Legal Dictionary

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Legal Dictionary


Abstract of Title. A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.

Abuse. Abuse occurs when one person causes physical or emotional injury or harm to another person. Abuse can also be sexual if a sexual act is performed on another person without their consent. When older individuals are abused, like in nursing home abuse, the results can be very serious.

Accepted Claim. A claim in which the insurance company accepts that your injury or illness will be covered by workers’ compensation.

Accomplice. 1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in criminal activity.

Acknowledgment. 1. A statement of acceptance of responsibility. 2. The short declaration at the end of a legal paper showing that the paper was duly executed and acknowledged.

Acquit. To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.

Action. In the legal sense, a formal complaint or a suit brought in court.

Additur. An increase by a judge of the amount of damages awarded by a jury.

Adjudicate, Adjudication. Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also, the judgment given.

Ad Litem. A Latin term meaning for the purposes of the lawsuit. For example, a guardian “ad litem” is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.

Administrative Agency. Governmental body responsible for administering and implementing particular legislation, such as laws governing traffic safety or workers’ compensation. These agencies may have rulemaking power and judge-like authority to decide disputes.

Administrative Hearing. Proceeding before an administrative agency consisting of an argument, a trial, or both. Rules governing the proceeding, including rules of, evidence, are generally less strict than in civil or criminal trials.

Administrator or Administratrix. A person appointed by a court to administer a deceased person’s estate. The person may be male (in which case, he would be referred to as the “administrator”) or female (in which case, she would be referred to as the “administratrix”).

Admissible evidence. Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Adversary Proceeding. A legal proceeding involving parties with opposing interests, with one party seeking legal relief and the other opposing it.

Ad Litem. A Latin term meaning for the purposes of the lawsuit. For example, a guardian “ad litem” is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.

Admissible Evidence. Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Affiant. The person who signs an affidavit.

Affidavit. A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths. For example, in civil cases, affidavits of witnesses are often used to support motions for summary judgment.

Agreement. Mutual assent between two or more parties; normally leads to a contract; may be verbal or written.

Agreed Medical Evaluator (AME). This is the physician that is agreed to by the plaintiff’s attorney and a defendant’s insurance company.

Aid and Abet. To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

Alternative Dispute Resolution. Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement among others.

Allegation. The claim made in a pleading by a party to an action, setting out what he or she expects to prove.

Alternative Work. If a doctor deems an injured employee unable to return to your job because the employer is encouraged to offer alternative work instead of regular work duties.

American Medical Association (AMA). National physician’s group. The AMA has published the permanent impairment guidelines.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

Amicus Curiae. (Latin: “friend of the court.”) Person or organization that files a legal brief with the court expressing its views on a case involving other parties because it has a strong interest in the subject matter of the action.

Answer. In a civil case, the defendant’s written response to the plaintiff’s complaint. It must be filed within a specified period of time, and it either admits to or (more typically) denies the factual or legal basis for liability. Normally a defendant has 30 days in which to file an answer after being served with the plaintiff’s complaint. In some courts, an answer is simply called a “response”.

AOE/COE (Arising out of and occurring in the course of employment). Injury caused by and happening while on the job.

Appeal. Request to a superior or higher court to review and change the result in a case decided by an inferior or lower court or administrative agency.

Appearance. 1. The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court. 2. A written notification to the plaintiff by an attorney stating that he or she is representing the defendant.

Appellant. The party who appeals a district court’s decision, usually seeking reversal of that decision.

Appellate. About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment of a lower court (trial court) or tribunal. For example, the U.S. circuit courts of appeals review the decisions of the U.S. district courts.

Appellate Court. A court having jurisdiction to hear an appeal and review the decisions of a lower or inferior court.

Appellee. The party who opposes an appellant’s appeal, and who seeks to persuade the appeals court to affirm the district court’s decision.

Arbitration. A mini-trial, which may be held in place of a court trial and conducted by a single person or a panel of three people who are not judges. The arbitrators generally are former judges or experienced lawyers. Generally, arbitrations are less expensive and occur more quickly than jury trials. Arbitration awards may be converted into a legal judgment on petition to the court unless some party has protested that there has been a gross injustice, collusion, or fraud.

Arbitrator. A person who conducts an arbitration.

Assault. A willful attempt or threat to harm another person, coupled with the present ability to inflict injury on that person, which causes apprehension in that person. Although the term “assault” is frequently used to describe the use of illegal force, the correct legal term for use of illegal force is “battery .”

Assets. Property of all kinds, including real and personal, tangible and intangible.

Arraignment. A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court told of the charges and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. Sometimes called a preliminary hearing or initial appearance.

Arrest. To take into custody by legal authority.

Assumption of the Risk. When a person voluntarily and knowingly proceeds in the face of an obvious and known danger, she assumes the risk. A person found to have assumed the risk cannot make out the duty element of a negligence cause of action. The theory behind the rule is that a person who chooses to take a risk cannot later complain that she was injured by the risk that she chose to take. Therefore, she will not be permitted to seek money damages from those who might have otherwise been responsible.

Attorney. A lawyer who is licensed to practice law and represent another person in legal matters.

Attorney-Client Privilege. Client’s privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications between the client and his or her attorney.

Attorney-in-Fact. A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a letter of attorney, or more commonly a power of attorney.

Attorney of Record. The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.

Average Weekly Wage. After being calculated, the average weekly wage is the number used to determine what loss of earnings benefits a worker who is injured on the job will receive under the Workers Compensation Act in Pennsylvania. There are various methods used to determine the average weekly wage, and the calculation process is complex.


Bad Faith. Intention to mislead or deceive; conscious refusal to fulfill some duty. Implies active ill will, as opposed to negligence. Bad faith is not bad judgment; it requires conscious wrongdoing.

Bailiff. Court officer responsible for keeping order in the court, custody of the jury, and custody of prisoners while in court.

Battery. The unlawful use of force resulting in the injury of another. Battery always includes assault. See assault.

Bench. The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.

Bench trial or Non-Jury Trial. A trial before a judge and without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge decides questions of law and questions of fact.

Beneficiary. Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.

Benefit Notice. A required letter or form sent to you by the insurance company to inform you of benefits you may be entitled to receive.

