Legal Terms Used in Personal Injury Cases

If you’re considering filing a personal injury claim, you may have some questions about the common legal terms used throughout the process. Personal injury cases are complex, so it helps to understand the basics before you file your claim. Here are some legal terms that you may encounter in your personal injury case:

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is a legal duty. The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a personal injury case—they must prove that every element of the case exists for the type of claim involved. There are some circumstances where it is up to the defendant to have the burden of proof for some issues, but this varies by jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions require the plaintiff to disprove every part of an affirmative defense, while other jurisdictions put the burden on the defendant to establish their affirmative defense. However, in general, it is up to the defendant to prove their case.

Comparative Fault/Comparative Negligence

Comparative fault or comparative negligence means that the victim may share some responsibility for the accident. It is the legal theory that both parties may be to blame for what happened. When comparative fault applies, the court must apportion fault between the parties and then fashion a resolution based on the law that applies regarding the comparative fault.


The name complainant means the person who brings the legal case. They are the person who makes the allegation that someone committed a legal wrong against someone else. Basically, the complainant is a person who starts or initiates a legal proceeding by saying that another person committed a legal wrong against them. A complainant may also be called a plaintiff, petitioner, or victim.


Damages in personal injury are the compensation that the victim receives for their injuries. They are the representation of the losses that the person has because they are hurt. They may be economic damages, representing financial losses, or non-economic damages, representing pain and suffering and other intangible harm. A victim may claim the actual damages that they incur subject to laws that may limit them in certain circumstances.


The defendant in a personal injury claim is the person or institution being accused of committing a legal wrong by the plaintiff. A civil action, such as a personal injury claim, is brought by the plaintiff against the defendant.

Intentional Torts

Any unlawful action that purposefully injures the person or property of another may be an intentional tort. Also, a single action may comprise more than one tortious activity. The most common intentional tort is trespass to property. Assault and battery are two other common types of intentional torts.


A person is negligent if they act below the minimum standards of an ordinary, reasonable person in that situation. The law for negligence is conduct that is unreasonable based on the exact circumstances in question and how a reasonable person would behave in the same scenario. The requirement is behavior up to at least minimally acceptable conduct for society.


The benefit of no-fault insurance is that victims of minor accidents have access to fast payments for their losses without having to prove fault. It reduces litigation and speeds up the path to compensation for many victims. There are exceptions to no-fault insurance rules for serious, permanent, and disfiguring injuries.


Who is the plaintiff and who is the defendant? The plaintiff is the person who brings the lawsuit. They believe that they have a legal right to relief from the defendant, such as financial compensation or court order for the defendant to take a certain action. The defendant is the person who answers the claim. The plaintiff believes they are the victim of a legal wrong by the defendant, and the defendant is the person that may have legal liability for their actions. If you are bringing a personal injury claim, you are the plaintiff.

Prayer for Relief

What is a prayer in a legal pleading? A prayer for relief is a request of what the person wants the court to order. It clearly states what the person is asking the court to do. A prayer for relief should be sufficiently specific that the court may follow it if they want to rule in the person’s favor. It usually appears at the end of a legal pleading, and it’s typically followed by the party’s signature.

How Do You Pray To Win a Court Case?

To pray to win a court case, you state at the end of a complaint, motion, or other court petition how you want the court to rule. Usually, the party says, “Therefore, the party prays that this court” or “Wheretofore, the party respectfully requests that this court order” followed by how they want the court to rule in the case. A prayer to win a court case clearly and succinctly summarizes how the party wants the court to rule on the case or a particular issue.


Rather than going to trial, two parties involved in a personal injury claim may choose to settle outside of court. A personal injury settlement is when the person or company being sued agrees to pay the plaintiff a certain amount that is a fair representation of the damages that resulted from the accident. It should an amount that is fair enough for the plaintiff to agree to accept without taking the defendant to court.

Statute of Limitations

This law sets the time limit that parties involved in a dispute have to start legal proceedings from the date of the alleged offense. How long are statutes of limitations? They vary from as short as 60 days to 25 years. In some cases, there is no statute of limitations at all, or the time period can be tolled by fraud, concealment, or failure to discover an injury. How long the statute of limitations are can vary based on the type of case and the laws of the jurisdiction that presides over the case.

Strict Liability

The purpose of strict liability is to place a high requirement on a party to promote safety. It also ensures that a victim is able to receive the compensation that they deserve when evidence may be in the hands of only one of the parties who may be motivated to conceal it. Strict liability promotes justice by creating a high legal burden and limiting applicable defenses in certain types of legal claims.


Tort means a civil legal wrong committed by one person against another. It is when one person acts to harm the person or property of another without a legal right. A tort may occur intentionally, but it may also be accidental. Some torts are also crimes, but a tort is a civil wrong that may or may not also be a crime. A tort gives an individual the right to claim compensation for their losses against the person or party responsible for the injury.

Miami Personal Injury Lawyers

Do you need help with a personal injury claim? We’re Miami’s experienced personal injury attorneys at Bernstein & Maryanoff. Contact our attorneys in Miami today to talk about your case. We offer free and confidential consultations.

About the Author

attorney Jack Bernstein standing in front of a blurred background

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

Jack Bernstein is a hard working and highly motivated personal injury attorney in Miami, Florida with over three decades of experience. He is a strategist and idea person, with a genuine passion for helping his firm’s clients. If you've been injured, contact Jack Bernstein today for a free evaluation of your case.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.