As a south Florida private investigator, we have spent many years dealing with thousands of south Florida personal injury cases. Our detectives and private investigators have investigated injury cases caused by motor vehicle accidents, workers’ compensation injuries, slip and falls, dog bites, etc… We are routinely asked questions about negligence, and how our south Florida private investigators can assist your south Florida personal injury lawyer, or workers’ compensation lawyer in providing the proof needed to make the appropriate argument to the bodily injury adjuster or evidence and exhibits for trial if necessary. Some of the most common questions asked about negligence are listed below. As always if you have any questions, feel free to contact Cory T. Knight at (954) 652-0733 or click here to contact any of our private investigators via e-mail.
· The defendant had a duty to use reasonable care towards you
· The defendant breached that duty by acting unreasonably
· It was foreseeable that by acting unreasonably, defendant would cause injury to you
· The defendant’s actions or inactions caused your injury
Once our south Florida private investigators prove that the defendant was negligent, you may have the right to be compensated for your damages, and we may be able to assist you in finding a south Florida injury / accident lawyer that specializes in personal injury or workers' compensation.
It is my understanding that generally speaking, a person owes everyone else with whom he comes in contact a general "duty of care." Normally, you don’t have to worry about this duty - it is the same in all instances, the duty to behave with the care that would be shown by a reasonable person. But there are several situations in which courts hold that people owe one another less than this regular duty. The most important of these situations are: 1) one generally has no duty to take affirmative action to help another; and 2) one generally has no duty to avoid causing unintended mental suffering to another. If you have any questions you need to contact a personal injury lawyer in south Florida for a free consultation and you may ask your questions at that time.
A person generally cannot be liable in tort solely on the grounds that he has failed to act. This means that if you see that another person is in danger, and you fail to render assistance (even though you could do so easily and safely), you are not liable for refusing to assist.
Example: Sam, passing by, sees Mike drowning in a pond. Sam could easily pull Mike to safety without risk to Sam, but instead, Sam walks on by. Sam is not liable to Mike for any harm sustained by Mike.
The key to determining whether someone is negligent is to define what constitutes "reasonable" care in any given set of circumstances. Since there is no clear definition of what is reasonable in any given situation, what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another.
Courts often decide whether someone has exercised reasonable care by asking what a person of average intelligence and judgment would have done under similar circumstances. For example, a "reasonable" driver preparing to make a left hand turn across oncoming traffic would not do so without first checking to make sure that there was ample time to safely make the turn. It would be negligence if a driver failed to check to make sure there was time to make the turn, made the turn anyway, and caused an accident. Our Florida private investigators may assist you with establishing liability and if the defendant failed to use reasonable care which caused your injury accident.
The level of reasonable care required varies, depending on whether you are an adult, child or professional.
Reasonable person standard - An adult is guilty of negligence if he or she fails to act the way a person of ordinary intelligence and judgment would have acted in similar circumstances.
Reasonable child standard - Both a child and his or her parents can be held liable for a child's wrongful conduct. Children, however, are not held to the same level of care as adults. A child's conduct is measured against what would be expected from a similar child of like age, intelligence and experience under similar circumstances. Because a child does not have the same mental capacity or life experience as an adult, the courts recognize that in some instances a child should not be held responsible for otherwise "negligent" behavior. For this reason, children of very young ages generally cannot be held liable for negligence. The judge will decide a child's capacity for negligence. If the child is deemed capable of negligence, then the issue of whether or not the child actually was negligent will be decided by a jury.
One major exception to the rule is that a minor will generally be held to an adult standard of reasonableness if the child is engaging in "adult" activities. For the most part, a child will only be held to this standard in situations in which the child is operating a motorized vehicle.
Professional community standard - Professionals (personal injury lawyers, workers' compensation lawyers, lawyers in general, doctors, architects, engineers, psychiatrists, private investigators, etc.) are held to a higher standard of care due to their specialized training and experience. Professionals and individuals who practice "skilled trades" (plumbers, carpenters, electricians, beauticians, etc.) may be found to be negligent if they do not exercise the same degree of skill and knowledge normally exercised by other qualified and competent members of their professions working in their communities.
In order for a person who is negligent to be liable to you for damages suffered from an accident, it must be proven that the negligence actually caused your injury. Our south Florida private investigators have been quite effective in establishing causation in thousands of personal injury cases. The negligent person’s (tort feasor / defendant) action or inaction can be the sole cause or your injury or one of a number of causes. As always feel free to contact Cory T. Knight at CTK INVESTIATIONS, LLC with any of your personal injury investigative needs. We deal with injuries and accidents in south Florida on a daily basis. Our south Florida private investigators work in conjunction with your south Florida personal injury lawyer to obtain the maximum recovery for your injuries after we assist in establishing causation and damages.
