Jim Dodson Law's Guide to Legal Terms

A: absolute liability-automobile insurance

absolute liability: absolute legal responsibility for an injury attributed to the wrongdoer without proof of carelessness or fault, also known as liability without regard to fault or strict liability . Absolute liability is imposed when actions of an individual or business are contrary to public policy, even though an action may not have been intentional or negligent. It applies when the activity that caused the injury is inherently very dangerous and in product liability cases.

action: a proceeding in a court of law; a case, suit, lawsuit.

affidavit: a written statement affirmed or sworn under oath before a notary public to be used as evidence in court.

affirm: an appellate court’s decision that an order or decision by a lower court is valid and will stand.

age of majority: the age when a person acquires all the rights and responsibilities of an adult. In Florida and most other states, the age of majority is 18.

aggregate products liability limit: the total amount of money an insurer will pay during the term of a policy for all product liability claims it covers.

allegation: something that someone claims to have happened; a statement of a party to a lawsuit, made in a pleading, stating what that party intends to prove.

alleged: stated or claimed.

alternative dispute resolution: a means to resolve a dispute without going to court.

amicus curiae: (Latin for “friend of the court):” a party not directly involved in the case that is allowed to submit a legal brief to the court.

analgesic: any pain-relieving medication.

answer: a defendant’s written response to the plaintiff’s complaint in a civil case. In Florida, the answer must be filed within 20 days and either admits or denies each allegation listed in the complaint.

appeal: a request to a supervisory court, usually composed of a panel of judges, to overturn a ruling of a lower court.

appellate: pertaining to appeals. An appellate court has the power to review the judgment of a lower court or tribunal and reverse or affirm it.

arbitration: A method of alternative dispute resolution in which the disputing parties agree to be bound by the decision of an arbitrator.

assigned risk: a risk not ordinarily acceptable to insurers. If an insurance company wants to do business in Florida, they must, by law, accept anyone with a valid license. The state insurance department sets the rate and assigns the applicant to an insurance company.

assignment: the transfer of legal rights from one person to another.

assumption of risk: doing something with knowledge of the danger involved: a defense in personal injury lawsuits that the plaintiff knew a particular activity was dangerous and thus bears full responsibility for any injury (or death) that resulted.

at fault: found responsible or negligent Sometimes fault is shared between parties, depending on the facts of the case.

at issue: in a lawsuit, when the complaining party has stated his claim, and the other side has responded with a denial, and the matter is ready to be tried.

attorney-client privilege: communications between attorneys and their clients by law may not be disclosed to anyone. Most documents produced by attorneys and their staffs pertaining to the client’s case are also privileged. This is called the attorney work-product privilege.

automobile insurance: a form of insurance that protects against losses involving automobiles, including bodily injury liability, property damage liability, lost earnings, medical payments, and collision and comprehensive coverage for damage to the insured’s vehicle.


B: bad faith-bystander

bad faith: intention to mislead or deceive; conscious refusal to fulfill some duty, implying deliberate ill will, as opposed to negligence; conscious wrongdoing.

bailiff: court officer responsible for keeping order in the court, custody of the jury, and custody of witnesses or prisoners while in court.

bankruptcy: statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court for debt relief to allow them to get a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may be released from their debts and given a period of time to reorganize.

bar: 1.) the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. 2.) the whole body of lawyers admitted to practice in the courts.

bar examination: a state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted to the bar and licensed to practice law.

basic limits of liability: the smallest amount of liability coverage that can be purchased by law.

bench: the seat occupied by the judge, or, more broadly, the court itself.

bench trial or non-jury trial: a trial before a judge, without a jury, in which the judge decides questions of law and of fact.

beneficiary: someone named to receive property or benefits.

bequeath: to give a gift to someone through a will.

bequests: gifts made in a will.

best evidence: the most direct evidence possible, for example an original document to prove that the document exists and what it states. A copy of a document or testimony by a witness would be secondary evidence. The best evidence rule prohibits the introduction of secondary evidence unless best evidence cannot be obtained, if the party seeking to introduce the secondary evidence is not at fault in making the best evidence unavailable.

bill of particulars: a statement of the details of the charge made by the plaintiff against the defendant.

