Personal Injury Claim Common Terms

In this post, I provide some common terms that are relevant in a personal injury claim:

Answer – The Defendant’s written response to your Complaint.

At-Fault – The person responsible for causing your injuries.

Causation – A legal concept that requires you to prove your injuries were caused by the Defendant’s negligence.

Complaint – A legal document we file in Superior Court to start your lawsuit. It contains the basic facts and legal theories for which we seek monetary recovery on your behalf.

Damages – The measure of your financial loss. Damages include medical expenses, lost wages, physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Defendant – The person or business we claim committed negligence and caused your injuries. This is the person who we sue in court.

Demand – The law firm’s assertion of a required payment from the insurance company to pay for your damages and resolve your personal injury claim against the insured.

Deposition – A legal procedure where you give your testimony under oath about your personal injury claim. This happens after we file a lawsuit and before trial. A stenographer attends to record and produce a transcript of your testimony.

Gross Settlement – The amount you accept from an insurance company to settle your claim prior to deductions for attorney fees, costs, and subrogation liens.

Insurance Adjuster/Representative – An insurance company employee who decides whether and to what extent to use insurance money to settle your claim.

Insured – The person who has insurance coverage.

Jury – The twelve people selected before trial that will decide whether the Defendant was negligent, if that negligence caused your damages, and if so, the amount of your damages. The jury must all agree unanimously in your favor to receive a verdict that would require the Defendant to pay you money.

Lawsuit – When you sue the Defendant in court to prove negligence and seek to convince the jury to return a verdict for damages in your favor.

Liability – When you prove the Defendant is at-fault for causing your injury.

Liability Insurance – A type of insurance a Defendant may have that may be used to pay for claims where the Defendant’s negligence is proven and your damages established.

Maximum Medical Improvement – When your physical condition is the same as it was before the Defendant caused your injuries, or when your physical injuries have improved to their maximum extent.

Mediation – A process during a lawsuit and before trial where you and the Defendant hire a third party neutral to try and negotiate a resolution in a confidential setting.

Medical Payments Coverage – An insurance coverage under your auto insurance policy (or through the Defendant’s insurance in a non-auto case) that covers your medical expenses regardless of who is at-fault. The coverage can also be used to pay down the health insurance subrogation lien.

Negligence – Breaching a duty of care owed to another that causes injury.

Personal Injury Claim – Your pursuit of monetary recovery from the Defendant for damages the Defendant’s negligence caused to you.

PIP Coverage – Under Massachusetts insurance policies, personal injury protection is a component of auto insurance that covers medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who is at-fault.

Plaintiff – This is you. In a lawsuit, the person who brings the lawsuit is the Plaintiff.

Settlement Release – A legal contract you sign when the insurance company pays you money in exchange for your agreement not to pursue any further recovery ever again from the Defendant or the insurance company. The contract contains other duties and responsibilities as stated in the written settlement release agreement.  

Statute of Limitations – The legal deadline to file a lawsuit against the Defendant who caused your injuries. You have three years from the date you knew or should have known about the Defendant’s negligence causing your injury to bring a lawsuit against the Defendant in court. If you don’t bring the lawsuit within that timeframe it will be forever barred by the court.

Subrogation Right or Subrogation Lien – Subrogation is a legal right an insurance company has built into your insurance contract. Subrogation allows insurance providers to seek repayment from your settlement to recover any money it spends on your behalf because of your personal injury accident. The health insurance company may assert a subrogation lien and you will be required to pay back these medical expenses. We will negotiate a reduction of the lien and any reduction depends on many factors, including the type of health insurance provider (e.g., private health insurance, VA, Medicare, Medicaid) and the type of plan (e.g., ERISA). If you recovered worker’s compensation benefits or disability insurance benefits the same subrogation rights exist against your settlement.

Torfteasor – A tort is a legal wrong. The tortfeasor is the person who committed a legal wrong against you. The tortfeasor and Defendant are the same person.

Trial – The legal process whereby we present evidence of your personal injury claim to a jury after filing a lawsuit. A trial usually occurs between 12-15 months after we file a lawsuit.

Uninsured/Underinsured Insurance – This is insurance under your auto policy. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t carry liability insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage applies when you are in an accident with an at-fault driver whose liability limits are too low to cover your damages. Your available underinsured motorist coverage is reduced by the amount we collect from the tortfeasor’s insurance company.

Contact Us

Nicholson Law Firm has a long history of supporting our clients who are victims of negligence – whether in a car accident, truck accident, boat accident, ATV accident,  motorcycle accident, medical malpractice, construction accident, dangerous or defective property. Based on your free case evaluation, we will seek the compensation you deserve. Recoverable damages include medical costs, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, physical impairment, disfigurement, permanent injury, physical pain, property damage, and other suffering. Our trusted and experienced legal team will be with you every step of the way.

If you’ve been injured, it is important to call Nicholson Law Firm today at 603-856-8441 or email now at for a free case evaluation. We will pursue insurers to seek the compensation you deserve.

At Nicholson Law Firm we take the time to explain the law. We are your personal injury lawyers. We handle claims throughout New Hampshire, including all areas surrounding Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth, Nashua, Merrimack, Dover, Laconia, Derry, Londonderry, Exeter, Berlin, Rochester, Hampton, Durham, Hudson, Bow, Loudon, Salem, Epping, Peterborough, Goffstown, Amherst, Hooksett, Plaistow, Hampton, Seabrook, Plymouth, Wolfeboro, Keene, Hanover, Lebanon, Claremont, and all cities and towns in between. We also serve clients in Massachusetts and Vermont. Contact us today for a free consultation.