Four Legal Terms You Need to Know Before a Trial
The legal terms and jargon tossed around by attorneys in Texas courts can be confusing and intimidating, especially for clients who may be sitting in a courtroom for the first time or who may be involved in their first personal injury lawsuit. If you’re involved in a serious personal injury accident, you will need to hire a serious personal injury lawyer, so it will be critical to effectively communicate with your attorney to help your own case.
Having a basic grasp of some of the legal terms commonly used in civil trials will help you better communicate with your attorney and understand how he or she is working on your behalf. The following terms are some of the most common civil trial terms:
- Summary judgment – When attorneys file for summary judgment, they’re asking a judge to rule that no material issues of fact are in dispute and that a claim should be resolved by the judge instead of being heard by a jury. Summary judgments are often a quicker means of disposing of cases than going to trial, and most defendants try to stop a lawsuit at the summary judgment phase. The summary judgment phase is often the most important stage of the case in a serious personal injury lawsuit when the responsible defendant looks for a way to avoid the liability before trial.
For example, you may sue another driver after a serious truck accident, claiming the truck driver was responsible for major injuries. Unfortunately, the police report may not accurately portray what you believed occurred. Using an inaccurate police report, the truck driver’s insurance company’s attorney files a motion for summary judgment arguing because the 18-wheeler driver is not responsible as a matter of law so a jury doesn’t need to decide the issue. Responding to this motion in order to demonstrate your side of the story would be important for the judge to deny summary judgment and let a jury decide if the truck driver was responsible for your personal injuries.
- Damages – Damages refers to the award a plaintiff might receive in a personal injury suit. Damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for harms suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions or negligence. Damages include compensatory damages for things like medical bills, lost wages, and replacing damaged property. Individuals involved in serious personal injuries are entitled to monetary damages for their pain and suffering and mental anguish too. Punitive damages refer to damages awarded to a plaintiff to punish a defendant for egregious bad behavior, such as intentional acts or deceptions on the part of the defendant.
- Settlement – A settlement is an agreement to end a dispute without going to trial. Insurers often offer to settle cases in which the cost of litigation would be a burden or when their attorneys feel they may have a strong chance of losing. Cash settlements of personal injury disputes ensure plaintiffs receive compensation for their injuries without the risk of a trial. Never hire a personal injury lawyer that always settles cases though! Many times, a reasonable settlement can be reached before trial, but in serious injury cases your lawyer must be ready for a jury trial—only then will be best settlements be reached.
- Deposition – A deposition is sworn, out-of-court testimony that’s used to gather information as part of the discovery process. Information gathered in a deposition is typically used by lawyers to identify evidence they need to gather. Depositions are sometimes used at trial, but often they are not—especially of the parties to the case themselves. But depositions are always very important and can be used if needed at trial. For example, if a witness gave testimony at trial that conflicted with what he said during a deposition, an attorney might introduce the deposition to undermine that witness’s credibility. If your personal injury attorney asks you to make time to prepare for your deposition, make sure and do it because it may be an important part of the lawsuit process.
If you’re looking for an experienced injury attorney in Houston, contact Johnson Garcia LLP. Attorneys at Johnson Garcia LLP have spent decades representing clients in serious personal injury, complex insurance coverage, and commercial business dispute cases. If you’re looking for an attorney who will both fight for you and answer all your questions about the legal process along the way, contact Johnson Garcia LLP.