts of personal injury law. It refers to the idea that people and organizations have a basic duty to attend to the well-being and safety of others. When people or entities breach their duty, they can be held legally and financially responsible. 

Proving negligence in a personal injury case requires establishing four essential elements: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.


The plaintiff is the party seeking compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Most of the time, the plaintiff is the injured person. In some cases, a relative may stand in as the plaintiff if the injured person is deceased or incapacitated.


A settlement is an agreement reached between the parties involved in a personal injury case. The attorneys of both parties negotiate until an acceptable compensation value is agreed upon. Once a settlement is reached, the personal injury case can be closed, and the injured person receives their compensation.

Statute Of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The specific time frame varies by state and type of case. The statute of limitations is sometimes extended — or “tolled” — in certain cases. This is most common when the injury isn’t discovered immediately or occurred while the injured person was a minor.

Get Help from a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Navigating the world of personal injury law without help is a challenge. Often, it’s a mistake. Personal injury lawyers don’t just understand legal terminology. They’ve spent years building hands-on experience and skills to help their clients pursue compensation. 

When you’re ready to explore your options, Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help. Contact us today at (305) 937-0191 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Miami personal injury lawyers.