Best Evidence. The most direct evidence possible, such as producing an original document to prove that the document exists and what it states. A copy of a document or testimony by a witness would be “secondary evidence.” The best evidence rule prohibits the introduction of secondary evidence unless best evidence cannot be obtained, so long as the party seeking to introduce the secondary evidence is not at fault in making the best evidence incapable of being obtained.

Bifurcation. Splitting a trial into two parts. a liability phase and a penalty phase. In some cases, a new jury may be assigned to deliberate for the penalty phase.

Binding Authority. Law that controls the outcome of a case. For example, a decision on the same point of law by a higher court in the same state must be followed by a lower court in that state. See precedent.

Breach of Contract. Failure, without legal excuse, to perform all or some of the promises made in a contract.

Brief. A written document, usually prepared by an attorney, submitted to the court about a case, containing summaries of the facts of the case, relevant laws, and an argument showing how the laws support that party’s position.

Burden of Proof. Also known as “Standard of Proof.” Degree of proof required in a specific kind of case to prevail. In the majority of civil cases, it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

Bystander. In products liability law, a person who neither buys nor uses a product, but who nevertheless is injured by the product and may have a cause of action.


Capacity Defense. Broadly, describes a defendant’s lack of some fundamental ability to be held accountable. For example, in Pennsylvania, persons under 7 years of age are presumed incapable of negligence.

Caption. The heading on a legal document listing the parties, the court, the case number, and related information.

Carve-out. Carve-out programs allow employers and unions to create their own alternatives for workers’ compensation benefit delivery and dispute resolution under a collective bargaining agreement.

Case Law. Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the Supreme Court.

Casualty. A loss of property due to fire, storm shipwreck, or other casualties, which is allowable as a deduction in computing taxable income.

Causation. The act by which an effect is produced. See also “legal cause” and “proximate cause.”

Cause. A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause of Action. Fact or facts that give someone the right to seek a remedy through the court because the facts of the case apply to a certain law sought to be enforced.

Certification. 1. Written attestation. 2. Authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

Certiorari. (Latin: “To be informed of.”) Writ issued by a superior or higher court to a lower court requiring the lower court to produce a certified record of a case tried there so that the superior court can examine the lower court proceedings for errors. See record.

Civil Action. Action brought to enforce private rights. Generally, all actions except criminal actions.

Civil Law. Body of law concerned with private rights and remedies, as contrasted with criminal law. Compare with criminal law.

Civil Procedure. The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.

Claim Petition. In cases where a worker is injured on the job, the injured employee files a claim petition to seek initial compensation. This occurs when there has been a Notice of Denial – no workers’ compensation payments have been made or medical benefits have not been paid.

Class Action. A means by which one or more individuals are able to sue for themselves and as representatives of other people. A class action requires: an identifiable group of people with a well-defined interest in the facts and law of the suit; too many people in the group for it to be practical to bring them all before the court; and the individuals bringing suit are able to adequately represent the entire group.

Claim Form. The form used to report a work injury or illness to your employer. The form is filled out and turned in at your place of business.

Claim Petition. When a worker is injured on the job, he or she files this type of petition to seek initial compensation after receiving a Notice of Workers Compensation Denial.

Claimant. In a workers compensation case, the person who makes a claim or asserts a right; the injured worker who files a claim petition or otherwise receives workers compensation benefits.

Claims Administrator. The term for insurance companies and others that handle your workers’ compensation claim. Most claims administrators work for insurance companies or third-party administrators handling claims for employers. Some claims administrators work directly for large employers that handle their own claims.

Clear and Convincing Evidence. Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency cases. It governs the amount of proof that must be offered in order for the plaintiff to win the case.

Clerk of Court. The court officer who oversees administrative functions, especially managing the flow of cases through the court.

Collateral Source Rule. The rule ensures that compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit will not be reduced if the plaintiff receives compensation for the same injury from another source, such as insurance. Under the rule, a defendant tortfeasor is unable to benefit from the fact that the plaintiff received money from another source, such as insurance, because of the defendant’s tort.

Commonwealth Court (Pennsylvania). The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is an appellate court that hears appeals from decisions of administrative agencies.

Commutation. An order by a workers’ compensation judge for a lump sum payment of part or all of your permanent disability award.

Comparative Negligence. Comparing the plaintiff’s contributory negligence to the defendant’s negligence. Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence statute states that when a plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence and that negligence was not greater than the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff’s damages will be diminished in proportion to his negligence in causing the accident.

Compensation. Something that makes up for a loss. In workers’ compensation cases, it refers to payment to unemployed or injured workers or their dependents.

Compensatory Damages. Damages that cover actual injury or economic loss. Compensatory damages are intended to put the injured party in the position he was in prior to the injury. Compensatory damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages, and the repair or replacement of property. Also called “actual damages”.

Complainant. The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. Also called the plaintiff.

Complaint. In the legal sense, the document a plaintiff files with the court which contains allegations and damages sought. A complaint generally starts a lawsuit.

Compromise and Release. In workers’ compensation cases, this occurs when a lump sum payment of money is paid by the insurance carrier to an injured worker to resolve the case. This lump sum is in lieu of the weekly compensation benefits the injured worker is receiving and may or may not include future medical benefits.

Circumstantial Evidence. Evidence not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the fact in dispute, but, rather, evidence of other personal knowledge or observation which allows a jury to infer the existence or nonexistence of the fact in dispute. An example of direct evidence of who was at fault for a car accident would be a witness who actually saw the accident. An example of circumstantial evidence, in this case, would be a witness who drove by after the impact and saw the defendant’s car in the wrong lane.

Common-Law. Law deriving its authority from usage and customs or judgments of courts recognizing and enforcing such usages and customs. Generally, law made by judges rather than by legislatures.

Comparative Negligence. Comparing the plaintiff’s contributory negligence to the defendant’s negligence. Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence statute states that when a plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence and that negligence was not greater than the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff’s damages will be diminished in proportion to his negligence in causing the accident.

Conciliation. A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but it may be less formal.

Conservatorship. The legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself or herself. (See also guardianship. Conservators have somewhat less responsibility than guardians.)

Contingent Fee Agreement. An agreement between an attorney and his or her client whereby the attorney agrees to represent the client for a percentage of the amount recovered. This fee agreement is frequently used in personal injury actions.

Continuance. Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

Contract. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

Contributory Negligence. Broadly, carelessness on the plaintiff’s part. More precisely, conduct that falls below the standard of care established by law for the protection of oneself against unreasonable risk of harm.