binding authority: law that controls the outcome of a case. For example, a decision on the same point of law by a higher court in the same state creates a precedent that must be followed by a lower court in that state.

bodily injury liability: legal liability for causing physical injury or death to another.

breach of contract: failure to perform all or some of the terms of a contract.

brief: a written document, usually prepared by an attorney, submitted to the court about a case, containing summaries of the facts of the case, relevant laws, and legal arguments showing how the law supports the party’s position.

burden of proof or standard of proof: degree of proof required to prevail in the specific type of case. In most civil cases, it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

bystander: in products liability law, a person who neither buys nor uses a product, but who nevertheless is injured by the product and may have a cause of action.


C: calendar-cross-examination

calendar: the list of cases scheduled for hearing in court.

capacity defense: a defense that alleges a defendant’s lack of some fundamental ability to be held accountable. For example, in Florida, persons under 6 years of age are presumed to lack the capacity for negligence.

caption: the heading on a legal document listing the parties, the court, the case number, and related information.

case: a proceeding, action, cause, lawsuit, or controversy initiated through the court system by filing a complaint or petition.

case law: law established by precedent, i.e. previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the Supreme Court.

caseload: the number of cases handled in a specific time period.

casualty: a person or thing injured or damaged.

casualty insurance: coverage against loss of property, damage, or other liabilities, including automobile insurance, liability insurance, theft insurance, and so forth.

cause: A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question litigated in a court of justice.

causation: the act that produces an effect.

cause of action: occurrence that give someone the right to seek a legal remedy through the courts.

caveat: a warning; a note of caution.

certification: 1.) written attestation. 2.) authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

certiorari: (Latin: “to be informed of”): a writ issued by an appellate or higher court to a lower court requiring production of a certified record of a case so the superior or appellate court can examine the lower court proceedings for errors.

challenge for cause: objection to the seating of a particular juror for a stated reason, usually bias or prejudice for or against one of the parties in the lawsuit. The judge has the discretion to deny the challenge. This differs from peremptory challenge, which requires no reason.

chambers: a judge’s private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge’s office outside the presence of the jury.

change of venue: transfer of a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.

charge to the jury: a judge’s instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.

chief judge: presiding or administrative judge in a court.

circumstantial evidence: evidence not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the fact in dispute (direct evidence), but, rather on evidence of other personal knowledge or observation that allows a jury to make an inference regarding the fact in dispute. An example of direct evidence of who was at fault for a car accident would be a witness who actually saw the accident. An example of circumstantial evidence in this case, would be a witness who drove by after the impact and saw the defendant’s car in the wrong lane.

citation: 1.) a reference to a source of legal authority. 2.) a summons to appear in court.

civil action: noncriminal case in which a private individual or business sues another to protect or enforce, private or civil rights or to receive compensation for damages caused by someone’s negligence.

civil law: body of law concerned with private rights and remedies, as contrasted with criminal law.

civil procedure: the rules governing the process of trying a civil case, including trial preparation, procedure for conducting trials, rules of evidence, and procedure for appealing decisions.

claim: an assertion of a right to money or property.

class action: a means by which one or more individual plaintiffs are able to sue for themselves and as representatives of a group people with the same interest in the wrongdoing that is being alleged.

clear and convincing evidence: standard of proof for the plaintiff to win a case, commonly used in civil cases where stakes are high for the defendant and in the probate of a will. It is a higher standard than preponderance of evidence.

clerk of the court: in Florida, an elected officer who oversees the administrative, non-judicial activities of the court and whose staff maintains court records and preserves evidence presented during a trial.

closing argument: the closing statement by lawyers to the trier of facts (judge or jury) after all parties have presented their evidence.

code: a written system of laws created and enforced by a legislature.

codefendant: each party sued when more than one defendant is being sued in a single lawsuit.

collateral source rule: the rule in civil law that compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit will not be reduced if the plaintiff receives compensation for the same injury from another source, such as an insurance policy. Under the collateral source rule, a defendant is not allowed to benefit from the fact that the plaintiff received money from another source because of the defendant’s wrongdoing.

common law: law deriving its authority from legal precedent; law made by rulings of judges and courts, rather than by statutes.

