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12 Legal Terms You Should Know

Maybe the most common issue among people who have never attended law school, aren’t interested in the law, or are not in the legal industry is reading legal documents and not understanding any of their jargon. 

The primary legal terminology can help you understand and deal with legal issues efficiently and help you translate legal jargon correctly, which allows non-lawyers to comprehend efficiently and avoid frustrations and confusion.

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Law is not a simplified area. Most of its legal terminology comes from Latin phrases that are not easily interpreted by non-lawyers or those interested in this field. Not knowing what it means can also add prostration for specific clients dealing with their case. Learning a few legal terms can help you understand several issues happening around you. 

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This can also help improve your self-confidence and intuition in specific cases. Aside from legal terminologies, you can also understand your legal responsibilities and rights. For instance, if you’ve been involved in a Vegas car wreck, help is easier if you know a few yet reliable lawyers in town. Whether you or someone you loved has been involved, frustrations are reduced as you know what to do and how to act based on the situation. 

The lawsuit and lawyers have their unique languages, and understanding this can help you act accordingly. Why lawyers may not notice it, non-lawyers may find it hard to comprehend this jargon as they don’t deal with them daily. 

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The right lawyer will explain to you the process and helps you understand even the slightest foreign word you’ll encounter. Below are some of the most common terms you may or may have previously experienced. 

What Are the Common Non-Lawyer Terms You Need To Know

Whether you’re reading a report from your lawyer or taking advice from a previous claim, these are commonly used lawyer terms every non-lawyer needs to know: 

1. Defendant

Defendants usually represent those being sued or defending themselves. Although Defendants can bring their claims against those being sued, counterclaims, we typically refer to them as the persons accused of wrongdoing.

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2. Damages

Lawyers commonly refer to damages as the amount a client is awarded in a lawsuit. Additionally, additional categories of damages include economic damage (lost wages, lost profits, out-of-pocket expenses, etc.) and non-economic damage (physical injuries, emotional distress, pain and suffering, scarring, permanent disabilities, lost enjoyment of life, etc.). 

Despite the differences in the measure of damages in business lawsuits (or types of compensation), the idea remains the same: damages are monetary compensation for losses suffered.
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3. Default

When a party fails to comply with a requirement of the court or statutes, the court may bar them from advancing claims or defenses. While defaults can be helpful in court, judges often open defaults after the party has satisfied the requirement.

4. Credibility

It is crucial to almost every lawsuit that the litigant appears as trustworthy and honest as possible. Credibility is one factor in virtually every case. There are circumstances where two sides tell radically different stories, and the fact-finder (whether a judge or jury) must decide between them. Credible clients increase the value of the case. 

In a courtroom, credibility is sometimes used to mean not credible, a lie. Your credibility is constantly in question: it begins with being open and honest with your lawyer, continues through your deposition, and may end when you testify at trial.

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5. Docket

This is the process of how a court keeps track of a specific case which can be singular (a particular case) or plural (the whole docket case in the court—most of the time, in hundreds). When you hear that your case is on the docket, this means that it’s on a specific stage of the proceedings.  

  • Pleadings and motion lists
  • Trial lists
  • Hearings or proceedings in damages lists 

6. Discovery

Following various statutes and court rules, both sides of a lawsuit may ask for information from the other side in court. This is what is known as discovery – we gather information the other side has about the case.

7. Malpractice

It is a complex term where you have to prove that a doctor committed malpractice. Several components must be present for this to be true; 

  • There was a moral obligation on the part of the doctor to treat the patient.
  • Medical care provided by the medical expert did not meet community standards
  • A compensation-able injury had been sustained by the client or patient 
  • The medical treatment provided by healthcare providers did not meet standard care requirements. 
    • The reasonable medical probability
    • The injury’s cause was substantial

7. Liability 

This is the legal term that is used when the defendant is responsible for the injury or damage. In other words, actions for damages show that one party is responsible for the injuries sustained by another. 

8. Plaintiff

Plaintiffs file lawsuits or claim damages in response to a defendant’s wrongdoing and are sometimes also referred to as claimants.

9. Negligence

If you fail to act as carefully as the law demands, which often leads to harming others, you may incur criminal charges. 

10. Testify

The act of making a statement or testifying under oath. Whether in an affidavit, deposition or at trial. A witness is one who “confirms the truthfulness” of their words or testimony. 

11. Structured settlements

Personal injury settlements and lawsuits typically involve the use of this type of financial tool. It works by investing an amount that would have been paid in a lump sum for regular payments over some time. 

Structured settlement payments are tax-free if used as a settlement to fund a personal injury claim. Structured settlements are usually sponsored by life insurance policies from highly rated companies. Sometimes, we use structured settlements to safeguard the recovery from potential creditors as well. Structured settlements can be used to settle claims other than personal injury.

Final Words

Although these are simple terms, learning their meaning is likely all you’ll need to be present in a legal field. Additionally, if you’re unfamiliar with any terms, you can ask your lawyer to explain them to you in layman’s terms.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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