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18 Jun

Legal Glossary

Being involved in any legal matter is a difficult time, no matter what side you are on.  It is a confusing, scary, and sometimes sad time for many.  To make matters worse, the language of the law is complicated, and hard to understand unless you have been specifically trained to do so.  If you have ever watched a legal based show or movie then chances are you have heard some terms you are probably unfamiliar with.  In these low pressure situations, you might not be too worried about not understanding some of these terms, but if you are thinking you might need to seek legal representation, then it is going to be especially important to understand these terms.  Tompkins, Selph & Associates has put together a glossary of some legal terms that might be helpful to you and anyone else that has become involved in the legal system.

  1. Cause of Action: The reason for which a plaintiff files a complaint or suit against someone. This can be negligence, breach of contract, malpractice, or defamation, to name a few. A cause of action is divided into elements, and each element must be proved to win the case.
  2. Compensatory Damages: Damages that are recovered for injury or economic loss. For instance, if someone is injured in a car accident and the party who injures them has to pay compensatory damages, the party at fault must cover cost of things such as the ambulance, doctors’ bills, hospital stays, medicine, physical therapy and lost wages.
  3. Damages: Compensation imposed by the law to one who has suffered harm due to another’s wrongdoing.
  4. Motion: A formal request to a court asking the court to answer a legal question or take some action.
  5. Negligence: Negligence refers to carelessness, or the failure to act in a way that a “reasonable or prudent person” would do in the same given circumstances. Negligence is different from intentional wrongs, such as assault or trespassing, but can still cause serious physical, emotional, or financial harm
  6. Reasonable person:A hypothetical “everyman”; a person of average intelligence and reason.
  7. Tort: A tort is an illegal act in which an injury occurs to another, whether intentional or accidental. Tort laws protect individuals from civil wrongs caused by individuals or by businesses, such as in the McDonald’s example above.
  8. Pro se: Representing oneself. Serving as one’s own lawyer.
  9. Settlement: Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a trial. Settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in at least partial satisfaction of the other party’s claims, but usually do not include the admission of fault.
  10. Statute of limitations:The time within which a lawsuit must be filed, or a criminal prosecution begun. The deadline can vary, depending on the type of civil case or the crime charged.

This is just a brief look at some common legal phrases that you might hear either in the course of your daily life or if you are involved in a legal dispute.  If any of these terms sound like something that might apply to you please contact the attorney’s here at Tompkins, Selph & Associates.  Our experienced attorneys can help you decide if you have a matter that needs legal assistance or explain anything that is confusing to you.

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