– A –

Action: Proceeding taken in a court of law. Synonymous with case, suit, lawsuit.

Affidavit: A written declaration under oath

Allegation: A declaration of a party to an action made in a pleading, stating what he expects to prove.

Alleged: Stated; recited; claimed; asserted; charged.

Appeal: Review of a case by a higher court.

Appearance: The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court.

Arbitration: The hearing and settlement of a dispute between opposing parties by a third party whose decision the parties have agreed to accept.

Assigned Risk: A risk not ordinarily acceptable to insurers which is, according to state law, assigned to insurers participating in a plan in which the insurers agree to accept their share of these risks.

Automobile Insurance: A form of insurance that protects against losses involving autos. Examples of coverage types include: bodily injury liability, property damage liability, medical payments, and collision and comprehensive coverage for physical damage to the insured’s vehicle.

– B –

Basic Limits of Liability: The least amount of liability coverage that can be purchased. In determining rates, a carrier will use the basic limits to develop the base rates. If an insured person wants higher limits, the carrier applies an increased limits factor to the base rate in calculating the new premium for the increased coverage.

Bodily Injury Liability: Legal liability for causing physical injury or death to another.

Burden of proof: Measure of proof required to prove a fact. Obligation of a party to probe facts at issue in the trial of a case.

– C –

Case: Any proceeding, action, cause, lawsuit or controversy initiated through the court system by filing a complaint, petition, indictment or information.

Cause of action: A legal claim.

Citation: Summons to appear in court. 2. Reference to authorities in support of a legal argument.

Civil law: All law that is not criminal law. Usually pertains to the settlement of disputes between individuals, organizations or groups and having to do with the establishment, recovery or redress of private and civil rights.

Claim: The assertion of a right to money or property.

Collision Insurance: This covers loss to the insured person’s own auto caused by its collision with another vehicle or object.

Common law: Law which derives its authority solely from usage and customs of immemorial antiquity or from the judgments and decrees of courts. also called “case law.”

Comparative negligence: Negligence of a plaintiff in a civil suit which decreases his recovery by his percentage of negligence compared to a defendant’s negligence. Complaint: In a civil case, it is the initial document entered by the plaintiff which states the claims against the defendant.

Costs: An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit. Ordinarily does not include attorney’s fees.

Comprehensive Coverage: Covers damage to a vehicle caused by an event other than a collision or overturn. Examples include fire, theft, vandalism, and falling objects. Criminal law: Body of law pertaining to crimes against the state or conduct detrimental to society as a whole. Violation of criminal statues are punishable by law.

– D –

Damages: Compensation recovered in the courts by a person who has suffered loss, detriment or injury to his/her person, property or rights, through the unlawful act or negligence of another.

Deductible: The amount an insured person must pay before the insurance company pays the remainder of each covered loss, up to the policy limits.

Default: A failure of a party to respond in a timely manner to a pleading; a failure to appear for trial.

Defendant: In a civil case, such as an car accident lawsuit, the defendant is the person against whom a civil action is brought.

Defense attorney: The attorney who represents the defendant.

Deposition: Sworn testimony taken and recorded in an authorized place outside of the courtroom, according to the rules of the court.

Discovery: A pretrial proceeding where a party to an action may be informed about (or “discover”) the facts known by other parties or witnesses.

Disposition: Determination of a charge; termination of any legal action.

Due process: a Constitutional guarantee that an accused person receive a fair and impartial trial.

– E –

Evidence: Any form of proof legally presented at a trial through witnesses, records, documents, etc.

Exception: A formal objection of an action of the court, during the trial of a case, in refusing a request or overruling an objection; implying that the party excepting does not acquiesce in the decision of the court and will seek to obtain its reversal.

Expert evidence: Testimony given by those qualified to speak with authority regarding scientific, technical or professional matters.

– F –

Felony: Crime of grave nature than a misdemeanor.

Fine: A sum of money imposed upon a convicted person as punishment for a criminal offense.

File: “To file” a paper is to give it to the court clerk for inclusion in the case record.

– H –

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.

