Within any industry, there are typically a number of terms and definitions known only to insiders. The legal world is no exception, and in years preceding the internet there were few resources for those unfamiliar with legal terms. Legal vocabulary is incredibly extensive, and can be confusing to those on the outside, as well as to those on the inside. Even the most well-respected lawyer will often use a legal terms dictionary to gain legal knowledge and argue cases effectively.
The days of the hard copy legal glossary have come and gone, however. Instead, legal professionals and curious outsiders can harness the power of the web to define any legal terms they come across. Entire sites are dedicated to the explanation of legal terms, often in multiple languages, allowing users from almost any background to gain access to new legal vocabulary. We compiled a list of the 10 most commonly used legal terms that can get you started.
- Credibility– Credibility refers to how believable a speaker is. Credible speakers appear honest and trustworthy when relating their sides of a case. The appearance of credibility is central to almost every law suit, especially when two sides tell very different stories.
- Damages– This term is often used to refer to the amount of money a client recovers in a law suit. Damages can be dichotomized into economic and non-economic damages.
- Default– A default is a process wherein the court bars a party from advancing claims or defenses because of failure to execute something required by law.
- Defendant– The person being accused of something is the defendant in a law suit. Defendants can bring their own claims against the person taking action against them in the same case, called counterclaims.
- Discovery– The process by which both sides of a lawsuit can file paperwork to request information from the opposing side. These can include interrogatories, requests for production, depositions, or requests for admission.
- Docket– This is the court’s method for keeping track of a case. This particular legal term can refer to the docket for a particular case or to the court’s entire docket of cases.
- Liability– This is the term used to say that a defendant has responsibility for the damages.
- Malpractice– Used to talk about doctors, malpractice is one of the most complicated legal terms. To prove malpractice, four things need to be proved:
- The doctor had a duty to care for the patient.
- The doctor failed to provide adequate care.
- The doctor’s failure to provide adequate care was a cause of the injury suffered.
- The patient suffered a compensable injury.
- Negligence– Negligence exists where a person has a duty to another person which is breached and causes compensable injury upon the innocent party.
- Plaintiff– The opposite of the defendant, the plaintiff is the person bringing a lawsuit. Claimant is another legal term used to describe this person.
Though legal terms can be confusing, there are a number of easily accessible resources for those truly interested in understanding them. A better understanding of the terms and definitions associated with your legal case can only stand to benefit you in the long run.