Corroborating Evidence. Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.

Counterclaim. Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against the plaintiff.
Court. Refers to a specific court, such as The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, or may also refer to a judge.

Court Costs. The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys’ fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court costs.

Court Reporter. The person who stenographically records and transcribes testimony during court proceedings or related proceedings such as depositions.

Criminal Law. Criminal law declares what conduct is criminal and prescribes punishment to be imposed for criminal conduct. The purpose of criminal law is to prevent harm to society.

Cross-Claim. Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against a co-defendant in the lawsuit.

Cross-Examination. The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

Cumulative Injury. An injury that was caused by repeated events at work.


Damages. Money payment recovered in the courts for an injury or loss caused by an unlawful act or omission or negligence of another.

Death Benefits. Benefits paid to surviving dependents when a work injury results in death.

Decedent. A deceased person.

Declaratory Judgment. Judicial adjudication of the rights of the parties in a lawsuit made to clarify the parties’ legal positions.

Decree. Declaration of the court announcing the legal consequences of the facts found. See also order, judgment.

Default Judgment. A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges.

Defendant. In civil law, the party defending a lawsuit; the party against whom the plaintiff seeks to recover damages from.

Delay Letter. A letter sent to you by the insurance company explaining why payments are delayed.

Demurrer. Defendant’s claim that even if the allegations in a complaint are true, they are not sufficient to impose any liability on the defendant.

Denied Claim. A claim in which the insurance company does not believe that your injury or illness was work-related and therefore denies your claim. Disability. A physical or mental impairment that limits everyday activities.

Deposition. Testimony of a witness taken under oath, but not in a courtroom. May be used to discover evidence prior to trial or to preserve testimony for use in court at a later time.

De Novo. A new. A trial de novo is a new trial of a case.

Deponent. The person who testifies at a deposition.

Dicta. Plural of “obiter dictum.” A remark made by a judge in a legal opinion that is irrelevant to the decision and does not establish a precedent.

Direct Evidence. Generally, eyewitness evidence. Compare with circumstantial evidence.

Direct Examination. The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called.

Directed Verdict. Now called Judgment as a matter of Law. An instruction by the judge to the jury to return a specific verdict.

Disability. In the legal sense, lack of legal capacity to perform some act. Used in a physical sense in connection with workers’ compensation acts and is a composite of (a) actual incapacity to perform employment tasks and the wage loss resulting therefrom and (b) physical bodily impairment which may or may not be incapacitating.

Discovery. The pretrial process by which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon in the trial by the opposing party.

Disfigurement. A technical term in workers’ compensation cases for a serious and permanent scar to the head, neck, or face.

Dismissal. The termination of a lawsuit. A dismissal without prejudice allows a lawsuit to be brought before the court again at a later time. In contrast, a dismissal with prejudice prevents the lawsuit from being brought before a court in the future.

Dismissal With Prejudice. The final judgment against the plaintiff which prohibits bringing an action on the same cause of action in the future. In contrast, “dismissal without prejudice” allows the plaintiff to sue again for the same cause of action.

Doctrine of Avoidable Consequences or Mitigation of Damages. Imposes a duty on victims of a tort to take reasonable steps to minimize their damages after an injury has been inflicted.

Dram Shop. A drinking establishment where alcoholic beverages are served to be drunk on the premises.

Dram Shop Act. In Pennsylvania, this statute imposes liability on drinking establishments, like bars and restaurants, for harm resulting from the establishment’s service of alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons.

Due Process of Law. The right of all persons to receive the guarantees and safeguards of the law and the judicial process. It includes such constitutional requirements as adequate notice, the assistance of counsel, and the right to remain silent, to a speedy and public trial, to an impartial jury, and to confront and secure witnesses.

Duty. In negligence cases, a “duty” is an obligation to conform to a particular standard of care. A failure to so conform places the actor at risk of being liable to another to whom a duty is owed for an injury sustained by the other of which the actor’s conduct is a legal cause. See reasonable man doctrine.


Employee. A person whose work activities are under the control of an individual or entity.

Employee Verification Form. In a workers’ compensation case, it’s a bi-annual report of earnings to be completed by the injured employee. The form is required to be returned to the insurance carrier within 30 days of receipt or benefits may be stopped.

Employer. The person or entity who has control over your work activities.

Ergonomics. The study of how to improve the fit between the physical demands of the workplace and the employees who perform the work. Selecting, designing, and modifying equipment, tools, and the work environment are all considered.

Error. In the legal sense, a mistaken interpretation of facts or application of the law that can prove grounds for an appeal.

Escheat. The process by which a deceased person’s property goes to the state if no heir can be found.

Estoppel. A person’s own act, or acceptance of facts, which precludes his or her later making claims to the contrary.

Et al. And others.

Evidence. Proof of a probative matter presented at trial for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the jury or judge. Evidence comes in a variety of forms, including testimony, writings, tangible objects, and exhibits. Compensation greater than is necessary to pay a plaintiff for a loss. These damages are awarded because the loss was aggravated by violence, oppression, malice, fraud or wanton and wicked conduct on the part of the defendant. Such damages are intended to punish the defendant for his evil behavior or make an example of him or her.

Exhibit. A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.

Expert. A witness who may give an opinion in court based on the particular competence of that witness.


Fact Question. Issues in a trial or hearing concerning facts and how they occurred, as opposed to questions of law. Fact questions are for the jury to decide unless the issues are presented in a non-jury or bench trial, in which case the judge would decide fact questions. Questions of law are decided by a judge. Findings of fact are generally non-appealable, while rulings on questions of law are subject to appeal.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A federal law that provides certain employees with serious health problems or those who need to care for a child or other family member with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that group health benefits be maintained.

Family Practitioner. A physician who has a general health care practice and no specialization.

Felony. Crimes of a graver or more serious nature than misdemeanors.

Filing. Sending or delivering a document to an employer or a government agency as part of a legal process. The date of filing is the date the document is received.

Final Order. A decision or award made by a workers’ compensation judge.

Findings. A written decision by a judge about a case. This decision is final unless an appeal is filed.

Final Receipt. In a workers’ compensation case, it’s the form presented by the insurance carrier for the injured employee’s signature so that benefits will stop upon return to work.

