Legal Terms that Should Be in Your Vocabulary Part 2

In part one of the “10 Legal Terms that Should be in Your Vocabulary” we covered the most basic “lawyer speak.” Now we’re back with a sequel that includes ten additional legal terms which could come in handy one day.

There may or may not be a quiz on this later, or you can just use your newfound legalese to impress friends and loved ones.

Discovery

This is the evidence gathering-phase of a case, or the investigation. It is the process of both sides filing documents and paperwork requesting the other to provide certain information about the case. Each party files a request. This process includes things such as interrogatories, which are written questions that must be answered under oath; requests for admissions, which ask for factual admissions or denials; document requests, which ask for documents and other tangible pieces of evidence; depositions, which are verbal questions under oath; andsubpoenas, which are requests for evidence from a nonparty.

Motion

Motions are the papers that ask a court to make a decision concerning which party is right or wrong on a particular issue. They result in a court order.

Pleading

These are the documents that move a case forward. This includes the complaint (the document that initiates a lawsuit). When someone is “sued,” it means a complaint has been filed against them. Other pleadings include the answer (the response to the complaint), cross-claims (one defendant bringing a claim against another defendant), and third-party complaint (one defendant bringing a new party into the case), to name a few.

Default Judgment Prove-Up

Liability has already been established because a default has been issued. This is when the case moves forward to determine what the damages will be.

Malpractice

This is one of those legal terms we hear about a lot and is extremely complicated. Essentially it is the delivery of substandard care or servicesprovided by a doctor, lawyer, dentist or other professional. For example, to prove that a doctor committed malpractice the following must be proven:

  1. The doctor had a duty to provide care to that patient;
  2. The doctor failed to provide sufficient/standard care;
  3. The doctor’s failure to provide treatment within that standard of care was the cause of the injury suffered by the patient/client; and
  4. The doctor’s actions (or non action) caused the patient to suffer a compensable injury (damages).

Negligence

At its most basic level, negligence is simply the failure to exercise care toward others that a reasonable human being would use under similar circumstances. If a plaintiff is suing for damages they must prove:

  1. The defendant had a duty to the injured party or to the general public;
  2. The defendant breached this duty (acted in an unreasonable manner or failed to act when a reasonable person would have acted); and
  3. The damages were actually and proximately caused by that breach of duty.

Bonus Legal Terms

Legal jargon can sound very pretentious sometimes, especially when its in Latin. Here are a few of the most common Latin legal terms you may come across (or pompously choose to use in your everyday conversations).

Inter alia

Translation: “among other things.” It’s basically a fancy way to make a list.  For example, “I need to prepare for my upcoming trip, including, inter alia, pack my suitcase and schedule a ride to the airport.

Pro se

Translation: “for himself.” The law does not require someone to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit, so any person can prosecute or defend their own case themselves. Parry & Pfau strongly discourages you from representing yourself in court without an attorney, but realize that sometimes it is not possible to hire an attorney, so it is necessary to proceed “pro se.” Even Honest Abe himself once said, “[a] person who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

Prima facie

(pry-mah fay-shah)

Translation:  “at first look,” or “on its face.” This legal term refers to what can be presumed after the first disclosure. A prima facie case for example, is when the facts themselves prove the case upon first look.

Are there any legal terms you’ve heard people over-use or use incorrectly?  Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear your anecdotes.

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