Legal Jargon Decoded: Understanding Car Accident Laws and Terminology

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a car accident, you are likely dealing with an insurance company. You may be going through the process of filing a claim or you may be preparing for a lawsuit. 

If you are not a lawyer, you will hear certain words and expressions you do not understand or that you do not understand very well. It is helpful to learn the meaning of the legal jargon you will hear bandied about while you are going through the claims process.


You might think you don’t need to read an article to know what the word action means. However, in legal jargon, an action means the initiation of a legal claim. In the case of a car accident, it would normally be a civil lawsuit against a negligent driver or an insurance company. You can click the URL for more information.


An affidavit is a statement of facts made in writing. They are often used as evidence in court. A person makes an affidavit voluntarily. 


An insurance adjuster is an employee of an insurance company who investigates your accident claim and decides if it can be accepted or denied. 

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence means that a person can still receive compensation for an accident if they are partly to blame. There are several sub-categories for comparative negligence. 

Modified comparative fault:

Most states use a modified comparative fault rule. This means you can recover damages as long as you are no more than 50% or 51% responsible for an accident. 

Pure Comparative negligence: 

In a pure comparative fault state, you can recover damages even if you are almost entirely responsible for the crash. For example, if you are 98% responsible for a collision, the other driver’s insurance company would have to pay for 2% of your medical bills. 

Contributory Negligence

Some states have a contributory insurance rule. This rule states that you will not be able to collect insurance money if you are even 1% responsible for an accident. 


The term damages refers to a specific amount of money awarded to a party in a lawsuit. In a car accident lawsuit, damages may be awarded for damage to property, bodily harm, or emotional pain and suffering. 


This is the amount of money you pay out of pocket for an injury claim. For example, If you cause an accident and you have an insurance policy with a $500 deductible, you will pay $500 and the insurance company will pay the rest. 


The defendant is the party in the lawsuit who is being sued. In a car accident lawsuit, this person will be the insurance company or the driver who caused the accident. If a professional driver caused an accident, the defendant may be the company for which they work. 

Expert Witness

An expert witness is a person with an advanced knowledge of a subject who testifies in court about that subject. Some people make a living as expert witnesses. In a car accident case, each side will have a doctor who serves as an expert witness. 

Future Damages

Sometimes injuries from an accident are very severe. Future damages are awarded to a person who will need ongoing treatment. 

Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud takes place when a person stages an accident, or exaggerates the resulting injuries from an accident. 


Liability is legalized for responsibility. If you cause an accident, you will be considered liable for that accident and the resulting damages. 


The term mitigation means you must attempt to minimize the damages you experience after an accident. You must seek medical attention and do everything your doctor recommends. 


Negligence takes place if a person or corporation does not behave with the responsibility that a reasonable person would in similar circumstances. 

No-Fault Rule 

Some states have a no-fault rule when it comes to auto insurance. This means that a driver’s own insurance will pay their medical bills no matter who caused the accident. 


A plaintiff is a person who files a lawsuit against an individual or company. In the case of a class action lawsuit, the class action plaintiff will represent a group of people. 


A tort is the reason for a lawsuit. Negligence is the reason for most car accident injury lawsuits.