Example: Suppose a truck is speeding too fast along the road when it suddenly approaches a car left abandoned in the middle of the road. To avoid a collision, the driver of the truck attempts to apply the brakes. A local mechanic recently repaired the brakes, but forgot to change the old, worn out brake pads. As a result, the brakes fail and the truck barrels into the parked car, which in turn collides with you as you try to cross the street in an area that is not a designated crosswalk. The resulting injury you received had many causes, including the trucker's negligent driving, the negligent repair of the truck's brakes, the car negligently left in the middle of the road, and your own failure to cross the street in a safe manner.
In the above example, the judge or jury determines the degree of the each party’s negligence and apportions to each party a portion of the total damages you suffered based on each party’s percentage of fault for causing your injury. This process is called "comparative negligence", and is the method the damage amount is awarded in Florida. Florida adopts a ''pure'' form of comparative negligence, which means that the fault of the plaintiff and the defendant will be compared regardless of which party is more culpable. Under the pure comparative fault doctrine, the trier of fact first determines whether the plaintiff was partially responsible for the injury. It must then ascertain what percentage of the total negligence is attributable to the plaintiff as compared with the fault of all other persons whose conduct contributed to the injury. Moore v. St. Cloud Utilities, 337 So. 2d 982 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976). For instance, if you are 30 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover 70 percent of your damages. If you are 70 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover only 30 percent of your damages. All of the other parties alleged to be at fault would then be responsible for paying you 30% of your total damages, apportioned between them in proportion to the amount of fault assigned to them. The doctrine of comparative fault is also codified. Florida comparative fault statute provides that any contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant's contributory fault, but does not bar recovery. Fla. Stat § 768.81(2)
Our south Florida private detectives can discuss your personal injury or workers' compensation injury accident with you FREE of charge. We may be able to assist you in your car crash, slip and fall, dog bite, workplace violence, or any other Florida workers' compensation matter. Over our years of investigations, we have dealt with many Hollywood, Florida personal injury lawyers that have successfully negotiated and tried cases with our assistance. Ask us today about some of the Miami workers' compensation attorneys, or Miami personal injury attorneys that we deal with. Many of these Florida accident and injury attorneys are able to take your case on a contingency fee basis. That means no money out of your pocket. They get paid their fees and costs at the end of the case IF there is a recovery. Click here for a FREE consultation.
In some circumstances, proof that an individual violated a statute or law is enough to prove that the individual is negligent. Under the doctrine of "negligence per se", an individual is negligent if he or she violates a legislative statute, regulation or ordinance and causes an injury or loss.
Example: Suppose an ordinance prohibits people from making U-turns at a particular intersection. If an individual makes an illegal U-turn and injures someone while making the turn, the person who made the illegal turn can automatically be held responsible for the injuries, regardless of whether they used reasonable care when making the U-turn. The fact that they violated the ordinance makes them negligent per se.
The doctrine of negligence per se applies only if the accident is the type of accident the statute or ordinance was designed to prevent and the injured party is within the class of people that the statute or ordinance was meant to protect.
Example: A U-turn law is normally enacted to protect other drivers passing through the intersection. If a driver passing through the intersection is injured by someone making an illegal U-turn, the doctrine of negligence per se is applicable.
In certain situations an individual's violation of a statute or ordinance is excusable in certain circumstances. For the most part, these permissible excuses include physical circumstances beyond the individual's control, sudden emergency situations not created by the individual, and/or situations in which compliance with the law would create a greater danger to those involved than would a violation of the law. Over our many years of investigations, we have dealt with many Hollywood, Florida personal injury lawyers that have successfully negotiated and tried cases with our assistance. As us today about some of the Miami workers' compensation attorneys, or Miami personal injury attorneys that we deal with. Many of these Florida accident and injury attorneys are able to take your case on a contingency fee basis. That means no money out of your pocket. They get paid their fees and costs at the end of the case IF there is a recovery. Click here for a FREE consultation.
If you participate in activities that you know are risky or dangerous, and are injured as a result, it may be determined that you "assumed the risk" of injury associated with that activity. For example, a skier who knowingly skis down a steep mountain containing large moguls assumes the risk of harm inherent in such an activity. His claim for damages would most likely fail, unless his injury resulted from a condition unrelated to those for which he was fully able to appreciate and assess the risk. For example, the skier may have realized that skiing can be hazardous and have a full understanding of the dangers. However, he would not have anticipated that a ski-lift cable would break and fall in his path, causing him to fall and get injured. Assumption of risk does not protect the defendant in this type of situation. If there is any question of liability or assumption of risk, we may be able to get you in contact with a Hollywood Florida personal injury lawyer that will be more than happy to offer you a FREE case consultation.
