Legalese: What Lawyers Say, and What it Actually Means

After sustaining an injury in an accident or losing a loved one, the last thing victims and families should worry about is struggling to understand the legal process. While lengthy and time consuming to get through the legal system, for accident victims and their families, understanding what’s happening with their claim shouldn’t be. A lot goes on behind the scenes in an attorney’s office, most of which the client will never have to worry about. However, there are certain things that the client should be familiar with, and a patient and experienced attorney will take the time to assert that those details are understood.

Many times, clients will call or e-mail their legal counsel frantic because they received a piece of time sensitive mail or they don’t understand how their LOP (Letter of Protection) is meant to provide for them. Lawyers who allow their clients honest questions to go unanswered have not established a strong attorney-client relationship and cannot expect to build trust between themselves and the client. The experienced lawyer knows that taking the extra time to answer client questions is what builds trust. When the client trusts their attorney has their best interest at heart, the legal process moves more quickly and smoothly. A client with little trust in their legal counsel may feel the need to call and “check in” more often, which causes delays.

 The experienced lawyer knows that taking the extra time to answer client questions is what builds trust.© BigStockPhoto
The experienced lawyer knows that taking the extra time to answer client questions is what builds trust.© BigStockPhoto

As we always stress here on the Shaked Law Blog–every case is different. Only a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer can fit the puzzle pieces of a specific case together to form the whole picture. The Shaked Law Blog provides the most extensive library of legal articles to the public, offering the most in-depth and unbiased articles available. Today’s article invites readers to gain a better understanding of the legalese often heard but rarely understood when sitting down with a Personal Injury attorney for an initial consultation.

For as long as Personal Injury has been a specialty, there have always been acronyms. From ADW to PPD, it seems attorneys don’t have enough time in the day to get full sentences out anymore. And, unless asked specifically what it means, a lawyer may not have the time to go into detail. Remember: there is a lot more going on behind the scenes with your case than what you see in the hour spent sitting across from your attorney during a consultation. When an attorney agrees to take on a case, the entire Firm takes on the case. That means administrative assistants, paralegals, secretaries, bookkeepers, couriers, and court reporters are all working in tandem for a common goal.

A whole ‘lotta acronyms

Here on the Blog, we’ve put together an go-to list of the most frequently used “legalese”–or the acronyms–that clients hear around the office, but may be too afraid to inquire about. We’ve also included links to other Shaked Law Blog resources with extensive information for each legal term. We hope this helps accident victims and their families better understand what’s going on “behind the scenes” of their claims.

Average Daily Wage: Also known as “ADW”. This is the near-exact calculation of an employee who sustains an injury on the job’s average [daily] wages and is frequently used to determine wage-lost benefits after they become injured; these wages may also be calculated when providing for surviving family members after a workplace-related wrongful death where dependents were left under financial duress. [See: Wrongful Death in the Workplace]

Causation: “Causation is the relationship of cause and effect of an act or omission and damages alleged in a tort or personal injury action. A plaintiff in a tort action should prove a duty to do or not do an action and a breach of that duty.” ¹

Endangerment: Not to be confused with “negligence” or “recklessness” which have separate definitions. Endangerment is the act of knowingly exposing others to danger.

Independent Medical Examination: Also known as “IME”. After an injury–an insurance company is in the practice of having the injured party seen by a specific physician in an attempt to obtain a more objective evaluation of the victim’s health. In the case of an accident involving two parties (plaintiff and defendant, respectively) the defense may choose to hire doctors to examine the plaintiff. [See: Defense Hired Doctors for extensive information regarding the process of IME]

Letter of Protection: A letter of protection within the scope of personal injury law is defined as a letter sent to a medical professional (physician, surgeon) by a Board Certified Personal Injury Lawyer on behalf of their injured client. This letter will guarantee payment for all medical treatment from future compensation obtained in a settlement.

Living Will: This can also be known as an “Advance Directive”. A living will specifies the wishes of a person in writing. This document will specify everything from life sustaining measures to be taken (or not taken), organ donation preferences, next of kin to serve as power of attorney, and who may or may not obtain medical records should the person become unable to express these wishes themselves due to accident or illness. [See: Physician Patient Privilege for extensive information regarding Advance Directive]

Negligence: Failure to abide by a reasonable standard of care in a given situation. Acting in a manner that a person would not normally act in a situation and thus causing harm or grave injury to another party or parties; wrongful death may also occur as a result of negligent decision making. Lack of foreseeability in a situation that a reasonable person would be aware can cause harm. [See: Negligence vs. Recklessness Pt. 2]

 Remember: there is a lot more going on behind the scenes with your case than what you see in the hour spent sitting across from your attorney during a consultation. © BigStockPhoto
Remember: there is a lot more going on behind the scenes with your case than what you see in the hour spent sitting across from your attorney during a consultation. © BigStockPhoto

Pain and Suffering: Quite simply, this term means physical, emotional or mental anguish due to an accident that resulted in injury. With legitimate pain and suffering as determined by a judge in a court of law, a victim is entitled to compensation (financial) after sustaining a life-threatening injury that result in life long anguish.

Recklessness: For behavior to be considered reckless, it must go beyond ordinary negligence. To be considered reckless, the defendant’s conduct must have demonstrated extreme indifference to the consequences of his or her actions in the given scenario; harm or wrongful death to another. [See: Negligence vs. Recklessness Pt. 1]

Recover: When an attorney says they’ve “recovered” damages for a client they’re explaining that they’ve obtained money through a court judgement for a satisfactory amount pertaining to their client’s sustained injuries.

Tort: Cornell Law School defines “tort” as follows: “A tort is an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability. In the context of torts, “injury” describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas “harm” describes a loss or detriment in fact that an individual suffers.”

These commonly used legal terms have a great deal of impact on each and every case that passes through the court system. It’s important that victims (if they are able–and they should never be put under pressure to do so after a traumatic accident) and their families (on their behalf) are well researched when it comes to any documents they receive over the course of the case. Of course, only an attorney can advise a client in the specifics of their case, but when time is of the essence and the statute of limitations is on the horizon, it’s best to be well-informed wherever possible.

¹US Legal, Inc. “USLegal.” Opening Statement Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc., 31 July 2018, us to schedule a complimentary consultation. There’s no obligation. Take the first step and call today: (877)529-0080

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