Glossary of Legal Terms and Definitions

Common terms and phrases that may be part of your personal injury case

If you were injured in a car accident, or you are filing a wrongful death claim, you likely will be facing many hardships and hurdles. At the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, we understand how any type of personal injury due to negligence can turn your life upside-down.

The legal process itself is complicated. We want to help our clients and people who are considering pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death claim make the best decisions possible.

To that end, we have compiled the following legal glossary. If you are considering hiring a Maine personal injury lawyer, feel free to look at terms below that may be pertinent to your case. Don't hesitate to call our offices to learn more about your rights: 1-866-275-4563.

Abuse - Mental or physical mistreatment of another person. Abuse can result in a physical or emotional injury. A sexual abuse can occur when contact with another person is without consent. Abuse of an elderly person, as in nursing home abuse, may include battery, verbal abuse, isolation, and the denial or deprivation of food.

Accident - An undesirable incident that causes a person to experience economic or non-economic loss. Accidents, which can be a result of misconduct, mistake or negligence, can include car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents.

Appeal - A legal process that allows an individual to obtain a review of a decision from a higher court or authority to have the decision reduced or reversed.

Attorney - An individual who is authorized by a state or federal court to practice law and represent another person in legal matters.

Beneficiary - An individual entitled to receive property or benefits in a will, trust, or under Maine's Wrong Death Statute.

Breach of Warranty - This occurs when a retailer or manufacturer breaks a promise or fails to follow through with a claim about a product. A breach of warranty can be linked to a defective product.

Cause - Also called causation, cause is an action that produces an effect or result. A cause is a matter to be decided by a court and the reason for taking legal action.

Claim - An assertion of your legal right to seek money or benefits after a loss.

Comparative Negligence - A method of assigning liability and damages among multiple parties. The damages are assigned proportionately among the parties at fault in the incident.

Compensation - Payment to make up for a loss or injury endured by an individual. The court can order a negligent party or parties to give you monetary compensation after a loss. For personal injuries, a claim can be made for physical and/or emotional injuries, loss of consortium, and economic loss, such as lost earnings or profits, and other elements of damage.

Contributory Negligence - A way to assign negligence that considers the plaintiff's behavior or actions that contributed to the resulting harm. If you are taking legal action against someone who you believe harmed you, you (the plaintiff) are barred from recovering compensation if you had any part in the cause of your injuries.

Damages - Monetary compensation ordered by the court to be paid for losses endured.

Decision - A written determination of a court made based on a consideration of facts and law.

Defective Product - Any product that causes a person to endure a loss due to a defect. The product may be dangerous or harmful for normal use, does not carry adequate instructions for its use, or is inherently dangerous due to a design defect, assembly defect or manufacturing defect.

Defendant - The person or entity who is alleged to have caused the injury or losses endured by another person. If you are injured due to another individual's negligence, you can pursue compensation from that individual (the defendant).

Disability - An injury or medical condition that interferes with your ability to gain employment. The disability may be a mental or physical impairment.

Dispute - A disagreement between opposing parties that is resolved in court or by some equivalent legal process.

Fault - A negligent or intentional failure to act according to law or duty or to act reasonably.

Guardian - An individual designated by law to manage and care for another person and that person's property.

Immunity - A status that exempts someone from being sued or prosecuted.

Income - A reoccurring gain or benefit of money determined by labor or capital.

Injury - Harm, loss, or damage inflicted on a person as the result of another person's negligence. The injured person may be entitled to damages or relief.

Judgment - A court's final ruling, or formal decision, in a lawsuit. The court's judgment can be an award of money damages for physical and/or emotional injuries, loss of consortium, and economic loss, such as lost earnings or profits, and other elements of damage.

Juvenile - An underage person (usually 17 or younger) who according to law cannot be punished as an adult.

Liability - A legal obligation to pay an assessed amount. In personal injury law, liability is similar to accountability or responsibility related to losses or injuries sustained by another person.

Limitation - The period of time during which an individual can file a legal action against another individual or entity that caused the injury or loss. Generally, the period of time begins when the injured person learns he or she is a victim.