Open and Obvious Danger
Another defense which is similar to assumption of risk arises when you engage in an activity that poses an open and obvious danger. Whereas assumption of risk focuses on an array of dangers that are inherently possible, open and obvious conditions deal with one’s knowledge of a specific known threat. For example, suppose you enter your neighbor's yard knowing that it contains an angry pit bull, and despite the posted warning, "Danger, attack dog, do not enter. Your neighbor could use the open and obvious danger defense to argue that you clearly understood the danger of being bitten by the dog but decided to enter the property nonetheless.
Cory T. Knight and many of our south Florida private investigators at CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC, deal with many slip and falls or trip and fall cases daily. One of the most common defenses to an argument from insurance companies or adjusters is "Open and Obvious". Our south Florida investigators can assist your personal injury lawyer in Florida with establishing a foundational argument that opposes the open and obvious defense. We have investigated hundreds of trip and fall cases in Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Miami Beach, Davie, Plantation, Vero Beach, Orlando, Florida Keys, and many other cities in Florida. We may also be able to recommend a Florida injury lawyer that specializes in injury and accident cases such as trip and fall or slip and falls. Feel free to call us today for a FREE consultation at (954) 652-0733. You may choose to contact one of our private investigators via e-mail by clicking here.
As with all lawsuits, a statute of limitations (2) restricts the time in which you can file a lawsuit for negligence. In Florida, the statute of limitations for negligence is two years. If you miss the deadline, you have no legal recourse. Note that this time is much shorter if you are alleging negligence against a public entity, municipality, or public employee, in which case a notice of claim must be filed within 180 days from the date of the accident.(Fla. Stat. § 95.11) If you are injured, it is essential that you contact an attorney immediately so as be sure to preserve all of your legal rights before they are barred by law. Our private investigators will be more than happy to get you in contact with a personal injury attorney in south Florida that can explain FREE of charge your rights in a personal injury case and explain the various statute of limitations in different cases. On a daily basis our private investigators are involved with many cases with personal injury and workers' compensation firms in South Florida. These south Florida personal injury and workers' compensation attorneys will be more than willing to speak to you about your case and claim FREE of charge. Call us today for a FREE case review at (954) 652-0733.
Florida Statute of Limitations
A law establishing the time limit within which a lawsuit must be brought is called a statute of limitation. Different types of cases have different statutes of limitation. Knowing which statute of limitation applies is critical, since if a lawsuit is not brought within the time limit that applies to the case, the right to sue and recover damages is forever lost. The statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is usually relatively short and subject to a number of factors.
There are also different exceptions that may apply for each type of case, which may extend the statute of limitations. Of course, regardless of the possible availability of an exception, it is always beneficial to bring a lawsuit as soon as it is practical to do so, since the availability (and memory) of witnesses to an accident and related physical evidence is much greater shortly after an accident than after years have passed. It is critical that you contact an attorney immediately after suffering any injury so that the appropriate statute of limitations can be determined. At CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC., we make sure to explore all aspects of your case as soon as possible to ensure that no claims are lost as a result of untimely action.
In all matters involving personal injury it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one is a victim of personal injuries, call CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC now at (954)652-0733 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A NEW CLIENT FORM. The initial consultation is FREE of charge. We can also recommend some of the South Florida personal injury lawyers that we have dealt with for many years that will work on a contingent fee basis, which means they get paid for their services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. The south Florida injury and accident attorneys we can recommend can advise you of your legal rights, CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC can provide the investigation of your accident and assist in establishing negligence.
The burden of proof in all negligence claims, including automobile accident claims, is on the plaintiff. This means that the plaintiff must go forward first with the evidence at the trial and must present evidence from which a fact finder (judge or jury) could reasonably conclude that the defendant was negligent, that the defendant's negligence proximately caused the accident and that the plaintiff's injuries are causally related to the accident. The standard which plaintiffs are held to in civil cases, including automobile accident cases, is called the "preponderance of the evidence " standard. It is much less strict than the standard in criminal cases of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt." The "preponderance of the evidence" standard has been defined to mean that the evidence presented by plaintiffs must be more likely to be true or accurate than not true. In essence this means that plaintiff’s evidence must convince a fact-finder mind more than 50% that the facts alleged by the plaintiff are true.
