Top 12 Legal Terms You Should Know

12 Legal Terms You Should Know

If you’re not a lawyer, chances are you don’t hear too much complicated legal jargon in your daily life. You might even be able to go months without hearing the term “settlement,” but there may come a day when you’ll have to review a legal contract or understand the language an attorney is speaking to you. For those without a legal background, this can be overwhelmingly complicated, and you might need the assistance of an attorney to ensure that you won’t end up on the losing end of the deal. If you find yourself in a situation like this, don’t worry; Morgan & Morgan’s attorneys are always just a phone call away.

However, there’s another way to give yourself a competitive edge during a legal negotiation, and it starts with understanding common terms that are used in the legal arena. We’ve compiled a list for you, beginning with:

  1. Lawyer/Attorney: A lawyer or an attorney is an individual who’s licensed to practice law in a specific jurisdiction. These individuals are often very knowledgeable of many different aspects of the legal world, but some choose to specialize in certain areas to better serve a select group of people or issues. 
  2. Settlement: A successful lawsuit will result in a compensation package for the person who brought forward the charges, otherwise known as a settlement. This package will include different compensation amounts for different aspects of the harm you endured at the hands of the at-fault party, such as medical bills, repair costs, emotional damage, and punitive damages. 
  3. Damages: The term “damages” is used by lawyers to describe the monetary amount you’ll recover in your lawsuit. For example, if a client is eligible to recover $100,000 worth of damages, it really means that the client will receive $100,000 through their settlement. 
  4. Defendant/Plaintiff: These two terms describe the opposing parties in a lawsuit. First, we have plaintiffs, which is the individual or group that files the lawsuit. On the other hand, we have defendants, who are the person or entities being sued. Essentially, you can think of these two terms as opposing teams in a lawsuit, with the defendant side “defending” their actions and the plaintiff’s seeking to hold them accountable, “plain” and simple.
  5. Negligence: Otherwise known as carelessness, negligence is used to describe someone’s disregard for the consequence of their actions. Negligence is common in the personal injury world, as one person’s carelessness often leads to another person’s injury, and there are many examples of negligence that have resulted in major lawsuits. For example, a security guard who’s not paying attention and lets in an unauthorized person would be considered negligent because they acted carelessly in a position of authority.
  6. Testify: When someone testifies, it means that they’re giving an official statement under oath. Testimonies are usually required during trials or lawsuits and can be from anyone involved in the lawsuit, including witnesses and subject matter experts.
  7. Acquittal: Someone who’s found not guilty of a crime is considered to be “acquitted” of all charges. While an acquittal does imply that the individual is innocent of the crime, it could also mean that there was insufficient evidence to convict that person, so someone who did commit a crime can still be acquitted of all charges.
  8. Felony: Misdemeanors and felonies are different classifications of crimes based on severity. A felony is a more serious offense, as it carries more serious consequences, such as extended jail time or expensive fines. Felonies are further classified into degrees of seriousness, with a 1st-degree felony being the most serious crime that one can commit.
  9. Misdemeanor: On the other hand, misdemeanors are lesser crimes that carry less severe punishments. These crimes may require the offender to complete jail time or pay a fine, but they’re much less severe of a consequence compared to a felony.
  10. Liability: You may have heard a news outlet say that a company is “liable” for all damages related to the crime they’ve committed. Liability is a synonym of responsibility, so any company that’s found liable for something is also considered to be responsible for causing harm.
  11. Statute of Limitations: A statute of limitations is a time restriction on filing lawsuits. The limit will vary depending on the type of lawsuit you’re trying to file, and if you fail to file your lawsuit before the deadline, you’re ineligible to file a claim against the abuser in your situation. If you’re considering taking legal action against a third party, it’s best to file the lawsuit sooner rather than later to ensure that you don’t run into any problems with the statute of limitations.
  12. Tort: A tort is a fancy term to describe an instance of harm that was caused by a civil wrong rather than a criminal action. Basically, this means that the consequences of someone’s actions resulted in harm to another person, but the actions weren’t necessarily intentional. Victims of tort violations can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover the damages they sustained.

Contact Morgan & Morgan

We understand that someone outside of the legal world will have some difficulty understanding much of the jargon that’s used in the courtroom. There’s a lot of information to take in all at once, but by teaming up with us, you’ll always have someone by your side who can explain exactly what’s happening with your case. Our attorneys will work with you every step of the way, allowing you to understand our approach, the facts of your case, and all other aspects that will play a role throughout the duration of your case. With over three decades worth of experience and more than 800 trial-ready attorneys who are prepared to relentlessly advocate for the rights of their clients, you’ll never regret choosing Morgan & Morgan to represent you during your legal challenge.

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