Legal Terminology 101

Legal Terms You Need to Know

The United States legal system is relevant to all of us, even if you’re not a lawyer. Yet, there is so much jargon that it can be hard to understand how the legal process works.  If you are involved in a personal injury, DUI, theft, or traffic violation case, you’ll probably hear your attorney speak some of this jargon. Knowing the meaning will help you better understand your lawsuit, and even any high-profile legal events reported on the news. For those people who want a simple explanation of various legal terms without having to get a law degree, this glossary is for you. 


  • Credibility
    Simply put, it means “are you believable?” In almost every suit, someone will have to tell their story. If the plaintiff or defendant (see below) is credible, aka believable, then the jury or judge will likely assume you’re telling the truth and you’ll have a better outcome. 
  • Damages
    In a lawsuit, damages are related to a loss from which you are trying to recover, usually in the form of monetary compensation. Damages can be financial, such as loss of wages or expenses associated with medical or legal fees. Non-economic damages can mean emotional loss, injury, pain, and suffering, or even permanent disability.
  • Defendant
    The defendant is the person or party being sued. This person has to defend themselves from the claims of wrongdoings.
  • Discovery
    Also called the discovery process, each side of the lawsuit can request, and must give over, the information they have acquired on the case. This information usually has to be produced in a short period of time. There are various types of discovery:

    • Interrogatories – These are written questions that one side of the case must respond to in writing and under oath.
    • Depositions – This type of discovery is a formal question-and-answer session in which a witness swears to tell the truth. A court reporter records the deposition and, afterward, it’s reviewed for accuracy, then signed.
    • Requests for Admission – This is a document asking a person to admit or deny a fact. This document is admissible in court.
  • Docket
    A docket is a way the court schedules and keeps track of cases. Associated with the docket are the motions and pleadings list, which calls for complaints to go forward, and the trial list, containing specific information about the cases ready to go to trial.
  • Liability
    This term is used in reference to the defendant for claims of responsibility for damages or injury.
  • Malpractice
    This term usually refers to medical malpractice but can include accountant and attorney malpractice, too. Malpractice happens when a professional does not treat a client according to the established standard of care, and the client becomes harmed. In medical malpractice, the attorney must prove that the physician had a duty to provide care, that the doctor failed to provide standard care, and that this failure caused an injury and compensable loss to the patient.
  • .Negligence
    Negligence covers a wide range of situations, from not shoveling snow off your stairs to not following the rules of the road. In a lawsuit, a person must prove that a party has or had a duty to another person, that the party breached that duty, and that breach caused a compensable injury. Plaintiff
    The plaintiff is the party bringing the lawsuit. Sometimes called the claimant.
  • Testify
    To testify means to make a statement under oath in either a trial, deposition, or affidavit.

A+ for Legal Terminology 101

Understanding these basic legal terms will certainly help with a lawsuit, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant. Your attorney should be able to explain any nuances regarding these terms and how they relate to your case. An experienced attorney like Andrew Maze will do just that! He is dedicated to providing the best possible representation for his clients. He is a knowledgeable counsel and will assess your case, guide you through your legal options and explain the process. You can expect the personalized A+ service you deserve from the Law Office of Andrew Maze.

This blog is not meant to provide legal advice, but only to inform.

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