This can be illustrated for juries by comparing it to the scale of justice. If one party's evidence is placed on one side of the scale and the other party's evidence is placed on the other side of the scale, the slightest tipping in favor of the party bearing the burden of proof on an issue means that that party has prevailed on the particular issue. If the scale remains evenly balanced, then the party who bears the burden of proof on an issue has failed to sustain the burden. Each party who has the burden of proof on a particular issue, in order to prevail on that issue, must sustain their burden of proof based upon a "preponderance of the evidence".
The most significant issue to most people involved in a personal injury claim is the issue of damages. Obtaining fair and just compensation for injuries you have sustained is the primary concern at CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC. By using our experience and the extensive resources available to us on your behalf, we focus on achieving the highest possible monetary recovery for you by providing you or your south Florida personal injury attorney with the evidence needed to substantiate your injuries.
When a judge or jury finds the defendant liable for wrongful conduct in a personal injury case, the issue then becomes what types of damages are due to the plaintiff, and in what amount. As you know, if you suffer a personal injury you'll likely require medical attention and may need rehabilitation, all of which costs substantial sums of money. You may lose income (and/or have to use up "sick time") because of the injury, and you may continue to lose income while treatment and recovery takes place. You may have sustained property damage to your car and other property. Since you can't drive your vehicle while it is being repaired, you may have to rent one, and car repairs and rentals can cost money. You may also lose the ability to perform various activities of normal daily living, for a while or permanently. You may also endure significant pain and suffering, which may be ongoing as well.
The law permits you to seek recovery after an accident to "make you whole again." The central concept is that you should be compensated in a manner that, as best as the law can arrange, places you back in the same position as you were before the accident. In most personal injury actions the plaintiff must have been injured in some way to be entitled to damages. For example, in negligence cases, we must prove that you suffered injury (some type of physical, emotional or monetary harm) for the defendant to be required to pay compensation to you. However, with some intentional torts (such as battery, assault or trespass) we may only have to show that the defendant engaged in the unauthorized conduct, without proving that you suffered actual physical harm, in order to recover damages (though damages in these situations are often nominal absent serious injury).
Three basic kinds of damages are awarded in personal injury cases: compensatory damages, punitive damages and nominal damages.
In all matters involving personal injury it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one is a victim of a personal injury accident, call Cory T. Knight at CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC. now at (954) 652-0733 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A NEW CLIENT FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if needed we can recommend Florida injury lawyers that have successfully represented our clients over the years. If they agree to accept your case, the personal injury lawyers will work on a contingent fee basis, which means they get paid for their services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don’t delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. Over our years of investigations, we have dealt with many Hollywood, Florida personal injury lawyers that have successfully negotiated and tried cases with our assistance. Ask us today about some of the Miami workers' compensation attorneys, or Miami personal injury attorneys that we deal with. Many of these Florida accident and injury attorneys are able to take your case on a contingency fee basis. That means no money out of your pocket. They get paid their fees and costs at the end of the case IF there is a recovery. Click here for a FREE consultation.
As always, feel free to contact Cory T. Knight at CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC for a FREE consultation.
Florida Private Investigator Code of Ethics
The employees of CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC have the common understanding that all private investigative work and professional relationships must be of the highest ethical and moral standards. Our Florida private investigation agency shall provide professional and competent services to all of our clients. This code of ethics constitutes those core values agreed to by all of our employees of CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC. This code is to be honored and practiced as a guideline for all professional activities.
1. An employee shall provide professional services in accordance with local, state, and federal laws.
2. An employee shall observe, and adhere to the precepts of honesty, integrity, and truthfulness.
3. An employee shall be truthful, diligent, and honorable in the discharge of their professional responsibilities.
4. An employee shall honor each client contract, adhering to all responsibilities by providing ethical services within the limits of the law.
5. An employee shall safeguard confidential information and exercise the utmost care to prevent any unauthorized disclosure of such information.
6. An employee shall refrain from improper and unethical solicitation of business; including false or misleading claims or advertising.
7. An employee shall use due diligence to insure that all employees and co-workers adhere to this same code of ethical conduct; respecting all persons, performing the job diligently and working within the limits of the law.
8. An employee shall never knowingly cause harm or defame the professional reputation or practice of colleagues, clients, owners, the company, or any employee of the company.
9. An employee shall never undertake an assignment that is contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America or the security interests of this country, or in opposition of State or Federal Laws.
We understand and agree to abide by all elements of the code as described above at all times while conducting investigations for Cory Knight and CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC.
