10 Terms to Know

The 10 terms that every personal injury victim should learn and know

There are 10 legal terms in every personal injury and wrongful death claim. If you know these words and a little bit about the “process” it will relieve a lot of the stress and anxieties that come with filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim.


Negligence is a key concept in personal injury cases because victims must prove that their injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence. The law requires that we all have a duty to act reasonably. If you only learn one-thing... understand that negligence is the failure to act as a “reasonable person”.


A claim is a request asking the insurance company to see if their insured did something wrong. It’s the first step that starts the process toward getting paid for your injuries. A person who makes a claim is a claimant. If they file a lawsuit, they become a plaintiff.

Contingency Fee

Our getting paid is “contingent” upon you getting paid. So if you don’t get paid... we don’t get paid and you don’t owe us anything... no attorney’s fees or legal costs... nothing.


Damages are the money you get if you're hurt or lose a loved one. There are two types of damages:

1. Economic damages compensate you for ALL money-related losses like medical bills, memorial services and car repairs.

2. Non-Economic damages compensate you for your feelings, like pain and suffering in personal injury cases or the loss of love, comfort and affection in wrongful death cases.

The total amount of your damages represents the value of your claim.

Demand Letter

A Demand Letter is a formal written offer to settle. It includes your injuries, damages and the law that supports your claim. It typically starts the settlement negotiations.

Expert Witness

An expert witness is someone who knows a lot about a specific topic. They help explain the cause of an accident or injuries. Common experts include accident reconstructionist and medical doctors.


A lien is like a claim on your settlement money. It means someone, like a hospital or insurance, wants to be paid back for helping you. If Medi-Cal paid your bills, they might use a lien to get their money back.


A release is an agreement to settle your claim. It provides that the person at fault will pay you... and you agree to release them from further liability. The purpose of the Release is to finish all claims related to the incident.


A retainer is a Legal Services Agreement where the attorney agrees to provide legal services and the you agree to pay the attorney for their services.


A settlement is an agreement to settle your claim with another party. It contains the “terms” of your settlement and is often combined with a Release called a Settlement and Release. It is usually the last document you sign before getting paid by the insurance company.

Knowledge is power

If you can have a basic understanding of these terms and the “legal” process, you’ll feel more informed and comfortable about your case. I did not include terms related to lawsuits like interrogatories, depositions and motions. The above terms apply to all pre-litigation cases. About 95% of all claims are settled without filing a lawsuit so these terms apply to 95% of all victims.

Our goal is to inform and educate you about your claim and the legal process. Informed clients experience less stress with their case and make better decisions. We champion your cause for justice but we also want you to feel empowered moving forward.

If you have any questions, please call us at (844) PATS-LAW.