comparative negligence: consideration of an injured party’s own negligence in an accident. Under Florida law, if the injured party’s own negligence contributed to the accident, the damages will be reduced in proportion that party’s negligence in causing the accident.

compensation: in a civil suit, monetary recovery to make up for a loss.

competency: in the law of evidence, legal capacity to give testimony.

complaint: the document a plaintiff files with the court to initiate a lawsuit stating allegations and damages sought. The complaint is also served on the defendant (s).

complainant: the plaintiff; the party who is bringing the lawsuit.

contempt of court: deliberate disobedience of a judge’s order.

continuance: postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

contract: a legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

contingent fee agreement: an agreement between attorney and client in which the attorney agrees to represent the client for a percentage of the amount recovered. A contingency fee agreement is typical in personal injury cases.

corroborating evidence: supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.

counsel: legal adviser; lawyer.

counterclaim: claim made in a lawsuit by a defendant against the plaintiff.

court: a judicial tribunal charged with administering justice.

court costs: the expenses incurred in prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys’ fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party, recoverable from the losing party, to reimburse that party for the costs incurred in a lawsuit.

court reporter: a person who records and transcribes testimony during court proceedings or related legal proceedings such as depositions.

cross claim: claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against a co-defendant in a lawsuit.

cross-examination: the questioning of a witness produced by the opposing side.


D: damages-duty

damages: monetary recovery in a court for an injury or loss caused by a negligent act or omission by another.

decedent: a person who has died.

decision: a judgment given by a court of law.

declaratory judgment: judicial adjudication of the rights of the respective parties in a lawsuit, made to clarify the parties’ legal positions.

decree: an order of the court; a legal disposition.

deductible: the amount an insured person must pay before the insurance company pays on a covered loss, up to the policy limits.

defamation: that which may injure a person’s reputation. Libel is published defamation; slander is spoken.

default: a failure to respond to a lawsuit within the legally specified time.

default judgment: a judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges.

defendant: in civil law, the party defending a lawsuit; the party from whom the plaintiff seeks to recover damages.

defense attorney: the attorney representing the defendant.

de novo: (Latin for “anew”): a retrying of a case.

deposition: testimony of a witness taken under oath outside of the courtroom. A deposition may be used as a means of discovery of evidence prior to trial or to preserve testimony for later use in court.

deponent: the person who testifies at a deposition.

descent and distribution statutes: state laws that provide for the distribution of estate property of a person who dies without a will.

dicta (plural of “obiter dictum” ): remarks made by a judge in a legal opinion that is not directly relevant to the decision and does not establish a precedent.

directed verdict (judgment as a matter of law): an instruction to a jury by a judge to return a specific verdict.

direct evidence: evidence, which, if it can be believed, proves something without requiring inference or presumption.

direct examination: the first questioning of witnesses by the party who produces them.

disability: 1.) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities 2.) a lack of legal capacity.

disbarment: the permanent loss of a lawyer’s right to practice law, different from censure (an official reprimand or condemnation) and from suspension (a temporary loss of the right to practice law).

discovery: the pretrial process in which the parties to an action are given access to the evidence that will be relied upon in the trial by the opposing party.

disfigurement: a serious and permanent scar to the head, neck, or face.

dismissal: the termination of a lawsuit.

dismissal with prejudice: final judgment against the plaintiff that prohibits bringing a lawsuit on the same cause of action in the future. “Dismissal without prejudice,” allows the plaintiff to sue at a later time for the same cause of action.

disposition: determination of a charge, terminating a legal action.

dissent: stated disagreement; an appellate court opinion that articulates the minority view and outlines the points where one or more judges disagree with the decision of the majority.

docket: a list of cases to be heard by a court or a log containing brief entries of court proceedings.

doctrine of avoidable consequences or mitigation of damages: doctrine that imposes a duty on victims of a tort to take reasonable steps to minimize the damages after an injury has been inflicted.

domicile: the place where a person maintains a legal address. (A person may have several residences, but only one domicile.)

dram shop: a drinking establishment, such as a bar or tavern, where alcoholic beverages are served to be consumed on the premises,.