The Florida private investigation agency of CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC, has investigated thousands of Florida workers’ compensation claims. We all know that construction sites can be hazardous places, and as a result there are many laws in place to protect the construction workers who work on these dangerous sites. Dangerous conditions such as overhead electrical wiring, heavy equipment, and weather can all lead to construction accidents. Unfortunately, many Florida workers’ compensation accident cases are entirely preventable, since many of them are caused by employers ignoring laws, or caused by negligence, or by product defects. If you or a loved one has suffered due to a construction accident, or other Florida workers’ compensation accident feel free to contact your Florida private investigator for assistance today. Our private investigation agency has a comprehensive understanding of the Florida workers’ compensation statute and your rights. Furthermore, we may be able to recommend qualified Florida accident attorney today. The right Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can ensure that you get the help and the legal assistance you need to start over.
Accidents on construction sites can be devastating and life-altering. Equipment failure and electrical accidents can lead to burns and severe injuries, as well as fatalities. Falls from scaffolding and other heights can mean death, paralysis, brain injuries, or severe spinal cord injuries. Such accidents can cause many hours of lost wages, great pain, expensive medical treatment, and ongoing rehabilitation. Many insurance companies unfortunately designed to protect workers hire lawyers, and this makes it important for anyone injured on a construction site or any other Florida workers’ compensation location to seek the help of a Florida private investigator and Florida workers’ compensation attorney today. The attorneys at we have worked with on many cases, may be able to help you understand all your legal rights so that you can pursue all the benefits and compensation owed you under the law.
Many injured workers do not understand that they can make claims against third parties — not just employers — and this can be vital to getting the maximum amount of benefits to ensure good quality medical care and rehabilitative treatment. Many workplace injuries leave trauma and physical pain that requires many months or even years of treatment. Qualified Florida private investigators and Florida workers’ compensation attorneys can ensure that insurance companies continue to offer assistance for this treatment, so that full recovery can take place.
Call our South Florida construction accident private investigator at CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC. We have years of experience in workplace accident and construction site accident cases, so we can offer you the expertise you need to get the assistance you deserve. All of the Florida workers’ compensation attorneys we may recommend to you will work on a contingency basis, so you do not have to worry about legal fees unless and until they win you benefits. In addition, we offer a complimentary, no-obligation FREE consultation so that you can speak to a Florida private investigator that has many years experience dealing with Florida workers’ compensation cases and can attest for Florida workers’ compensation attorney’s who can let you know all the facts you need to pursue a construction accident case. Please feel free to contact Cory T. Knight or one of our south Florida private investigators at (954) 652-0733 to discuss your investigative needs. If you prefer, you can contact CTK INVESTIGATIONS, LLC via e-mail by clicking here.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR): Refers to the broad array of alternatives to trial for resolution of legal disputes. Includes mediation, arbitration, and settlement conferences.
AFFIDAVIT: A written statement made under oath.
ANSWER: A formal pleading which states the defendant's response to plaintiffs's complaint. The defendant, in the State of Washington, has twenty (20) days to answer, admit, or deny the allegations in plaintiff's complaint.
APPEAL: A request by a party for a higher court to review a lower court's decisions regarding questions of law.
ARBITRATION: Alternative to trial where parties agree to appoint an individual or panel to make a binding award or decision based on the evidence and testimony presented.
BAD FAITH: Actions by an insurer designed to mislead an insured; refusal or negligence of insurer in fulfilling some duty or contractual obligation.
BENCH TRIAL: A case heard and decided by a judge without a jury.
BRIEF: A written document prepared by an attorney to serve as the basis for a legal argument. It includes a summary of legal points and precedent, together with arguments to be presented to the court deciding the case or a particular issue of the case.
BUSINESS RECORDS: Common type of documentary evidence. Business includes any association, profession, occupation, and calling of any kind, whether or not conducted for profit. Records include memoranda, reports, chart notes, billing ledgers, etc., created and kept in the ordinary course of doing business, that document acts, events, and conditions. The information contained in the record must be supplied by a person with first-hand knowledge of the underlying events, conditions, etc.
CIVIL LAW: Law developed by governmental groups including statutes, regulations and ordinances enacted by legislative bodies such as Congress, state legislatures, county and city officials. This is different than laws based on custom.
CIVIL RULE 35 EXAMINATION: Also known as the insurance or defense medical exam (IME or DME). A form of discovery in which the defense has the right, with limited exceptions, to have their own medical expert examine and evaluate the plaintiffs injuries. This may include a psychological evaluation in cases where there is a claim for psychological damages. See also IME.