First-Party Benefits. In insurance law, first-party benefits include medical benefits, income loss benefits, accidental death benefits, funeral benefits, and extraordinary medical benefits. In Pennsylvania, the only required coverage is $5,000 in medical benefits.

Foreseeability. in tort law is the reasonable anticipation that an injury may occur through the action or inaction of another party.

Fracture. A break or crack in a bone.

Fraud. False and deceptive statement of fact intended to induce another person to rely upon and, in reliance thereof, give up a valuable thing he or she owns or a legal right he or she is entitled to.

Full Tort Option. In Pennsylvania, purchasers of motor vehicle insurance can choose “full tort,” which gives the insured the unrestricted right to seek money damages for all injuries sustained in an accident caused by another driver, including economic loss, pain, and suffering, and other non-monetary damages. Compare with limited tort option.


General Damages. Money damages for pain and suffering, disability, or reduction in quality of life.

General Jurisdiction. Refers to courts are not limited to the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear.

Gross Negligence. Intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences to another person’s life or property. There is no clear distinction between gross negligence and willful negligence.

Guardian. One who is legally responsible for the care and management of the person or property of an incompetent or a minor.

Guardian Ad Litem. A person appointed by a court to manage the interests of a minor or incompetent person whose property is involved in litigation.


Harmless Error. An error committed during a trial that was not serious enough to affect the outcome of a trial and, therefore, will not strike down the decision made at trial.

Hazardous Occupational Noise. Noise levels that exceed permissible noise exposures under federal law.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). A type of managed health care system that contracts with medical facilities, physicians, employers, and sometimes individuals to provide medical care to a group of people known as “members.” Generally, members of HMOs don’t have any significant “out-of-pocket” expenses because medical care is most often paid for by an employer at a fixed price per patient.

Hearing. An in-court proceeding before a judge, generally open to the public.

Hearsay. Evidence-based on what the witness has heard someone else say, rather than what the witness has personally experienced or observed. Hearsay is not admissible evidence unless it qualifies under an exclusion or exception of the rules of evidence for admission.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A federal law passed in 1996 that sets basic requirements that health insurance plans must meet, including keeping a person’s medical information private.

Hematoma. The collection of blood in tissues or a space following the rupture of a blood vessel.

Hemorrhagic Stroke. Occurs when an artery in the brain tears or bursts, causing blood to spill out.

Herniated Disc. A rupture of the annulus fibrosis, through which the inner disc material (nucleus pulposus) extrudes. This may put pressure on the exiting spinal nerve and/or cause an inflammatory reaction leading to radiculopathy or weakness, numbness, and/or tingling in the arms or legs.

HMO Negligence. Generally, a type of medical malpractice that can be defined as the carelessness of an HMO, acting through its physicians, in making treatment decisions for a member that results in injury to that member.

Homeowner’s Insurance. A policy that insures individuals against any, some, or all of the risks of loss to personal dwellings or the contents of personal dwellings or the personal liability pertaining to personal dwellings.

Hung Jury. A jury whose members cannot agree on a verdict.

Hurt on the Job. In order to establish a right to workers’ compensation benefits, there must be an employment relationship during which an accident or an injury arises in the course of employment and is related thereto, and includes aggravation, reactivation, acceleration, or death resulting from the injury.

Hyperlordosis. Loss of a normal spinal curve


Illegally Employed Minor’s Benefits. If a person under 18 is injured on the job and is working in violation of a state law relating to minors, that person is entitled to an additional 50 percent of the compensation rate as additional compensation that must be paid by the employer and not the insurance carrier.

Immunity. Freedom from duty or penalty.

Impeachment of a Witness. An attack on the credibility of a witness.

In-Camera. In a judge’s chambers; in private.

In-Camera Inspection. Judge’s private inspection of a document prior to his or her ruling on its admissibility or use at trial.

In-Camera Proceedings. Trial or proceeding in a place not open to the public, usually in a judge’s chambers.

Inadmissible Evidence. Evidence that cannot be admitted or received.

Indemnify. To restore the victim of a loss, either in whole or in part, by payment of money or repair or replacement of the thing lost.

Independent Medical Examination (IME). A medical examination performed on an injured worker by a company doctor usually for the purpose of showing that a work-related injury no longer exists or that it has decreased in severity.

Informed Consent. A person’s agreement to allow something to happen, such as a medical procedure, that is based on full disclosure of the facts necessary to make an intelligent decision.

Injunction. A court order prohibiting a party from a specific course of action.

Informed Consent. A person’s agreement to allow something to happen (such as a medical procedure) that is based on full disclosure of facts needed to make the decision intelligently.

Injure. 1. Hurt or harm 2. To commit an injustice or offense against; wrong.

Instruction. Direction given by a judge regarding the applicable law in a given case.

Interlocutory. Provisional; not final. An interlocutory order or an interlocutory appeal concerns only a part of the issues raised in a lawsuit.

Interrogatories. Written questions developed by one party’s attorney for the opposing party. Interrogatories must be answered under oath within a specific period of time.

Intervention. Proceeding in a suit where a third person is allowed, with the court’s permission, to join the suit as a party.

Intestate. Dying without a will.

Invitee. A person is an invitee on land if he enters land by invitation; his entry is connected with business being conducted on the land by the possessor of land, and the possessor of land is benefited by the entry.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  A condition of abnormally increased spontaneous movement (motility) of the small and large intestine, generally stress can contribute to this condition.

Ischemic Colitis. An inflammation caused by interference with the blood flow to the large intestine. This lack of blood flow leads to the death of tissue.

Issue. (1) The disputed point in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit. (2) To send out officially, as in to issue an order.


Joint and Several Liability. Refers to a plaintiff’s ability to sue one or more defendants separately or all together at his or her option. Permits a group of defendants to be held both individually and collectively liable for all damages suffered by the plaintiff. The plaintiff can recover the entire amount of damages from one defendant, even if all of the defendants are liable.

For incidents arising after August 17, 2002:  Due to a new Pennsylvania law, joint and several liability has been changed so that a plaintiff may no longer be able to collect all his damages from one defendant, even if more than one defendant is found responsible. A percentage of fault will be assessed against each defendant and, unless a defendant’s negligence is 60% or greater, an at-fault defendant will be responsible for only its percentage of fault.

Judge. Workers’ compensation judges are appointed and are representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. They conduct hearings in an administrative proceeding for workers’ compensation cases.

