“What Is a Plaintiff?” and Other Common Legal Jargon Questions

What Is a Plaintiff and Other Common Legalese feature imageThe legal community has its own jargon, just like any other industry. Walk into any office, classroom or company and you will likely hear terms you are unfamiliar with. It can easily become overwhelming.

Not knowing what your lawyer is talking about when you have a personal injury case can make things more confusing and stressful. However, your Miami personal injury attorney from Steinger, Greene & Feiner will always make sure they’re using language you understand.

In case you’re doing your own research, or walk into a different law firm, here are some explanations for the most common “legalese.” (Get more information and detail below the infographic!)


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1. What is a Plaintiff?

A plaintiff is the person that brings the case to court. It may also be the “state” or even the federal government in some cases. In a personal injury case, the victim is most often the plaintiff.

For example: James was injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver. James files a lawsuit in court and is named as the plaintiff. The at-fault driver would be labeled as the defendant.

2. What is a Subpoena?

People are ordered to appear in court. This is what subpoenas do. A subpoena is an official piece of paper that tells a non-defendant that they must appear on behalf of one of the parties and act as a witness. It is different than a summons which, is what is given to the defendant, alerting them to the lawsuit.

3. What is a Deposition?

Part of any court case is witness testimony. In some cases, people cannot appear in court due to other obligations and a judge will permit their testimony to be given outside of the court, transcribed and then used later. This is a deposition.

When you are deposed, you are asked questions just as you would be in court, but you are recorded in a lawyer or judge’s office and your testimony is entered as evidence during the proceedings.

4. What Is Comparative Negligence?

Very few accidents are cut and dry. In some instances, both parties share fault, though one is “the most” at fault. If you had any part in your accident, your award will be reduced by that percentage.

For example: Marta was involved in a car accident in which she was rear-ended from behind, causing her head to snap forward and hit the steering wheel. Marta suffered traumatic brain injury and required extensive medical care.

During the investigation, it was found that while the other driver was following too closely, Marta slammed on her brakes because she overreacted to a situation. The judge finds that Marta was 20 percent negligent, contributing to her own accident. The judge awards her $40,000 for her medical bills, but she only receives $32,000.

5. What Does Compensation Mean?

Compensation is the dollar amount you are seeking in your personal injury case. Your attorney may be helping you seek compensation for medical bills you have already paid and those that you will incur in the future.

You may seek compensation for lost wages and other forms of monetary loss as well. The words compensation and damages are often used interchangeably.

6. What Is Duty of Care?

In personal injury cases that involve negligence, duty is the obligation that the other party, typically the defendant, to provide care. When a person doesn’t meet this duty of care, a legal action may result.

As a driver, you have a duty to operate your vehicle safely and in accordance with the law. As a doctor, you have a duty to treat patients using accepted safety protocols.

7. What Is Gross Negligence?

Negligence is involved in many personal injury cases but the most serious cases may involve gross negligence. It may also be called willful negligence.

When someone behaves in such a reckless manner that they have disregarded the health or safety of another person, they are said to have been grossly negligent.

8. What Is Medical Malpractice?

Doctors make mistakes. When those mistakes lead to the injury of a patient, it is said to be medical malpractice. Medical malpractice may include surgical errors, misdiagnosis, a failure to diagnose or medication errors.

If a patient is not injured due to the mistake, it is not medical malpractice.

9. What Is Preponderance of Evidence?

A criminal court case requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. A civil case requires that the plaintiff has preponderance of evidence. It simply means that you have more proof than the other side.

10. What Is the Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is the time in which you have to file a lawsuit in a personal injury case. It varies by state and by case type. For example, in some instances of personal injury, you may have two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit.

Speak with a Miami Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you have been injured in an accident in South Florida and are interested in pursuing a lawsuit seeking compensation for your financial losses, reach out to our team. We will review the details of your case and advise you of your legal rights. Our Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys are ready for your call. 

You have options to be aware of. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to assist you and your family. Call or reach out online and schedule your free case evaluation.

About The Author

Michael Steinger

Michael Steinger

The Florida BarFlorida Bar Young Lawyers DivisionMillion Dollar Advocates ForumMillion Dollar Advocates ForumBest Workers Compensation Attorneys in MiamiBest Car Accident Lawyers in MiamiLawyers of distinction

MICHAEL S. STEINGER, founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner, believes in representing real people, not big businesses. Since the firm’s creation in 1997, Steinger, Greene & Feiner has never represented an insurance company or large corporation, and he vows to keep this promise. Over the course of his career, Michael has handled thousands of Florida accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients and earning him membership into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving laws protecting injury victims and their families, Michael is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Bar Associations, and sits on the Auto Insurance Committee of the Florida Justice Association.