Hit and Run: An accident caused by someone who does not stop to assist or provide the required and necessary information.

– I –

Inadmissible: That which, under the established rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or


Injunction: Writ or order by a court prohibiting a specific action from being carried out by a person or group.

Injury: Hurt or harm; violate the legal rights of another person.

– J –

Judgment: Final determination by a court of the rights and claims of the parties in an action.

– L –

Lapse in Coverage/Policy Lapse: A point in time when a policy has been canceled or terminated for failure to pay the premium, or when the policy contract is void for other reasons.

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

Lawyer: A person licensed to practice law; other words for “lawyer” engaged in a lawsuit.

– M –

Misdemeanor: Criminal offenses less than felonies; generally those punishable by fine or imprisonment of less than 90 days in a local facility. A gross misdemeanor is a criminal offense for which an adult could be sent to jail for up to one year, pay a fine up to $5,000 or both.

Mistrial: Erroneous or invalid trial. Usually declared because of prejudicial error in the proceedings or when there was a hung jury.

Mitigating circumstances: Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame.

– N –

Negligence: The absence of ordinary care.

– P –

Parties: Persons, corporations, or associations, who have commenced a law suit or who are defendants.

Personal Auto Policy: The most common auto insurance policy sold today. Often referred to as “PAP,” this policy provides coverage for liability, medical payments, uninsured/under insured motorist coverage, and physical damage protection.

Personal Injury Protection: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) usually includes benefits for medical expenses, loss of income from work, essential services, accidental death, funeral expenses, and survivor benefits.

Perjury: Making intentionally false statements under oath. Perjury is a criminal offense. Physical Damage: Damage to your covered vehicle from perils including (but not limited to) collision or upset with another vehicle object, fire, vandalism and theft.

Plaintiff: The party who begins an action; the party who complains or sues in an action and is named as such in the court’s records. Also called a petitioner.

Plea: A defendant’s official statement of “guilty” or “not guilty” to the charge(s) made against him.

Policy: The written documents of a contract for insurance between the insurance company and the insured. Such documents include forms, endorsements, riders and attachments.

Proceeding: Any hearing or court appearance related to the adjudication of a case.

– R –

Rebuttal: The introduction of contradicting or opposing evidence showing that what witnesses said occurred is not true, the stage of a trial at which such evidence may be introduced.

Respondent: Party against whom an appeal is brought in an appellate court. the prevailing party in the trial court case.

Reversal: Setting aside, annulling, vacating or changing to the contrary the decision of a lower court or other body.

– S –

Service: Delivery of a legal document to the opposite party.

Settlement: Conclusion of a legal matter.

Settlement conference: A meeting between parties of a lawsuit, their counsel and a judge to attempt a resolution of the dispute without trial.

Statute: A law created by the Legislature.

Statute of limitations: Law which specifies the time within which parties must take judicial action to enforce their rights.

Subpoena: Document issued by the authority of the court to compel a witness to appear and give testimony or produce documentary evidence in a proceeding. Failure to appear or produce is punishable by contempt of court.

Suit: Any court proceeding in which an individual seeks a decision.

Summons: Document or writ directing the sheriff or other officer to notify a person that an action has been commenced against him in court and that he is required to appear, on a certain day, and answer the complaint in such action.

– T –

Testimony: Any statement made by a witness under oath in a legal proceeding. Transcript: The official record or proceedings in a trial or hearing, which is kept by the clerk.

Trial: The presentation of evidence in court to a trier of facts who applies the applicable law to those facts and then decides the case

Tort: A private wrong or harm committed against another, resulting in legal liability. A tort is either intentional or accidental. Automobile liability insurance is purchased to protect one from suits arising from unintentional torts.

– V –

Venue: The specific county, city or geographical area in which a court has jurisdiction.

Verdict: Formal decision made by a judge or jury (trier of facts).

– W –

Willful act: An intentional act carried out without justifiable cause.

Witness: Person who testifies under oath before a court, regarding what he/she has seen, heard or otherwise observed.

Writ: A special, written court order directing a person to perform, or refrain from performing, a specific act.