Judgment. The official decision of a court resolving the issues in a legal action and stating the rights and obligations of the parties. See also decree, order.

Judicial. Pertaining to a judge.

Judicial Notice. The procedure by which a judge recognizes the existence of the truth of a certain fact having bearing on the case without the production of evidence because such fact is established by common notoriety. For example, if the accident happened on Thanksgiving, the judge can take judicial notice that the accident happened on a Thursday.

Jurisdiction. The legal right by which judges exercise their authority.

Jurisprudence. The theory and philosophy of law.

Juror. Member of a jury.

Jury. A specific number of people (usually 6 or 12), selected as prescribed by law to render a decision (verdict) in a trial.


Kemp Test. an orthopedic test that indicates facet syndrome, fracture, or disc involvement when a patient reports low back pain radiating to the lower extremity.


Law. The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority derived from court decisions and established by local custom.

Law Clerks. Persons trained in the law who assist judges or attorneys.

Lawsuit. A civil action: a court proceeding to enforce a right (rather than to convict a criminal).

Lawsuit or Suit. Generally, a court action brought by one person, the plaintiff, against another, the defendant, seeking compensation for some injury or enforcement of a right.

 A person licensed to practice law; other words for “lawyer” include: attorney, counsel, solicitor, and barrister.

 A nonprofessional; a non-expert. In law, an individual who has not undergone formal legal training.

Leading Case.
 Case regarded as having determined the law on a particular point, thus becoming a guide for later decisions.

Leading Question.
 A question that suggests the desired answer to a witness or “places words in the witness’ mouth.” With some exceptions, leading questions are prohibited on direct examination.

Legal Cause.
 A substantial factor in bringing about the harm. See also proximate cause.

Legal Fiction.
 Assumption of a fact that may or may not be true made by a judge to decide a legal question.

 An obligation that one is bound in law to perform; usually involves the payment of money damages.

Liberal Construction.
 Judicial interpretation of the law whereby the judge expands the literal meaning of the statute to meet cases that are clearly within the spirit or reason of the law. Compare with strict construction whereby the judge adheres to the literal meaning of the words.

 In civil law, a person who enters land with consent, but nothing more.

 An encumbrance on property to secure payment of a debt. A health care provider has a right to place a lien on a claim to guarantee that his/her bills will be paid when the case concludes.

Limited Jurisdiction.
 Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. District, municipal and police courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.

Limited Tort Option.
 In Pennsylvania, purchasers of motor vehicle insurance can choose “limited tort,” which restricts their right to seek money damages for an accident caused by another driver. Under limited tort, the insured can only seek money damages for economic loss, including medical bills. The insured is prohibited from seeking damages for pain and suffering, except under certain limited circumstances. Compare with full tort option.

 One who is engaged in a lawsuit.

 Contest in court; a lawsuit.

 The spinal curve of the low back and neck. The term is used to refer to abnormally increased curvature (hyperlordosis) or to the normal curvature (normal lordosis).

 See compromise and release.


Malfeasance. Commission of a wrongful act; evil-doing; wrongful conduct.

Material Fact. Generally, a fact essential to a case or a defense without which said case or defense could not be supported.

Medical MalpracticeBroadly, a claim brought against a healthcare professional based on professional negligence wherein the healthcare professional violates the applicable standard of care and an injury results.

Member. In relation to health care, a member is a person who belongs to a health care plan, like an HMO.

Misdemeanor. Crimes less serious than felonies. In Pennsylvania, the punishments associated with misdemeanors vary according to degree. A misdemeanor of the first degree may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years. A misdemeanor of the second degree may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than two years. A misdemeanor of the third degree may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than one year.

Misfeasance. Improper performance of a lawful act.

Mitigation of Damages or Doctrine of Avoidable Consequences. Imposes a duty on victims of a tort to take reasonable steps to minimize their damages after an injury has been inflicted.

Motion. An application made to a judge for the purpose of obtaining an order directing some act to be done in favor of the party presenting the application.

Moving Party. The party presenting the motion to the court. Compare with non-moving party.


Negligence. In its broadest sense, carelessness. More precisely, conduct that falls below the standard of care established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risks of harm. In order to prevail in a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the following four elements: (1) that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; (3) that the defendant’s breach of his or her duty of care caused the plaintiff’s injury; (4) that the plaintiff suffered injury.

Negligence Per Se. Conduct, either by act or omission, that may be declared and treated as negligence without argument or proof of negligence, usually because the conduct violates a statute. A finding of negligence per se satisfies the plaintiff’s burden of proof that the defendant’s conduct was negligent. However, the burden remains on the plaintiff to establish that his injuries were proximately caused by the statutory violation.

Nisi Decree. Interim decree or order that will eventually become final unless something changes or an event takes place.

Nonfeasance. Failure to perform some act that should have been performed.

Non-Jury Trial or Bench Trial. The trial before a judge and without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge decides questions of law and questions of fact.

Non-Moving Party. The party to a lawsuit that is not presenting a motion to the court. A non-moving party may or may not contest or oppose the motion. Compare with moving party.

Notice of Compensation Payable. Acceptance of liability for a work-related injury filed by the employer or the employer’s insurance carrier. Once a notice of compensation payable is filed, benefits would begin to be paid and must begin to be paid, no later than 21 days after the employer receives notice of an employee’s injury.

Notice of Injury. When a worker is injured on the job, the worker is required by law to report the injury to the employer within 21 days. If the injury is not reported within 120 days from the date of the injury or having knowledge of a work-related disease, no compensation is allowed, except in cases involving progressive disease.

Notice of Workers Compensation Denial. Notice of denial of a work-related injury filed by the employer or the employer’s insurance company. After a notice of workers’ compensation denial is filed, an injured employee has three years from the date of injury to file a claim petition.


Obiter Dictum. Remark by a judge in a legal opinion that is irrelevant to the decision and does not establish precedent. Often used in the plural, dicta.

Objection. In a trial, a reason stated on the record by an attorney that a matter or proceeding is illegal. Making objections in open court is important for purposes of making a record for appeal.

Occupational Disease. A disease resulting from on-the-job exposure to conditions or substances detrimental to health.

Opinion. Written statement by a judge or court of the decision in a case which describes the law applied to the facts of the case and the reasons for the decision.

Order. Written direction or command made by a court or judge, and not included in a judgment. See also decree.

