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Common Legal Terms

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Review Legal Terms to Know From a San Jose Personal Injury Attorney to Help You Navigate Your Case

When you face a legal situation, it is often difficult to even find a place to start. Navigating the many documents and materials you need to understand what is required of you can be confusing.

At Needham Kepner & Fish LLP, we realize that legal jargon can be intimidating. However, understanding common legal terms can help reduce stress and make your case easier to handle.

Below, we have some basic terminology laid out for you for your convenience. Please keep in mind that every case is different, so you should always get legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Please feel free to contact San Jose personal injury attorney at our firm if you have any questions about your case or to schedule a free consultation.

What Are the Basic Legal Terms to Know to Understand My Case?

Arming yourself with a basic knowledge of legal terms will allow you to be more confident in the claims process. Trusting a legal professional to guide you is always the safest option when facing an injury caused by negligence. However, with an understanding of the process, you can reduce the stress and confusion of a personal injury claim. Some basic legal terms include:

Assumption of Risk

When a person voluntarily proceeds with a risky recreational activity despite the obvious and known danger. In this situation, the individual assumed the risk and thus will generally not be permitted to seek monetary damages from those they believe to be responsible except in certain limited situations, such as where the other party unreasonably increased the risks over and above those inherent in the activity.

Catastrophic Injury

These are injuries that are so serious that they result in long-term or permanent disability. Examples of catastrophic injuries are paralysis, traumatic brain injury and dismemberment.


Discovery is the process of gathering evidence to be used at trial. It typically includes interrogatories (written questions), depositions (oral questions), requests for documents, and requests for admissions.

Product Liability

The area of civil law that holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and other parties who make a defective product available to the public responsible for injuries that the faulty product causes.


Many personal injury lawsuits end in a settlement. This means that the defendant agreed to pay the injury victim an acceptable amount of compensation. If the defendant refuses to settle, the lawsuit will proceed to trial. Defendants’ insurance companies pay most settlements.

Statute of Limitations

This is the time within which you must file a lawsuit. If you do not file suit within the time limit, your claim will be barred. Generally, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit in California is two years, although it can be much shorter in cases involving public entities such as cities or counties.

What Other Terms Should I Know When Filing A Personal Injury Claim?

These next terms may have different specific definitions within the context of a legal claim. It is important to understand the proper usage of these specific terms how they may relate to your incident. With a proper understanding of these definitions, you can recount and include every important detail, which could make a huge difference in the processing of your claim.


Damages are financial compensation for the expenses and suffering a personal injury victim incurred because of someone else’s mistake or wrongdoing. These damages can include past medical bills, the cost of future medical care, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, out-of-pocket expenses, as well as pain and suffering.

Hazardous Exposure

Physical contact with poisonous substances or proximity to toxic airborne agents that are potentially harmful to your health. Liability for hazardous exposure may rest on several parties, including the manufacturer of the product, the company responsible for installation, as well as the owner of the building that contains toxic agents, such as a landlord or employer. Talk to a toxic injury attorney if you sustained an injury or became ill because of hazardous exposure.


Proving negligence is the key to winning the typical personal injury claim. A person is negligent when he or she fails to exercise the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in similar circumstances. In short, negligence is carelessness. To prevail in a personal injury case, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries.

Standard of Care

Cases involving general negligence, the standard of care is the degree of care which a reasonable person would have applied under the same or similar circumstances. In medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors or health care professionals may be liable for damages or injuries if they fail to use the level of skill, knowledge and care in diagnosis and treatment that other reasonably careful medical practitioners would use in the same or similar circumstances.

Wrongful Death

When someone’s negligence causes the death of another person, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death lawsuit to reasonably compensate them for the death of their loved one.

Questions? Call Our Attorneys Serving Sacramento and the Entire Bay Area

At Needham Kepner & Fish LLP, we work hard to help you get compensation if you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence.

To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (408) 716-1668 or contact us online. We handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that you pay us nothing unless you recover compensation.

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