Legal Dictionary

DeMayo Law Offices have provided you with a legal dictionary so that you can better understand some of the legal vocabulary used throughout our website and during your personal injury claim.

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Abuse – Abuse occurs when one person causes physical or emotional injury or harm to another person. Abuse can also be sexual if a sexual act is performed on another person without their consent. When older individuals are abused, like in nursing home abuse, the results can be very serious.

Accepted Claim – A claim in which the insurance company accepts that your injury or illness will be covered by workers’ compensation.

Accident – An incident that occurs that causes either economic or non-economic loss. Accidents can occur almost anywhere, anytime, and can include auto accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents.

Acknowledgment – 1. A statement of acceptance of responsibility. 2. The short declaration at the end of a legal paper showing that the paper was duly executed and acknowledged.

Action – In the legal sense, a formal complaint or a suit brought in court.

Additur – An increase by a judge of the amount of damages awarded by a jury.

Adjudicate, Adjudication – Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also the judgment given.

Administrative Agency – Governmental body responsible for administering and implementing a particular legislation, such as laws governing traffic safety or workers’ compensation. These agencies may have rulemaking power and judge-like authority to decide disputes.

Administrative Hearing – Proceeding before an administrative agency which consists of an argument, a trial, or both. Rules governing the proceeding, including rules of evidence, are generally less strict than in civil or criminal trials.

Administrator or Administratrix – Person appointed by a court to administer a deceased person’s estate. The person may be male (in which case, he would be referred to as the “administrator”) or female (in which case, she would be referred to as the “administratrix”).

Adversary Proceeding – Legal proceeding involving parties with opposing interests, with one party seeking legal relief and the other opposing it.

Ad Litem – (Latin: “purposes of the lawsuit.”) For example, a guardian “ad litem” is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.

Allegation – The claim made in a pleading by a party to an action setting out what he or she expects to prove.

Amicus Curiae – (Latin: “friend of the court.”) Person or organization that files a legal brief with the court expressing its views on a case involving other parties because it has a strong interest in the subject matter of the action.

Admissible Evidence – Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Affiant – Person who signs an affidavit.

Affidavit – A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths. For example, in civil cases, affidavits of witnesses are often used to support motions for summary judgment.

Agreement – Mutual assent between two or more parties; normally leads to a contract; may be verbal or written.

Alternative Dispute Resolution – Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration and settlement among others.

Allegation – The claim made in a pleading by a party to an action, setting out what he or she expects to prove.

Alternative Work – If a doctor deems an injured employee unable to return to their job, the employer is encouraged to offer alternative work instead of regular work duties.

American Medical Association (AMA) – National physicians’ group. The AMA has published the permanent impairment guidelines.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – A federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

Answer – In a civil case, the defendant’s written response to the plaintiff’s complaint. It must be filed within a specified period of time, and it either admits to or (more typically) denies the factual or legal basis for liability. A defendant has 30 days in which to file an answer after being served with the plaintiff’s complaint. In some courts, an answer is simply called a response.

Appeal – Request to a superior or higher court to review and change the result in a case decided by an inferior or lower court or administrative agency.

AOE/COE (Arising out of and occurring in the course of employment) – Injury caused by and happening while on the job.

Appearance – The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court, or a written notification to the plaintiff by an attorney stating that he or she is representing the defendant.

Appellate Court – A court having jurisdiction to hear an appeal and review the decisions of a lower or inferior court.

Arbitration – A proceeding, which may be held in place of a court trial and conducted by a single person or a panel of three people who are not judges. The arbitrators generally are former judges or experienced lawyers. Generally, arbitrations are less expensive and occur more quickly than jury trials. Arbitration awards may be converted into a legal judgment on petition to the court, unless some party has protested that there has been a gross injustice, collusion or fraud.

Assault – A willful attempt or threat to harm another person, coupled with the present ability to inflict injury on that person, which causes apprehension in that person. Although the term “assault” is frequently used to describe the use of illegal force, the correct legal term for use of illegal force is “battery.

Assumption of the Risk – When a person voluntarily and knowingly proceeds in the face of an obvious and known danger, he/she assumes the risk. A person found to have assumed the risk cannot make out the duty element of a negligence cause of action. The theory behind the rule is that a person who chooses to take a risk cannot later complain that he/she was injured by the risk that he/she chose to take. Therefore, he/she will not be permitted to seek money damages from those who might have otherwise been responsible.

Attorney – A lawyer who is licensed to practice law and represent another person in legal matters.

Attorney-Client Privilege – Client’s privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications between the client and his or her attorney.

Attorney-in-Fact – A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a letter of attorney, or more commonly a Power of Attorney.

Attorney of Record- The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.

Average Weekly Wage – After being calculated, the average weekly wage is the number used to determine what loss of earnings benefits a worker who is injured on the job will receive under the Worker’s Compensation Act in North Carolina. There are various methods used to determine the average weekly wage, and the calculation process is complex.

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