CLAIM: A demand for compensation.
CLAIMANT: A person who makes a claim or asserts a right. The plaintiff in a personal injury case may also be known as the claimant.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: The chronological and psychological conclusion of a trial. The last opportunity for the attorneys representing each party to communicate directly with the jury and/or judge about their theory of the case, explain contested facts, and argue why their side should prevail.
COMPARATIVE FAULT: An affirmative defense available to the defendant. Reduction of the plaintiffs recovery in proportion to the percentage of negligence or fault attributed to the plaintiff.
COMPLAINT: A formal statement filed by the plaintiff with the court that sets forth his/her injuries and damages and why he/she believes the defendant is liable.
COMMON LAW: Body of law developed over a long period of time which derives its authority solely from usage and custom.
COUNTER CLAIM: The defendant sues the plaintiff for damages for which the defendant claims the plaintiff is legally liable or at fault.
COURT RULES: The rules governing legal proceedings in all courts in Washington state. Many counties also have Local Rules (LR) specifying rules of practice unique to that county.
COURT OF APPEALS: This court is established to review appeals from the trial court. It can affirm or overturn, in whole or in part, a trial court's decision. A party has a legal right to appeal any final decision of a superior court to the Court of Appeals.
CROSS CLAIM: The defendant brings a claim against another defendant in the same lawsuit or identifies a new party not previously named by the plaintiff in the lawsuit, asserting that party is responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.
CROSS EXAMINATION: The questioning of a witness by the adverse party.
DECREE: A judgment or order issued by a court.
DEFAMATION: Injury to a person's character, fame, or reputation by false and malicious statements.
DEFAULT JUDGMENT: When a defendant fails to formally answer a plaintiffs complaint in a timely manner, the plaintiff may ask the court to enter a judgment against the defendant. Most often in personal injury cases, these judgments are set aside once the defendant begins to comply with the rules and initiates a formal defense by filing an answer.
DEFENDANT: The party the plaintiff claims is responsible for his/her damages and from whom the plaintiff seeks some form of relief.
DEMAND LETTER: A letter expressly stating a legal right and an amount due as reasonable compensation for injuries to person and/or property.
DEPOSITION: A form of discovery whereby the attorney calling for the deposition has the right to ask questions and obtain answers from a party, witness, or expert while that individual is under oath. Notice of the deposition must be served on the party or witness five (5) days in advance of the date of the deposition unless the parties agree otherwise. A court reporter makes a word for word record of all that is said at the deposition.
DIRECT EXAMINATION: The questioning of a witness by the attorney for the party on whose behalf the witness is called.
DIRECTED VERDICT: At the close of a plaintiff’s case, a defendant asks the court to rule that the plaintiff has failed to put forth sufficient evidence, even when viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, to support his/her claim. If the court so rules, the defendant is entitled to a dismissal without the defendant ever having to put on his/her case. Also, at the close of defendant's case, plaintiff can ask the court to rule in its favor with a directed verdict on liability or special damages.
DISCOVERY PROCESS: Procedure for examination of documentary and physical evidence, and questioning of witnesses and parties to uncover evidence which is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Discovery may be obtained by the parties through interrogatories, requests for production of documents, depositions, and defense medical examination. Information that can be obtained in discovery is broader in scope than what is deemed to be admissible at trial.
DISTRICT COURT: These are courts of limited jurisdiction in Washington which have jurisdiction over cases not involving real estate, false imprisonment, defamation, malicious prosecution, or actions against executors of wills, and which otherwise do not exceed $50,000.00 in claimed damages.
DOCKET: A calendar or agenda of court proceedings prepared by the clerk of the court. For example, a trial docket is a list of cases set to be tried in a specified term.
EVIDENCE: Testimony, writings, material objects, etc. that are admissible and offered by a party to the trier of fact to prove the existence or non-existence of a fact.
EXPERT WITNESS: An individual who possesses specialized knowledge through skill, education, training, or experience beyond that of the ordinary person or juror, and whose knowledge will aid the trier of fact (jury, judge, arbitrator) in reaching a proper decision. Often, a health care provider who examines and evaluates a patient in anticipation of litigation.
FEDERAL COURTS: Courts of the United States created by Article III of the Constitution or by Congress. Lawsuits filed in federal court include cases in which an agency of the federal government is named as a defendant or where the plaintiff and defendant reside in different states.
GENERAL DAMAGES: Money damages for pain and suffering, disability, or reduction in quality of life.
