Basic Lawsuit Terms and Definitions for Personal Injury Cases

Every personal injury lawsuit is different. However, all cases will involve some basic legal terminology and procedures. Whether you are injured in a car crash or slip and fall accident, understanding some classic personal injury and courtroom terms will help you better understand your rights to being compensated for your damages and losses as a wrongfully injured victim.

Continue reading to familiarize yourself with the basic terms and definitions you’ll likely hear during the process of your personal injury case.

Personal Injury Law Firm Indianapolis 317-636-7497
Personal Injury Law Firm Indianapolis 317-636-7497

Personal Injury Glossary Terms


A tort is an act that is wrongful, but neither criminal nor deriving from a contractual agreement. Tort cases are adjudicated in civil court, not criminal court. However, some torts can also be penalized as criminal offenses if they are intentional. An intentional tort is a wrongful act that was done knowingly and on purpose. Anyone guilty of an intentional tort can be penalized in both civil and criminal court.

Example of torts include drunk driving accidents, wrongful deaths, medical malpractice, product defects, dog bites, and negligent supervision. Victims who are wrongfully injured or damaged by torts may seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit.


Negligence is the central factor in all personal injury cases. Negligence can be intentional or unintentional, as well as an action or inaction. Failing to act with reasonable care or behaving carelessly or recklessly are basic acts of negligence in personal injury cases. In order to be successful in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff party holds the burden of proving negligence.

Here in Indiana, state law recognizes modified comparative negligence. This means that an injured victim or plaintiff party can collect compensation from an at-fault party/parties so long as they are less than 50% responsible for the accident.

Burden of Proof

The plaintiff party holds the burden of proof, meaning they are responsible for proving negligence on behalf of the at fault party, whether that be a company, government sector, or individual person. In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff party must demonstrate 4 things:

➀ The opposing party had a legal duty of care to the plaintiff party.
➁ The opposing party violated or breached their legal duty of care.
➂ The opposing party’s violation was a direct cause of the victim’s damages.
➃ The victim’s damages are real and tangible.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations are the time restrictions set by the state in which a plaintiff can bring about a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault party. Once these time limits have passed, and injured victim is no longer eligible to pursue legal action against the party who caused their injuries in subsequent damages. Most personal injury statutes of limitations are two years from the date of the accident or incident, but other types of personal injury cases may have shorter or longer time restrictions.


The person or group of people who file a personal injury claim against another party is known as the plaintiff or plaintiff party.


The person, group of people, company, or government sector being sued by a wrongfully injured victim is the defendant in a personal injury case.


A complaint is the filing and initiation of a personal injury lawsuit. Filing a complaint is essentially a plaintiff’s means of expressing their grievances to the courts. Complaints must be filed with the proper court.


Following the filing of a complaint, the defendant must provide a formal answer expressing their position regarding the allegations decreed in the personal injury complaint.


Damages are the economic and non-economic losses experienced by the injured victim and or their surviving families. Economic damages can be quantified, while noneconomic damages are not easily quantifiable. Common personal-injury damages include medical expenses, hospital bills, lost wages from missing time at work, pain-and-suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, different levels of disability, and all future and foreseeable losses like prolonged physical therapy, rehabilitation, counseling, and more.

Prayer for Relief

A prayer for relief is included within the plaintiff’s personal-injury complaint. It is basically a phrase to describe how much the plaintiff is asking for in compensation.

Are you and injured victim looking for a skilled civil litigator to represent your personal injury case in Indiana? Contact Carl Brizzi LAW at 317-636-7497 to speak with a seasoned personal injury lawyer in Indianapolis, Indiana. Meet over the phone or in person for a free consultation!

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Carl Brizzi Law Indianapolis Indiana
Carl Brizzi Law Indianapolis Indiana 317-636-7497