WHEELING – What may seem like common terms to attorneys may be unfamiliar to clients. Below are some examples of terms that clients may come across during the course of his or her case, so that they may better understand the case.
Affidavit – A written or printed statement made under oath.
Answer – The formal written statement by a defendant in a civil case that responds to a complaint, articulating the grounds for defense.
Arbitration – A non–judicial legal procedure that happens outside of the courts where parties dispute in front of a neutral arbitrator.
Attorney Client Privilege – Communications between an attorney and client that are confidential.
Bench Trial – The trial where the judge will find the facts and also apply the law instead of letting a jury decide the law.
Complaint – A legal document filed in court that initiates a civil lawsuit. The complaint states the plaintiffs' allegations against the defendant and their prayers for relief.
Contingency Fee – Rather than an hourly or fixed fee, a contingency fee is paid to an attorney when an attorney is successful in making a recovery on behalf of his client. The lawyer receives a percentage of the verdict or settlement amount. If the lawyer is unsuccessful in making any recovery for the client, there is no fee charged to the client.
Defendant – The party that a lawsuit is brought against.
Deposition – Oral testimony taken under oath in which one party presents questions to the other party or relevant witnesses.
Discovery – The investigation that takes place before a lawsuit goes to trial. During this period, parties gather facts and information about the other party to build their case. Discovery can be written, in the form of interrogatories or request for production, or oral, which is typically in the form of a deposition.
Evidence – Information to support or prove a case.
Expert Witness – A witness who lends their expertise in a given field to testimony in support of a party's case.
Interrogatory – The exchange of written questions between parties of a lawsuit used to uncover important information. A form of written discovery.
Lawsuit – A legal proceeding between two parties in a court of law.
Mediation – The attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result.
Motion – An application made to a judge for the purpose of obtaining an order directing some act to be done in favor of the party presenting the application.
Personal Injury – Covers situations in which a person’s body, mind, or emotions are hurt, usually due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness. It includes wrongful death, or situations where an injury proves fatal. Another term for personal injury law is tort law.
Plaintiff – In civil law, the person or party who brings the legal action or files the lawsuit; also called a complainant.
Statute of Limitations – Time frame set by legislation where affected parties need to take action to enforce rights or seek redress after injury or damage.
Summary Judgment – A final decision by a judge that resolves a lawsuit in favor of one of the parties. A motion for summary judgment is made after discovery is completed but before the case goes to trial.
Cunningham is at attorney at Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling.