Defining The Legal World
Posted by Gregory M. Rada | April 12, 2023 | Firm News
There are many words, phrases, and definitions in the legal world that may not make sense to the average person, but are crucial to the entire litigation process. As an experienced accident lawyer can explain, having a baseline understanding of the terms within litigation can benefit anyone involved in a case, whether they are the plaintiff, defendant, or witness. We have gone ahead and outlined a variety of different terms you should understand so that you are more informed during the litigation process.
Before getting into the different words and definitions, there must be a clear understanding that there are two different types of cases. A civil case is used to resolve a dispute between two parties and to provide compensation to the wronged party, for their physical, mental, or emotional harms. Civil lawsuits are brought by the injured person, also known as the “Plaintiff”, while the person who is being sued for compensation is the “Defendant”.
This is not to be confused with criminal cases, in which the state is charging someone for a crime committed, and their behavior is punished because it is deemed an undesirable act by society and goes against the law. Additionally, in a criminal lawsuit the “Prosecution” who is the state, brings charges against the “Defendant”. civil and criminal cases can go hand-in-hand, as the person who committed the harm can be prosecuted both criminally and civilly for the same act. However, their distinctions must be noted before continuing into defining the legal world.
- Acquittal: An acquittal is a judgment that a criminal defendant has not been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Affidavit: A written statement of facts confirmed by the path of the party making it. Affidavits must be notarized in order to be taken into effect.
- Appeal: A request made after trial asking the court of appeals to review the case and ensure that it was conducted properly and no laws were violated. Both the plaintiff and the defendant can appeal, and the party that ends up filing the appeal becomes “the appellant”.
- Bench Trial: A trial without a jury where the judge decides the acts of a case and can decide if the plaintiff has proven guilty.
- Brief: A written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side that explains the case to the judge as to why they should decide the case in a particular favor.
- Case law: The use of court decisions to determine how other laws should apply for another case. This sets “percent”, which is past decisions within other cases coming to light and influencing the current case at hand.
- Charge to the jury: The judge’s instructions to the jury about applying the facts of the case to the trial.
- Complaint: A written statement by the plaintiff stating alleged wrongs.
- Cross-examine: Questioning of a witness by the attorney for the other side.
- Damages: Money paid by the defendant to plaintiffs in a civil case as compensation for injuries.
- Deposition: An oral statement used to examine potential witnesses, obtain discovery, or to be used later if the case goes to trial.
- Discovery: A lawyer’s examination before trial of all facts and manners which are in the possession of the opposing counsel to assist in preparation of the trial.
- Evidence: Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the judge or jury to decide the case for one side or the other.
- Exhibit: Physical evidence or documents that are presented in a court proceeding.
- Hearsay: Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about through secondhand information such as another’s statement, newspaper, or document.
- Impeachment: The act of calling someone’s words or statements into question and “impeaching” them for lacking validity or going back on their original word.
- Litigation: A case, controversy, or lawsuit.
- Motion: Attempt to have a limited issue heard by the court.
- Oath: a declaration made according to law, before a competent tribunal or officer, to tell the truth
- Objection: A protest by an attorney, challenging another statement made in trial. There are a variety of different objections which can be made through trial, and can be referenced in the Federal Rules of Evidence.
- Opinion: A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court.
- Oral argument: An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their positions before the court in an appeal and also answer any and all of the judge’s questions.
- Settlement: Parties involved within litigation resolve their differences before it must go to a trial. This often involves a sum of compensation by one party.
- Statute of limitations: A law that sets the time as to which parties must act to file a lawsuit.
- Summary judgment: A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial and is generally used when there are no facts to dispute within the case.
- Testify: Answer questions in a court of law.
- Transcript: A written, and record of every word spoken at any proceeding taken place, including before the trial.
- Verdict: The decision of a jury or judge.
Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on defining the legal world.