Dram Shop Act: a statute that makes it possible to sue a drinking establishment, such as a bar or restaurant, for damages resulting from the establishment’s service of alcohol to a.) those under the legal drinking age of 21, or b.) habitual drunks (in Florida).

due process of law: the right of all persons to receive the guarantees and safeguards of the law and the judicial process, articulated in the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. including such constitutional provisions as the rights to adequate notice, the assistance of counsel, to remain silent, to a speedy and public trial, to an impartial jury, and to confront and secure witnesses.

duty: in personal injury law, an obligation to conform to a particular standard of care when failure to conform may cause a person to be found liable for negligence in causing damages to another to whom a duty is owed.


E: emotional distress-ex parte

emotional distress: mental anguish.

equal protection of the law: the guarantee in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that all persons be treated equally by the law.

equitable remedies: remedies other than monetary settlements, such as injunctions and restraining orders.

equity: justice or fairness; historically, a separate body of law developed in England to do justice between parties in cases where the common law would be inadequate to achieve a just solution; a way to achieve a lawful result when legal procedure is insufficient.

error: in the legal sense, a mistaken interpretation of facts or application of the law that can provide grounds for an appeal.

estate: personal property, real property, and intangible property, such as stock certificates and bank accounts, owned by a person at the time of the person’s death, not including life insurance proceeds unless the estate is a named beneficiary, or other assets that pass outside the estate, such as a joint tenancy.

estate tax: a tax on the privilege of transferring property to others after a person’s death.

et al: and others.

evidence: anything, including testimony, writings, tangible objects, and exhibits, legally submitted to a court at trial to induce belief in the minds of the jury or judge.

execute: 1.) to complete the legal requirements (such as signing before witnesses) that make a will valid. 2.) to put the final judgment of the court into effect.

exception: a formal objection to an action of the court by either side in a trial reserving the right to appeal a judge’s ruling.

exclusionary rule: the rule preventing evidence obtained illegally from being used in any trial.

executor: a personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate.

exhibit: a document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.

exonerate: to free from blame; to remove a charge, responsibility, or duty.

expert: a witness who may give an opinion in court, based on that person’s particular area of expertise.

expert evidence: testimony given by witnesses qualified to speak with authority regarding scientific, technical, or professional matter.

ex parte: On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. A request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, because the subject of the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the hearing.


F: fact-finding hearing-fraud

fact-finding hearing: a proceeding to determine facts relevant to deciding a controversy.

family practitioner: a physician who has a general health care practice.

fiduciary: a person having a legal relationship of trust and confidence to another entailing a duty to act for the other’s benefit, for example a guardian, trustee, or executor.

file: to place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of the court to enter into the file or record of a case.

final judgment: the written ruling on a lawsuit by the judge who presided at trial. This completes the case unless it is appealed to a higher court, also called a final decree or final decision.

finding: formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on an issue of fact or a determination by a jury.

first party benefits: in Florida, benefits paid by an insurance company to compensate its own policyholders including car insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, and homeowners’ insurance.

fracture: a break or crack in a bone.

fraud: false and deceptive statements of fact intended to induce another person to rely upon and give up something of value.


G: gross negligence-guardianship

gross negligence: intentional failure to perform a duty, in reckless disregard for consequences to another person’s life or property.

guardian: a person appointed by will or by law to assume responsibility for incompetent adults or minor children.

guardianship: legal right given to a person to be responsible for the food, housing, health care, and other necessities of a person judged incapable of providing these necessities for himself or herself.


H: harmless error-hung jury

harmless error: an error committed during a trial that either was corrected or was not serious enough to affect the outcome of a trial and therefore was not sufficiently harmful (prejudicial) to be reversed on appeal.

hearing: a legal proceeding without a jury.

hearsay: statement by a witness who did not personally see or hear the incident in question but heard of it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court.

hit and run: an accident caused by someone who flees the scene, not stopping to render aid or provide necessary information as required by law. Hit and run is a third degree felony in Florida if a person has been injured by the accident, or a first degree felony if the accident has resulted in a death.

homeowner’s insurance: a policy that insures individuals against risk of loss of personal dwelling or its contents or against personal liability pertaining to a personal dwelling.

hostile witness: a witness whose testimony is not favorable to the party who calls him or her as a witness. A hostile witness may be asked leading questions and may be cross-examined by the party who calls him or her to the stand.

hung jury: a jury whose members cannot reach a unanimous verdict.