Ordinance. Commonly, a regulation passed by a municipal legislative body.

Out-of-Court Settlement. An agreement reached between a plaintiff and a defendant to resolve a lawsuit privately and without a judge’s authorization or approval.


Panel of Physicians. Also known as “Panel of Doctors,” this is a posted list of doctors, specialists, and emergency care centers where injured workers in Pennsylvania must receive medical treatment for the first 90 days of injury if they wish to have their medical bills covered by their employer.

Partial Disability. In a workers’ compensation case, this refers to any disability that is less than total. Workers’ compensation benefits are generally measured by earning power in this situation.

Perjury. Intentional false statement of material importance made under oath; lying under oath.

Person. Generally, a human being. Legally, a “person” may statutorily include a corporation, partnership, trustee, legal representative, etc.

Personal Jurisdiction. The power of a court over a person. Compare with subject matter jurisdiction.

Personal Representative. One who stands in the place of another.

Petition. A formal written request for judicial action on a certain matter.

Petition to Terminate, Modify or Suspend Benefits. In a workers’ compensation case, this is the petition filed by the employer/insurance carrier in an attempt to modify, suspend or terminate an injured employee’s compensation.

Petitioner. One who presents a petition to a court, officer, or legislative body.

Plaintiff. In civil law, the person who brings an action or starts a lawsuit.

Plead. In civil law, a defendant’s formal answer to a plaintiff’s complaint.

Pleading. A document filed in a court that pertains to a case.

Possessor of Land. A person who occupies land and intends to control it. Most often, it is the owner of the property.

Power of Attorney. Written document authorizing one person to take certain legal actions on behalf of the person giving the power of attorney.

Precedent. The decision by a court that provides an example or authority for later cases involving a similar question of law. See binding authority.

Preponderance of the Evidence. The amount of evidence needed for a plaintiff to win in a civil action. A preponderance of the evidence is the greater weight of the evidence or the more convincing evidence in comparison to the evidence offered in opposition. A plaintiff can win by a preponderance of the evidence even if the plaintiff’s evidence merely tips the scales in the plaintiff’s favor.

Presumptively Capable of Negligence. Pennsylvania law places minors in three categories based on age. Minors under 7 are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence. Simply put, under the law, they cannot commit torts. Minors between 7 and 14 are presumed incapable of negligence, but the presumption is rebuttable or disputable, and the presumption grows weaker as the child nears his or her 14th birthday. Minors over 14 are presumptively capable of negligence. Simply put, under the law they are presumed as being able to commit torts. The burden is on the minor to prove incapacity.

Prevailing Party. Generally, the winning party in a lawsuit.

Prima Facie. Literally means “at first sight” or “on the face of it.” “Prima facie evidence” is evidence that is good and sufficient on its face. A plaintiff makes out a “prima facie case” when he or she presents “prima facie evidence,” which means that the plaintiff is permitted to prevail on that evidence alone unless the defendant can put forth sufficient evidence to overcome it.

Primary Care Physician (PCP). A physician that is employed by or contracts with a managed health care system like an HMO that coordinates all of the member’s medical care. A PCP is usually a family practitioner. PCP’s are also known as “gatekeepers” because they control a member’s access to medical care within a health plan.

Privileged Communication. Statement protected from forced disclosure in court because the statement was made within a “protected” relationship such as attorney/client. See attorney-client privilege.

Pro Bono. (Latin: “for the good”) Used to describe the provision of services free of charge.

Procedural Law. Generally, the body of law establishing the method or procedure of enforcing rights or obtaining redress for invasion of rights. Compare with substantive law which establishes rights.

Products Liability. Area of the law involving the liability of manufacturers and sellers of dangerous or defective goods or products.

Promulgate. To officially announce.

Property Damage Liability Coverage. Automobile insurance coverage required under Pennsylvania law that provides money to pay claims if your car damages the property of another person.

Proximate Cause. The proximate cause of an injury is the primary or moving cause that produces the injury and without which the accident could not have happened if the injury is one that might be reasonably anticipated or foreseen as a natural consequence of the wrongful act.

Punitive Damages. Also known as “Exemplary Damages.” Compensation greater than is necessary to pay a plaintiff for a loss. These damages are awarded because the loss was aggravated by violence, oppression, malice, fraud or wanton and wicked conduct on the part of the defendant. Such damages are intended to punish the defendant for his evil behavior or make an example of him or her.

Purchaser. In products liability law, a person who buys a product.


Question of Fact. See fact question.

Question of Law. An issue involving the application or interpretation of the law which is within the province of the judge. Compare with fact question.


Reasonable Care. The degree of care that a prudent or careful person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.

Reasonable Man Doctrine. Also known as “Reasonable Man Standard.” The standard which a person must adhere to in order to avoid civil liability for negligence is the standard of the reasonable man under all of the circumstances, including the foreseeability of harm to other persons, including the plaintiff.

Rebut. Refute, defeat or take away the effect of an argument or assumption in a legal proceeding.

Record. The official collection of all of the material filed with a court in a legal proceeding.

Records of Work Environment. Records and documents relating to workplace health, safety, hazards, and exposure.

Recovery. Generally, compensation or restriction of a right obtained as a result of the formal judgment or decree entered by a judge.

Recusal. A judge’s withdrawal from hearing a lawsuit because of personal interest or prejudice.

Reinstatement of Benefits. Resumption of payment of workers compensation benefits after suspension or termination of benefits due to a recurrence of the disability which results in a loss of earning power.

Reinstatement Petition. Petition filed by an injured worker following a termination or suspension of payment of workers compensation benefits due to a recurrence of the disability which results in a lack of earning power. A reinstatement petition must be filed within three years of the date of the last workers’ compensation payment.

Report of Occupational Injury or Disease. When a worker is injured on the job and the worker provides proper notice of the injury to the employer, the employer must file a Report of Occupational Injury or Disease with the Bureau of Workers Compensation after 7 days but within 15 days after the date of the injury when the injury results in a disability that lasts more than a day, shift or turn of work. If an injury results in an employee’s death, the employer is required to file the report with the Bureau within 48 hours. See Notice of Injury.

Respondent. The party that responds to a petition.

Reversal. The setting aside of a lower court’s decision by an appellate court.

Right to Compensation. In order to be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, an injured worker must establish a right to compensation. In order to establish that right, the injured worker must show an employment relationship during which an injury arose in the course of employment and is related to that employment.