Loss - The value assigned to an injury or damages as a result of an accident caused by another person's negligence. The loss may be physical, emotional or property (economic loss).

Maine Liquor Liability Act - this statute provides a limited right of legal recourse against a bar, restaurant or server of alcohol for the over service of a person who is visibly intoxicated. A formal written Notice with specific information must be served with 180 days of the an injury or death, and there is a two-year statute of limitations.

Maine Tort Claims Act - this statute provides a limited right of legal recourse for a person to make a claim and collect monetary damages from a state or municipal agency or a person employed by the state or a municipality during the course of their employment. A formal written Notice of Tort Claim with specific information must be served within 180 days of an injury or death, and there is a two-year statute of limitations.

Malpractice - The negligent acts of a professional that causes injury to a person due to breach of duty, negligence or lack of ordinary skill. We typically represent clients in medical malpractice cases.

Mediation and arbitration - a process of adjudicating a claim that can be voluntary pre-suit or mandated by the court once a lawsuit is commenced. These can be speedy and cost-effective ways to resolve a dispute between two, or more, parties.

Mental Anguish - Emotional suffering as a result of someone's negligence that may be considered in awarding damages.

Negligence - Failure to exercise reasonable due care to avoid a foreseeable harm to a person, place, or thing. Due to the complex nature of negligence cases, it's wise to retain a negligence lawyer when pursuing a personal injury claim.

Personal Injury - An injury to a person's body, emotions or a person's reputation.

Premises - Land and building, including the easements around it, considered as a property.

Premises Liability - Premises liability law makes the person who owns or manages a property responsible for the injuries of an individual on that property.

Product Liability - The liability arising from the damage caused by a product's design, the way it was manufactured or marketed. The manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer may be responsible for an individual's injuries in a product liability case.

Proof - Persuading another person that a fact exists by providing sufficient evidence.

Property - An individual's possessions or items owned by that individual, including land, products, and interests.

Property Damage - Harm or destruction to personal property by a person who is not its owner. A common type of property damage claim our car accident attorneys handle is destruction or damage to a vehicle in an automobile accident.

Recover - To obtain compensation as a result of a lawsuit or insurance settlement.

Risk - The chance of a loss or injury.

Settlement - An agreement stipulated between two parties, reducing or resolving a dispute.

Social Security - A government system that provides people who cannot work with monetary assistance. Individuals can apply for Social Security Disability.

Statute of limitations - the period of time regulated by Maine statutes from the date of a personal injury or death during which a person can make a claim and/or file a law suit before their claim is barred. In general, the statute of limitations in Maine for a personal injury is six years from the date of injury. The statute of limitations is as short as 180 days in claims involving claims against the state of Maine, cities or towns, and governmental employees and agents, and for claim under the Maine Liquor Liability Act. Also, in wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. In medical malpractice claims, in general the statute of limitations is three years, although it can be shorter under some circumstances. Statute of limitations issues are very technical legal issues- you should consult immediately with a qualified attorney for the best legal advice.

Strict Liability - Strict liability makes an individual responsible for the injuries or losses caused by his or her acts. This type of liability commonly is used in cases involving product liability and workers' compensation.

Warranty - An assurance of a product's integrity given to the purchaser by a company.

Witness - A person who saw the events that are the subject of a lawsuit and who can be called on in a legal proceeding and questioned by a lawyer or a by a private investigator hired by the lawyer.

Workers' Compensation - A state program overseeing the claims of workers who suffer on-the-job injury or occupational disease. Injured workers can receive monetary compensation and benefits through workers' compensation, and negligence does not need to be shown.

Wrongful Death - A death occurring as a result of another individual or entity's negligence, willful act, or wrongful act. Generally, the immediate family of the person who died can file a wrongful death claim.

Contact the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, serving all of Maine

If you need experienced legal help, call a Maine personal injury lawyer today. Call 1-866-275-4563 or contact a personal injury lawyer in Maine online. We are prepared to listen to you and discuss the best course of action. We have helped more than 25,000 Mainers just like you get back on track after a personal injury case.