I: impanel-ipso facto

impanel: to enroll in a panel or group from which a selection is to be made, such as a pool of potential jurors.

impeach: introducing evidence to attack the credibility of a witness.

inadmissible evidence: evidence which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted as evidence.

in camera: in a judge’s chambers.

in camera inspection: judge’s private inspection of a document to make a decision on a ruling on its admissibility at trial.

in camera proceedings: trial or proceeding not open to the public, usually in a judge’s chambers.

indemnify: to restore the victim of a loss, either in whole or in part, by payment of money or by repair or replacement of that which has been lost.

informed consent: a person’s agreement to allow something to happen, such as a medical procedure, based on full disclosure of the facts necessary to make an intelligent decision.

infraction: a violation of law not punishable by imprisonment, such as a minor traffic offense.

inheritance tax: a tax on a bequest that an heir or beneficiary receives under a will from a deceased person’s estate.

injunction: writ or order by a court prohibiting a specific action. A preliminary injunction is granted provisionally until a full hearing can be held to determine if it should be made permanent.

injure: to hurt or harm; to violate the legal rights of another person.

instructions: a judge’s explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the questions it must answer and the applicable law governing the case. Also called charge.

intangible assets: nonphysical items such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits that have value and must be taken into account in estate planning.

intentional infliction of emotional distress: intentionally causing severe emotional distress by extreme or outrageous conduct.

interlocutory: provisional; not final. An interlocutory order or an interlocutory appeal addresses only a part of the issues raised in a lawsuit.

interrogatories: written questions asked by one party in a lawsuit to which the opposing party must provide written answers as part of discovery proceedings.

intervention: an action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a party to the suit.

intestate: without a will.

Intestate succession: the process by which the property of a person who died without a valid will is distributed throughout the deceased’s family members.
Intoxication: the condition of being under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug to the extent that the normal faculties of a person are impaired or having a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 percent or higher.

Inure: to take effect.
Invitee: a person who has been invited to enter or remain on the land for either a public purpose (a public invitee) or for a purpose related to the business dealings of the possessor of land (a business invitee). An invitee is owed the duty of reasonable care by the possessor of the property which requires the possessor to either warn of or correct any dangers which he knows of or should reasonably know of.
Involuntary: without intent, will or choice to act.
Ipso facto: Latin phrase for “by the fact itself”; the fact speaks for itself


J: jaywalk-judgement

jaywalk: to cross the street unlawfully, meaning not at a crosswalk or when you do not have the right of way.

JD: acronym for Juris Doctor; the degree achieved upon graduating from law school.
joinder: the bringing together of multiple lawsuits or multiple parties in one lawsuit because the facts and legal issues are the same.
joint and several liability: a legal doctrine which allows the plaintiff(s) to recover all of the damages from any defendant in a multi-defendant case, regardless of the percentage of fault allocated to the respective defendants. Joint and several liability was abolished in Florida in 2006 and has since been replaced by the doctrine of pure comparative fault which makes the duty to pay a plaintiff correlate with the percentage of fault for the damages awarded.
judgment: the opinion or decision of a court.


K: K

K: the shorthand symbol used for “contract”.


L: latches-lawsuit

laches: the legal doctrine which prohibits filing a claim or asserting a right against a party because the delay in bringing such claim or right has prejudiced the adverse party.
last clear chance: a rule used to determine responsibility for negligence which provides that even if the plaintiff was negligent, the defendant could have avoided the incident by using reasonable care in the final moments before it occurred.
latent: hidden or undiscoverable upon reasonable inspection; often refers to dangerous conditions on a property; can also refer to ambiguities in a contract.
law: a system of rules which regulate the conduct of people in a community.
lawsuit: common term for a legal action brought by one party against another in a court of law; also referred to as a ‘suit’.


