Every personal injury case is unique. It is also usually a stressful time for the parties involved. At Richard Harris Law Firm, we want to alleviate as much of the burden from our clients as possible. Informing them about what to expect during their personal injury case, including the legal terminology that will be commonly used throughout the process, is one way we do that. Whether it is a defective products case or a motor vehicle accident, there are common legal terms that are used in all injury cases. Here is a quick reference guide to the meaning of each of these terms and examples to further explain the context in which these terms are used.

Plaintiff: The person or group of people who has filed the lawsuit.

Example: If you were struck by a vehicle while riding your bicycle and brought a lawsuit against the driver, you are considered the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Defendant: The person or party who is the recipient of the complaint being accused by the plaintiff of wrongdoing.

Example: If you were struck by a vehicle while riding your bicycle and sued the driver, the defendant in the lawsuit is the driver.

Complaint: The official filing of the plaintiff’s grievance with the suitable court. This is the first formal action in filing a lawsuit and is a written document containing the allegations against the defendant and how their actions harmed your rights. It also outlines which laws were violated, details that led to the dispute, and what the plaintiff is seeking financially or other compensation for their relief.

Prayer for Relief: Found within the complaint, it is the specific portion in which the plaintiff describes the desired type of compensation they seek from the court such as a monetary sum or an injunction forcing the defendant to cease a certain activity, and at times, both.

Example: “The plaintiff prays for 1) special damages in the sum of $250,000, general damages according to proof, 2) reasonable attorney’s fees, 3) costs of suit; and 4) such other and further relief as the court shall deem proper.”

Answer: As the plaintiff files the complaint, the defendant responds by filing an answer to formally announce their position regarding the accusation.

Statute of Limitations: From one to ten years or more, the statute of limitations refers to how much time after the incident takes place that one has to file a complaint and for prosecutors to press charges for a particular offense. This legal time limit varies from case to case and differs in each State. 

Note: Personal injury lawsuits tend to have a statute of limitations around 2-3 years. In the State of Nevada, most felonies have a 3 year statute of limitations, 2 years for most gross misdemeanors, and one year for standard misdemeanors.

Negligence: Carelessness or failure to act resulting in injury.

Example: The driver of a vehicle who runs a stop sign, causing them to strike a person on a bicycle, is displaying negligence by failing to stop at the stop sign.

Burden of Proof: The plaintiff in a lawsuit must prove to a certain extent that their allegations against the defendant are most likely true. 

Damages: In regards to personal injury cases, damages refer to the financial compensation that the plaintiff is seeking, which includes both the costs incurred from the accident, as well as money to compensate for emotional distress incurred.

Example: Types of damages that may be rewarded to the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit include medical treatment, reduced income, property loss, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. 

At Richard Harris Law Firm, we believe that knowledge is power, and empowering our clients through the often stressful and sometimes confusing process of a personal injury lawsuit is an important aspect in the success of the case. If you have been affected by someone else’s negligence, the highly knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys at Richard Harris Law Firm guide you through every step of your personal injury case in order to get you the compensation you need and deserve. 


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