GUARDIAN: A person with the lawful power and duty to take care of a person and manage his/her property and/or rights.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM: A guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of a minor.
HEARING: Proceedings at which a judge, arbitrator or administrative officer makes determinations of fact or law after argument by both parties. Administrative hearings may be investigative or result in a final order or determination of the matter. Ex Parte hearing is when only one party is present, although notice of the hearing may be given to the other party.
HEARSAY: Refers to statements made by persons other than the person testifying. The statement is a mere repetition of what the witness has heard others say out of court, and is offered as proof in the matter on which the witness is testifying. Generally, hearsay evidence is not admissible and is excluded from consideration by the trier of fact; however, there are numerous exceptions. One exception to the rule is statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment, including description of medical history, past or present pain, sensations, etc.
HUNG JURY: A jury which is unable to agree on a verdict after a suitable period of deliberation; sometimes referred to as a dead-locked jury. The result is a mistrial.
INSURED: The person who purchases an insurance policy or is otherwise covered by it.
INDEMNIFY: One party gives another party security for the reimbursement of payments required in case of an anticipated loss.
INJUNCTION: An order issued by the court prohibiting a person from or requiring him/her to perform some act.
IME: Insurer's refer to this as an "independent medical examination." Attorneys representing injured people refer to this as an "insurance medical examination." An insurer may require the injured person to attend an IME under the provision of the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Policy or by a defendant after a lawsuit is filed in court. See Civil Rule 3S Examination. In either instant, the insurance company selects the doctor of their choice and pays for the examination.
IMPEACHMENT: A technique used during cross-examination to discredit a witness's testimony. Impeachment can be accomplished in a number of ways: by demonstrating and emphasizing the difference between the witness's testimony at trial and a prior statement, showing bias, showing erroneous assumptions made by the witness in drawing conclusions, etc. The intent of impeachment is to show the jury that the witness cannot be believed.
INSURER: The underwriter or insurance company with whom a contract of insurance is made.
INTERROGATORIES: A discovery device consisting of written questions submitted by one party to another party. Written answers to interrogatories are given under oath.
JUDGMENT: A final order which puts an end to a lawsuit. The judgment states the final amount of any monetary award made to a party by a judge, jury or arbitrator, as well as which party must pay for it.
JUROR: A member of the jury.
JURY: A group of persons selected from the citizens of a particular district who are temporarily invested with the power to indict a person for a criminal offense or to decide a question of fact in a civil case and award damages. In personal injury cases, either party may ask for a jury trial. Depending on the court, a jury will consist of 6 or 12 people. With a six-person jury, five out of six jurors' votes are needed for a verdict. With a twelve-person jury, ten jurors are needed for a verdict; twelve out of twelve are needed for a criminal conviction.
LAWSUIT: A claim or cause of action instituted or pending between private persons or entities in a court of law. In order to properly commence a lawsuit, a complaint must be filed with the court and the defendant must be served or given a copy of the summons and complaint.
LAY WITNESS: A person, with knowledge based on his/her first-hand observations, whose testimony is helpful to determine the facts at issue. Liability lay witnesses testify regarding the facts of the accident. Lay damage witnesses testify regarding the plaintiff’s injuries and the effects of those injuries on the plaintiff’s lifestyle.
LEADING QUESTION: A question which suggests an answer with which the witness is asked to agree. Form of questioning used during cross-examination and generally not permitted during direct examination.
LIABILITY: Responsibility or fault for an incident resulting in injuries and damages to person and/or property.
LIEN: An encumbrance on property to secure payment of a debt. A health care provider has a right to place a lien on a claim to guarantee that his/her bills will be paid when the case concludes.
LIQUIDATED DAMAGES: The amount of money agreed upon by the parties to a contract that must be paid by one or the other in the event that contract is breached.
LITIGATION: The process of filing a lawsuit and then prosecuting it or defending against it. Discovery will begin after a lawsuit is filed.
MALPRACTICE: Misconduct in a professional capacity through negligence, carelessness, lack of skill, or malicious intent.
MANDATORY ARBITRATION: When a party files a lawsuit in Superior Court and claims damages of $35,000.00 or less, he/she may first submit their case to arbitration before a full trial. Either party can appeal a mandatory arbitration award by going to trial. The risk to the appealing party is that if it does not obtain a better result at trial, it must pay the costs and attorney fees of the other party. Not all counties have mandatory arbitration.
MEDIATION: A procedure by which an impartial third person meets with all the parties and attempts, in an informal setting, to find common ground so that a compromise can be reached to settle the claim or complaint.
MINOR: A person who is under the age of legal competence.
