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7 Common Legal Terms Explained

Ask anyone around you and they’re sure to say that lawyers have their own language. Often we forget that while we use this type of language every day, our clients are oftentimes unfamiliar with these terms and are hearing these words for the first time. If you have a court case, here are some terms you may terms

  1. Plaintiff – A Plaintiff is the person who files a lawsuit. Another way to think about it is a plaintiff is the person who was wronged and seeks to recover damages from the defendant.
  2. Defendant – The Defendant is the person who is being sued. Although defendants can bring their own claims against the person suing in the same case, called counterclaims, we generally think of a defendant as the person who is being accused of wrongdoing and must defend themselves.
  3. Statute of Limitations – The term Statute of Limitations refers to the amount of time a plaintiff can legally file a lawsuit. These statutes can vary by case type as well as by state.
  4. Liability – Liability refers to the defendant’s responsibility for damages. To put it differently, during a lawsuit you are trying to prove that one party is liable for the injuries and damages suffered by the other.
  5. Damages – Damages typically refers to the amount of money that a client recovers in a lawsuit. However, there are several ways to categorize damages, such as financial damages (e.g. lost wages, lost profit, out of pocket costs, etc.) and non-financial damages (like physical injuries, emotional distress, pain and suffering, permanent disability, etc.). Therefore, you should think of damages as the loss suffered and what could be recovered financially in a lawsuit.
  6. Credibility – Credibility is simply another way of saying that you are believable — that you appear honest and trustworthy when telling your side of the story. This concept of credibility is a central point to almost every kind of lawsuit imaginable. This is particularly true when you have two sides that are telling two very different stories and a judge must choose which version to believe.
  7. Structured Settlements – Structured settlements are used to resolve personal injury claims. They work by taking the money that would otherwise be paid in a lump sum to the plaintiff and investing it so there is a consistent stream of payments over a set period of time. A structured settlement can also be used to settle non-personal injury claims as well.


If you need help filing a lawsuit or require legal counsel of some sort, give Kelly and West Attorneys a call. With over 30 years of experience, our team of highly knowledgeable attorneys has the tools you need to win!

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