Ruling. Broadly, a determination made by a judge.


Sale. A contract between two parties, a seller (sometimes called a vendor) and a buyer (sometimes called a vendee), where the seller gives the buyer title and possession of property in exchange for a price.

Sane. Having a natural and normal mental condition.

Satisfy. To pay a debt or claim.

Scope of Authority. In agency law, actions by an agent that have been either actually or implicitly authorized by the person or organization for whom that agent works.

Scope of Employment. The actions done by an employee to carry out the business of an employer that are reasonably foreseeable by that employer as being part of the business.

Seasonal Employment. Employment that can only be carried out during specific seasons or fairly definite portions of the year.

Seller. Also called a vendor, one who sells goods or property for a price.

Sequester. To separate or isolate.

Serious illness. In a life insurance context, an illness that permanently or materially impairs, or is likely to permanently or materially impair, the health of the applicant.

Service of process. The act of notifying a person or organization that they are under the jurisdiction of a court so that they may appear in court or otherwise respond to the notice.

Set-off. In an automobile insurance context, when the amount recoverable under one policy or a part of that policy up to a certain limit is restricted to the difference between what has already been recovered under a different policy or part of the policy and the limit.

Settlement. An agreement between two parties in a case to either forego litigation or stop current litigation in exchange for a price. In the personal injury context, a settlement would usually involve payment from the defendant to the plaintiff, after which the case would not be tried in court.

Several Liability. Liability separate and distinct from the liability of another which is sufficient to support a lawsuit without reference to anyone else’s liability.

Severance of Actions. Judicial proceedings separating the claims of multiple parties and permitting separate actions on each one or some combination of them.

Show Cause Order. Judicial direction to appear in court and present reasons why the court should not take a proposed action.

Slip Opinion. A court decision published soon after it was made.

Social Guest. For the purposes of determining a landowner’s duty of care, somebody who goes onto somebody else’s property for the purpose of companionship and hospitality, not as a part of doing business. This person is treated as a licensee.

Social Host Liability. The liability of a person (the “social host”) who furnishes free alcoholic beverages to another (the “guest”), when the guest subsequently sustains injuries or causes injury to a third person because of his intoxication.

Sovereign Immunity. A doctrine that does not allow a lawsuit to be brought against the government without its waiver or consent.

Special Appearance. The representation by an attorney at court that he or she appears specially for the defendant for that appearance only. A special appearance will not obligate the attorney past that one appearance.

Special Jurisdiction. Power of a court to deal with only a limited type of case.

Specific Loss. In a workers’ compensation case, this is the compensation payable for loss (amputation) or permanent loss of use of members of the body, complete loss of hearing in one or both ears, loss of vision in one or both eyes, and disfigurement.

Spoliation. Generally, the destruction of evidence.

Stack or Stacking. In Pennsylvania automobile insurance law, purchasers of insurance have the option to “stack” uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If you choose “stacking,” this means that you can add the coverage together for each vehicle you have insured, at least under the policy. (An issue presently exists as to whether you can “stack” coverages under separate policies of insurance.) For example, if you have two vehicles, with $100,000/$300,000 (meaning $100,000 available per person, and $300,000 available per accident) in uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you can “stack” the coverages and have available $200,000/$600,000 in coverage.

Standard of Care. In the law of negligence, the degree of care which a reasonable, prudent, or careful person should exercise under the same or similar circumstances. If the standard falls below that established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm, the person may be liable for damages resulting from such conduct.

Standard of Proof. Also known as “Burden of Proof.” Degree of proof required in a specific kind of case to prevail. In the majority of civil cases, it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

Stare Decisis. The policy of the courts to not overturn precedents; adherence to precedents.

State Courts. Those courts that constitute the state judicial system, in contrast to federal courts.

State Law. Those laws which apply to a specific state or ordinances that apply to a specific city or town, as opposed to federal laws.

Statute. Generally, a law created by a legislature.

Statute of Frauds. A law requiring that certain contracts must contain a written signature to be valid.

Statute of Limitations. The time prescribed by statute in which a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit.

Statute of Repose. Similar to a statute of limitations, this statute limits the time during which a cause of action can arise.

Statutory Interpretation. The act of determining the meaning of a particular law by analyzing the wording and punctuation of the statute.

Stay. Court-ordered suspension of a judicial proceeding.

Stipulation. An agreement between the parties (and usually their lawyers) made in court and presented to the judge, who will make an order based on the matters agreed to. For example, if the parties stipulate a certain amount of spousal support, the court will make an order consistent with that stipulation.

Strict Construction. Judicial interpretation of the law whereby the judge adheres to the literal meaning of the words. Compare with liberal construction which expands the literal meaning of the statute to meet cases that are clearly within the spirit or reason of the law.

Strict Liability. The doctrine that holds defendants liable for harm caused by their actions regardless of their intentions or lack of negligence. Often applied to manufacturers or sellers of defective products in product liability cases.

Stroke. Damage to a part of the brain when its blood supply is suddenly reduced or stopped. This stoppage in blood flow can occur as the result of a blood vessel becoming blocked or bursting inside the brain. The part of the brain deprived of blood dies and can no longer function.

Structured Settlement. An agreement wherein one party agrees to pay a sum of money over a period of time to settle a case as opposed to a lump sum payment.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction. The court’s power to deal with the general subject matter involved in a case. For example, a bankruptcy court judge has no subject matter jurisdiction to hear a divorce case.

Subornation of Perjury. Procuring someone to make a false statement under oath.

Subpoena. Command to appear at a certain place and time to give testimony on a matter.
Subpoena Duces Tecum. Command to produce some document or paper.

Subrogation. Substitution of one person for another, giving the substitute the same legal rights as the original party. For example, an insurance company may have a right of subrogation to sue anyone whom the person it compensated had a right to sue.

Substantive Law. The body of law that creates, defines and regulates rights. Compare with procedural law which prescribes the manner to enforce rights or obtaining redress for invasion of rights.

Substitution of Parties. The replacement of one party to a lawsuit by another.

Sue. The act of bringing a lawsuit.

Suit or Lawsuit. Generally, a court action brought by one person, the plaintiff, against another, the defendant, seeking compensation for some injury or enforcement of a right.

Summary Judgment. A final decision by a judge that resolves a lawsuit in favor of one of the parties. A motion for summary judgment is made after discovery is completed but before the case goes to trial.