M: magistrate-motion in limine

Magistrate: judicial officer of the court who presides over certain minor criminal offenses and pretrial matters in both civil and criminal proceedings.
Mistrial: a trial rendered invalid because of an error during the proceeding.
Moot: not ripe for a ruling by the court because the issue or controversy has not actually occurred.
Motion: a request by a party to litigation for the judge to decide an issue related to the case.
Motion in Limine: a motion brought before trial requesting that the court exclude certain matters or items from being presented or mentioned at trial.


N: natural person-nolo contendere

Natural person: a human being, as opposed to a business entity.
Negligence: failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.
Negligence per se: negligence which is presumed by a violation of a public duty or statute.
Net: the amount of money remaining after all costs and expenses have been expended.
Nolle prosequi: Latin for “we shall no longer prosecute”, a declaration made to the court by a prosecutor in a criminal trial which means the case against the defendant is being dropped because the elements of the crime alleged cannot be proven or because the prosecuting attorney believes the defendant is innocent; often shortened to “nolle pros” in the courtroom.
Nolo contendere: Latin for “I will not contest”; a plea entered in a criminal proceeding which functions as the equivalent of a guilty plea for sentencing but may not be considered an admission of guilt for other purposes.


O: oath-oral argument

Oath: A swearing to tell the truth; also, committing to certain standards or rules such as an oath of office.
Objection: a protest to the court regarding the legal soundness of certain behaviors or actions made by attorneys, witnesses or others in the courtroom or as to the appropriateness of certain information being discussed in front of the jury.
Opening statement:
initial remarks made by attorneys at trial which detail the facts which will follow; it is objectionable to present an argument during this statement which is intended to be factual.
Opinion: the written explanation of the court’s decision; there may be multiple opinions in appellate decisions which may either be concurring with or dissenting from the majority opinion.
Oral argument: an opportunity for lawyers to summarize their arguments and answer questions to the court.


P: panel-pretrial conference

Panel: the group of potential jurors during jury selection; in appellate cases, a group of judges selected to hear the case.
Per curiam: Latin for “for the court”.
Petit jury: a trial jury; a group of citizens who are responsible for hearing facts, evidence and law presented by opposing sides during a trial and make a determination of the facts.
Plaintiff: a person or business entity that files a formal complaint with the court and initiates litigation.
Pleadings: Documents filed with the court which describe a party’s factual and/or legal assertions about the case; common pleadings include the complaint, answer, reply, counterclaim and crossclaim.
a prior ruling on a similar matter from a court of equal or superior authority.
Pretrial conference: a meeting between the presiding judge and attorneys in which they schedule a date for trial, evaluate settlement options and discuss the matters that will be presented to the jury at trial.


Q: quantum meruit-quid pro quo

Quantum Meruit: Latin for “as much as is deserved,” this term often comes up when valuing the work performed by an attorney upon termination of representation by the client.
Quash: to set aside a verdict or nullify an action already performed by the court or parties to litigation.
Quasi: Latin for “as if,” almost, partially.
Quid pro quo: Latin for “something for something,” often referred to as mutual consideration in a contract, an exchange in value.


R: reasonable care-release of liability

Reasonable care: the standard of care and caution for the safety of others that an ordinarily prudent person would use in like circumstances.
Rebuttal: evidence introduced at trial to disprove or contradict evidence presented by an opposing party.
Recovery: the amount of money and/or rights awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit.
Recusal: the act of a judge or attorney being removed or removing oneself from a legal action, usually due to a conflict of interest.
Release: to give up a right due under a contract or law; also, short for a Release of Liability.
Release of Liability: an agreement to relinquish the right to file a legal action in exchange for compensation and/or completion of some other action.


S: sanction-subpoena duces tecum

Sanction: a penalty or fine ordered by the court for noncompliance with the law or other rules and regulations of the court.

Sentence: the punishment ordered by the court for someone who has been convicted of, or plead guilty to, a crime.

Sequester: separate; often used when referring to prohibiting a witness from observing the trial before he or she is to testify or keeping the jurors in a secluded place until the trial has ended and a verdict has been returned.

Service of process: Formal delivery of a notice to appear, summons and/or a complaint by someone who is qualified to serve process.

Settlement: Agreement; often the means by which parties resolve a dispute.

