Glossary of Legal Terms in a Personal Injury Case

Whether you’re in the process of filing a claim for the first time, or are simply looking to learn more about the terms that you see regularly, developing a stronger understanding of common legal terminology can be beneficial. At Spraggs & Co., we believe in the importance of educating our clients along the way which is why we have developed a glossary of common legal terms that may be present in a personal injury case.

Catastrophic Injuries: Catastrophic injuries are severe injuries which entail physical and psychological impairments, often related to the skull or brain, neck, spine, spinal cord, back or organs. Catastrophic injuries can also entail burns, depending on the degree and amount of body surface area covered.

Contributory Negligence: Contributory negligence is negligence by the injured party that combines with the negligence of another in causing the injury, which reduces the damages awarded by a percentage (e.g., 10 percent, 25 percent, and 50 percent). The extent of the negligence of each party is considered in determining if and how much the plaintiff contributed to the accident in reducing the compensation.

Damages: Damages refers to what a plaintiff seeks to recover in a lawsuit, which, in a personal injury lawsuit, is financial compensation. Damages can be quantifiable pecuniary (economic) damages, such as medical and rehabilitation expenses, wage loss and lost future income, or non-pecuniary (non-economic) damages, which are not specifically quantifiable, such as pain, suffering and humiliation.

Examination for Discovery: Discovery is a face-to-face formal meeting of the parties to a civil lawsuit to obtain and exchange information (including documents) to discover the facts and information necessary in order to proceed to trial. Undergoing discovery allows the parties to learn the strengths and weakness of their position.

Minors (Infant Claims): Minors in British Columbia are defined as people under age 19. Minors have the same rights to sue as anyone else, but they need to be assisted by an adult guardian (normally a parent) in legal matters.

Negligence: Negligence is a tort arising from damage to a person or property of another from the failure to act with reasonable care. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must prove: the defendant had a duty of care or obligation to the plaintiff, the defendant violated or breached that duty, the breach caused damage to the defendant, and actual damages resulted.

No-Fault Benefits: No-fault, Part 7, or ICBC Accident Benefits are accident benefits available to any person who is injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who was at fault for the accident, due to regulations of the BC Motor Vehicle Act. These benefits include income protection and medical and rehabilitation expenses, which are separate from compensation you may be entitled to claim through a lawsuit against an “at-fault” driver.

Limitation Period: A limitation period is the time period in which you may file a lawsuit for damages, after which the ability to take legal action expires or becomes statute barred. The limitation period applicable will depend on the circumstances of the case, including who the action is brought against. In other jurisdictions, this is sometimes called the ‘statute of limitations’.

Tort Claim: A tort claim is a lawsuit to remedy an unintentional or intentional wrongful act with damages, whether the action was criminal or not and not arising from a contract. In British Columbia, motor vehicle accidents are entirely dealt with on a tort-based system instead of a no-fault system that eliminates the right to sue, or a hybrid system which eliminates the right to sue a certain threshold.

Whiplash: Whiplash, also known as whiplash associated disorder or a soft tissue injury, is injury to the tendons, muscles and ligaments from the sudden jolting forwards and then backwards (or backwards and then forwards) in a whip-like movement or through sudden forcible rotation. The symptoms can be immediate or delayed and can include: stiffness, pain, restricted mobility of the limbs, neck and torso, headaches, fatigue and nausea. While symptoms often improve within 4-6 weeks, sometimes the symptoms can persist long-term.