Summons. Formal document beginning a civil action or special proceeding which is a means to gain jurisdiction over a party. Also, a document directed to a sheriff or other authorized person ordering him to serve the person named on the summons who must appear at a certain place and time to respond to the action.

Supplier of Goods. In products liability law, all parties in the chain of supply of a product for profit, including manufacturers, sellers, and dealers.

Supplemental Agreement. In a workers’ compensation case, this is the form signed by the injured employee when there has been a change in disability status.

Survival Action. A survival action is brought by the administrator of a deceased person’s estate in order to recover loss to the estate resulting from a tort. A survival action continues in the decedent’s personal representative a right of action which accrued to the decedent at common law because of a tort. A survival action, unlike a wrongful death action, is not a new cause of action. Where death is caused by negligence, both a survival action and a wrongful death action may be brought.

Survival Statutes. Statutory law that provides for a legal action to continue after the death of a person involved in the action.


Technical Errors. Errors committed during a trial that have not prejudiced the losing party’s rights and therefore are not grounds for reversal on appeal.

Tender. An offer of money.

Testate. A person who has made a will or who has died leaving a will.

Testify. To give evidence as a witness under oath.

Testimony. Evidence delivered by a witness at trial either orally at trial or in the written form of an affidavit or deposition.

Third-Party Benefits. In insurance law, third-party benefits refer to the amount of available coverage that the at-fault party has in bodily injury and property damage.

Third-Party Lawsuit. In workers’ compensation law, when an injury is caused by the act or failure to act of a party other than the employer, that party is the “third party,” and the injured worker may file a lawsuit against that party. An example of a third-party lawsuit in workplace injury would be a products liability suit against the manufacturer of a defective tool.

Thrombotic Stroke. Occurs when a blood clot forms in an artery and blocks blood flow to the brain.

Tinnitus. A ringing or roaring sound in one or both ears.

Tipstaff. A court-appointed officer whose duty it is to serve the judge in a variety of ways while court is in session. See bailiff.

Tort. In civil law, generally, a wrong or injury committed against a person or property. A tort does not include a breach of contract.

Tort-Feasor. One who commits a tort.

Tortious. Having the quality of a tort; the wrongdoer.

Total Disability. A work-related injury that results in a complete loss of earning power. In a workers’ compensation case, this may also be the phrase used to describe the compensation paid when an injured employee is totally impaired due to a work-related injury. Benefits at the total disability rate are generally two-thirds of wages up to a maximum compensation rate.

Total Loss. In a vehicle context, when the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. This term gives rise to the common term “totaled.”

Transcript. An official written copy of proceedings in a case, including hearings, depositions, and trials. Usually made by a court reporter.

Traumatic Brain Injury. An insult to the brain caused by an external physical force that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness that results in an impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning and/or a disturbance of behavioral or emotional functioning.

Trespasser. In civil law, a person who enters land without invitation, permission, or privilege.

Trial. The judicial examination and determination of issues between the parties to an action.

Trial Calendar. A list maintained by the clerk of court or the trial judge of cases awaiting trial, which includes trial dates, names of attorneys representing parties, and other such information.

Trial Court. The first court to hear the case, as opposed to an appellate court which hears appeals of decisions made in trial courts.

Tribunal. A court of law or the whole body of judges who comprise a jurisdiction.

Treble Damages. In certain cases, damages awarded by a jury that are tripled in amount.


Unavoidable Accident. An accident which was inevitable despite all involved exercising necessary care.

Unconscionability. A doctrine where courts can deny enforcement of a contract because of unfairness or abuses to a party to the contract arising out of the making of the contract or the terms of the contract.

Unconstitutional. That which is contrary to or in conflict with the constitution.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage. In Pennsylvania, optional insurance that provides protection to the purchaser of said coverage and relatives living in his household who suffer an injury caused by the negligence of another driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for all losses and damages. Underinsured motorist coverage can be stacked.

Underwrite. To ensure life or property.

Undisputed fact. An admitted fact that a court has not deemed sufficiently material to necessitate its determination at a trial.

Undue Influence. Abuse of position of trust or authority in order to induce a person to do or refrain from doing something to the advantage of the person exerting the influence.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage. In Pennsylvania, optional insurance that provides protection to the purchaser of said coverage and relatives living in his household who suffer an injury caused by the negligence of another driver who does not have insurance to pay for losses and damages. Uninsured motorist coverage can be stacked.

Unjust Enrichment. A doctrine that says that one person should not be enriched at the expense of another and must compensate the other for any benefits received.

Unlawful Act. An illegal act.

Unreasonable. Irrational, foolish, or unwise.

User. In products liability law, a person who uses goods.


Vacate. To set aside or void an order or decision of a court.

Venue. Broadly, the geographical area where a court has authority to hear a case because it has personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. The venue is usually the same area where the incident leading to the trial occurred. A change of venue may occur if negative publicity or other factors would make it difficult to find unbiased jurors.

Verdict. The jury’s decision in a case. A general verdict is the jury’s finding either for the plaintiff or the defendant. A special verdict is a statement by the jury of facts it has found in response to questions submitted by the judge.

Void. Having no binding effect or legal force; null.


Waiver. Knowing and voluntary relinquishment of a right. Compare with release.

Willful Negligence. Intentional performance of an unreasonable act in disregard of a known risk, making it highly probable that harm will be caused. Willful negligence usually involves a conscious indifference to the consequences. There is no clear distinction between willful negligence and gross negligence.

Workers Compensation. Insurance required of almost all employers to help cover their employees’ economic loss due to a job-related injury or illness.

Writ. Broadly, a court order requiring the performance of some act or giving authority to have the act done.

Wrongful Death Action. An action brought to recover damages for the death of a person caused by a wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another; provided that no recovery for the same damages claimed in the wrongful death action was obtained by the deceased during his lifetime. In Pennsylvania, the action may be brought by the decedent’s spouse, children, or parents. If the decedent has no spouse, children, or parents, the action may be brought by a personal representative in order to recover damages for hospital, nursing, medical, funeral, and estate administration costs.

Wrongful Death Statute. Statutory law that provides the means for the representative of a decedent to bring suit alleging that the decedent’s death was caused by someone’s willful or negligent act and to seek compensation for monetary loss suffered because of the decedent’s death.