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1. What is a counterclaim? A claim that the defendant in a suit has against the plaintiff from the same transaction.

2. What is discovery and what is its purpose? Discovery allows both parties to “discover” information in the case. The purpose is to narrow the basis of the complaint and to eliminate surprises to both parties.

3. What are interrogatories? Written questions by one party to the other, which are answered under oath.

4. What is a deposition? A formal interview under oath in the presence of a court reporter. The answers in a deposition are oral.

5. Will I end up at trial? Only about 25% of all personal injury cases end in a court; most will settle.

6. I was ordered to pay “costs” what does that include? Usually it will include attorney, clerk, witness, and docket fees.

7. What is civil law? Principles that govern relationships between people, where no crime has been committed.

8. What is a class action lawsuit? When a large group of plaintiffs sue a large group of defendants naming a representative in place of the entire group. Examples would be the tobacco industry suits and the suits against the drug manufactures of the popular diet medications, such as fen-phen.

9. What is negligence? A failure to act reasonably in a situation. Doing something carelessly or failing to do something; i.e. driving without your headlights on.

10. What are punitive damages? Damages awarded to punish the defendant.

11. What does pain and suffering include? This would generally be money awarded over and above medical costs and lost wages.

12. What is loss of consortium? A loss of companionship and care for the victim’s marital partner.

13. What is contributory negligence? A defense to negligence stating that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to their injuries.

14. What is a tort? Conduct intended to harm another person or their property. Examples include fraud, misrepresentation and slander.

15. I fell in a puddle of water at the grocery store. I can sue and win a lot of money, right? Not necessarily. You must first prove the grocery store either created the hazardous situation or had previous knowledge of it. If you can prove both these things, the amount of your “award” will be directly related to your injury, medical costs and loss of income.

16. I didn’t have any medical expenses or lost income when I fell in the store; can I still collect a settlement? This is a big misconception. If you don’t suffer an injury or incur financial losses, chances are slim that you’ll collect any monetary award.

17. How is negligence determined? Negligence does not simple mean doing something wrong. All of the following elements must exist for an act to be considered negligent:

  1. Lack of reasonable care

  2. Breach of duty

  3. Injury to the victim

  4. Forseability (knowing an act would occur based on the circumstances)

  5. Damages

18. What is the statute of limitation in a civil case? Generally 3 years from the date the incident occurred.

19. I was burned by a curling iron; can I sue the manufacturer? This would be a products liability case and you may be able to sue but know that although the manufacture is responsible for defective products, the following will be considered in your case:

  1. Was the defect unreasonably dangerous?
  2. The seller, where you bought the iron from, must be in the business of selling that particular product
  3. The item must not have been substantially changed between the time it left the seller to the time the user had it
  4. The defect directly caused the injury
  5. The product was used properly

20. I’ve heard the phrase “assumption of risk” What does it mean? It is used as part of a defendant’s defense. It states that a user assumes risk in the following ways:

  1. If you’ve discovered the risk, but disregard it
  2. If you’ve failed to properly maintain an item
  3. If you’ve failed to follow the enclosed directions


21. What is wrongful death? Laws that give survivors a cause of action against someone who’s negligence resulted in the victim’s death.

22. What is an appellant? The party who lost at trial is called an appellant on appeal

23. What is emotional distress? Mental anguish.
24. What are injunctions? Court orders for defendant’s to stop them from doing something (i.e. temporary restraining orders).

25. What is litigation? A lawsuit.

26. What does “res ipsa loquitor” mean? It is a Latin phrase meaning, “the thing speaks for itself.”