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Attorney Glossary

Use this brief glossary to get a better understanding of some of the more common terms you may encounter when working with an attorney.

Answer -- The term "answer" is used with lawsuits. It is the formal response from the defendant to the initial "complaint" filed by the plaintiff.

Attorney -- An attorney is a lawyer who has passed the bar examination and is practicing law.

Burden of Proof -- If you intend to file a lawsuit against another party, you, the plaintiff, have to prove your case. The "burden of proof" is on you to prove the other party's negligence.

Complaint -- The term "complaint" is used with lawsuits. It is the formal notification to the court that the plaintiff has a grievance with another party. The defendant will respond to the complaint with an "answer."

Contributory Negligence / Comparative Fault -- Fault is sometimes shared. When this happens, the terms contributory negligence or comparative fault are commonly used.

Damages -- Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits typically seek to recover "damages." For example, your medical costs and lost wages are economic damages that can be recovered with a successful judgment. Other damages, like pain and suffering, may also be sought.

Defendant -- In a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant is the party that is being sued for wrongdoing. For example, in a roof crush case where the plaintiff believes the roof design was defective, the automotive manufacturer would be the defendant.

Negligence -- Negligence means failing to act with reasonable care. In order to win a negligence claim, you actually must prove related things: that the other party had a duty to you, the other party breached that duty, the other party caused the injury, and that damages resulted.

Plaintiff -- In a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff is the party who is suing another party for damages.

Prayer for Relief -- When filing a lawsuit, the plaintiff first files a complaint with the court. Part of that complaint is known as the "prayer for relief," which specifies what damages the plaintiff is seeking.

Statute of Limitations -- For personal injuries and wrongful death cases in Texas, you have a limited amount of time (two years) to file a lawsuit. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations.

Strict Liability -- The burden of proof for negligence is usually on the plaintiff to prove the defendant caused harm and is liable. However, there are some acts that shift the burden of proof to the defendant. This is known as strict liability.

Torts -- Torts are wrongful acts (or the failure to act) that result in harm.