Standard of proof: the degree of proof required in a particular case; most civil trials require proof beyond a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) whereas crimes must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; some civil claims must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, which is a stronger standard than a preponderance of the evidence, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Statute: a law enacted by the legislature of a state or the U.S. Congress.

Statute of limitations: the time within which a lawsuit or a criminal prosecution may be commenced.

Sua sponte: Latin for “of its own will”; often refers to a court making a decision or taking an action without being requested to do so by a party to the case.

Subpoena: a command by the court for a person to present themselves in a specified location and give testimony.

Subpoena duces tecum: a command by the court for a person to present themselves in a specified location and bring certain documents.


T: tender-trier of fact

Tender: To offer an amount of money to settle a claim, often an insurance company extending an offer of the policy limits to an injured party.
Testacy: The state of having a valid will, being testate.
Testify: To give testimony, to make a declaration under oath.
Tort: a wrongful or illegal act which imposes liability under civil law, many ‘torts’ are based in negligence.

Tortfeasor: a person who commits a wrong or illegal act.
Total loss: damage to property that is so severe, it makes the property essentially valueless; in the case of automobiles, when the cost to repair a vehicle is nearly as much as the value of the vehicle, it is rendered a total loss.
Transcript: a document which states, word-for-word, what has been said by all parties, often transcripts are made to capture what was said at a deposition, hearing or trial.
Trespasser: a person who enters or remains on the property of another without the owner’s or possessor’s authority or consent.
Trial: Presentation of facts and evidence before a judge and/or jury to determine the outcome of a dispute.

Trier of fact: the judge in a bench trial or the jury in a jury trial.


U: unconstitutional-unlawful

Unconstitutional: in opposition to a state or the U.S. Constitution, can describe a governmental act, court decision or statute.
Under the influence: the state which describes a person who is impaired by use of alcohol and/or drugs.
Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage: a portion of automobile insurance policies which provides coverage in the event the insured suffers injury as a result of a negligent driver who does not have enough bodily injury liability coverage on his or her own automobile policy to compensate the insured for their injuries; often sold in conjunction with uninsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist  (UM) coverage: a portion of automobile insurance policies which provides coverage in the event the insured suffers injury as a result of a negligent driver who does not have bodily injury liability coverage on his or her own automobile policy; often sold in conjunction with underinsured motorist coverage.
Unlawful: illegal, contrary to stated laws, regulations or rules.


V: v.-voluntary

v.: versus.

Vacant: abandoned, unoccupied.

Vacate: leave; in the case of a court order or opinion, to make void.

Vague: characterized by a lack of specificity or clarity such that an ordinary person would not understand the meaning or intent.

Valid: having a legitimate basis or legal effect.

Valuation: the process of giving value to something (assets, property, etc.).

Vehicular Homicide: death of a person other than the driver who caused the collision involving the operation of a motor vehicle.

Venire: the panel from which jurors are selected.

Verdict: determination of facts from the judge or the jury.

Vicarious: imposed on one based solely on a relationship with another person or entity.

Violate: fail to comply, generally with a law or agreement.

Viva voce: Latin, by word of mouth.

Void: of no legal force or effect.

Voir dire: French, to speak the truth; the process by which parties in a legal action question potential jurors about issues of bias and other matters which may affect their fair and impartial determination of the facts.

Voluntary: of one's own free will and decision.


W: wage-wrongful death

Wage loss: Compensation for missed payments of money for labor or services.

Waive: relinquish a right or obligation, literally to abandon.

Waiver: a legal document which relinquishes a known right or cause of action; in the injury law context, a waiver of the right to file a lawsuit is often required in exchange for an agreed upon sum of money.

Withdraw: in the legal context, removal of an attorney from representation of a client with a matter pending in litigation.

Witness: a person who observed a particular act; attestation of a particular fast or event, usually in the form of a written signature.

Workers' Compensation: Payment for an injury arising out of a work related accident.

Wrongful: harmful to the rights of another person or entity.

Wrongful Death: a death caused by the negligence, reckless, or intentional act (or failure to act) of another.



Yield: to give place or precedence to another; a traffic signal requiring the allowance of other vehicles or pedestrians on the road to be given the right of way.



Zone of danger: the area within which a person is in physical peril of being harmed by another's negligence conduct.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.