MISTRIAL: Trial which is terminated before its normal conclusion. The judge may declare a mistrial because of some extraordinary event, prejudicial error that cannot be corrected, or because of a hung jury.
MITIGATE: To diminish or reduce. An injured party has the duty to mitigate his/her damages, including pain and suffering, by taking reasonable steps to get better.
MOTION: A formal written request submitted by a party to a court on a specific issue for consideration and resolution.
MOTION IN LIMINE: A motion requesting the court to exclude or limit certain types of documentary evidence and/or testimony which is not relevant to the issues or is unfairly prejudicial. Most commonly done prior to commencement of the trial.
NEGLIGENCE PER SE: Negligent as a matter of law. Now limited to violations of statutes and administrative codes relating to electrical fire safety, use of smoke alarms, or driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquors and/or drugs. In these instances a plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant's actions or inaction fell below a reasonable standard of care -the mere violation of the statute is sufficient proof of negligence.
OBJECTION: Used to call the court's attention to improper evidence or procedure. Objections also serve to identify evidence or legal issues that may be taken up on appeal to a higher court.
OPENING ARGUMENT: The attorneys' first opportunity to tell the jury or other trier of fact what the case is about, including what evidence will be revealed through the witnesses' testimony and exhibits.
ORDER: A directive of a judge.
PARTY: A person or entity that takes part in a legal proceeding or transaction.
PERJURY: False or misleading testimony while under oath to tell the truth. A criminal offense.
PLAINTIFF: The party who requests damages and initiates a civil lawsuit.
PLEADINGS: The formal, written documents filed by the parties with the court which set forth, or elaborate on, their respective claims and defenses.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: A letter or document authorizing one person to act as an agent or attorney for another.
PREJUDICE OUTWEIGHS PROBATIVE VALUE: Rule of evidence which provides that relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger that it may confuse or mislead the jury, or unfairly prejudice the opposing party.
PRIVILEGE: Protection against disclosure of information based on communications made in confidence between parties having legally protected relationships. Based on the policy that it is better to have frank, open communications between parties in certain relationships by protecting these communications from disclosure in litigation. Pertains to communications between attorney/client, doctor/patient, priest/penitent, and husband/wife.
PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE: Degree of evidence necessary for a plaintiff to win in a civil case. Evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition. On a scale of 1 to 100, fifty-one percent (S 1 %) or better
PRO SE: When a party does not retain an attorney and appears for and represents himself/herself in court.
PROTECTIVE ORDER: If an objection is made to a discovery request because it seeks information of a sensitive nature, is not relevant, or is harassing in nature, a motion is made for a protective order. A common example is medical information that is clearly irrelevant to the injuries claimed, will not lead to admissible evidence, and which is of a sensitive nature. The court may grant a protective order allowing a party or witness to not comply with a discovery request for that information. In some instances, protective orders may allow the defense attorney to review the information, but will dictate how the information is to be stored, who has access to it, and what happens to the information once the case concludes.
PROXIMATE CAUSE: Refers to a cause which leads directly, or in an unbroken sequence, to a particular result. An element of negligence.
REASONABLE MEDICAL CERTAINTY: Standard for admission into evidence of opinions of a health care provider concerning his/her patient's condition, diagnosis, or prognosis. A doctor's opinion cannot be based on possibilities, but rather must be founded on probabilities. Reasonable medical certainty means "more probably than not."
RELEASE: Waiver, relinquishment, or giving up a right, claim, or demand.
RELEVANT EVIDENCE: Evidence having a tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Generally, only relevant evidence is admissible.
REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON (RCW): Compilation of statutory laws enacted by the state legislature. Organized topically into volumes, containing chapters and sections.
RULES OF EVIDENCE: Rules of law which determine which testimony, documents, etc. should be submitted for consideration by a judge or a jury, and the weight such evidence is to be given in determining a question of fact.
SERVICE OF PROCESS: Refers to the rules of law prescribing the manner, and upon whom, a summons and complaint giving a defendant notice of a lawsuit, must be served. The person giving notice must be someone other than a party to the lawsuit, who is eighteen (18) years or older, and competent to be a witness.
SETTLEMENT: A final resolution of a claim by agreement between the parties.
SMALL CLAIMS COURT: Court of limited jurisdiction available for resolution of disputes by the parties without attorneys. Original purpose was to "bring justice home to every man's door". Limited to claims not in excess of $2,500.00. Parties represent themselves at the hearing. Attorneys are restricted from participating.
SPECIAL DAMAGES: Fixed costs or expenses attributable to any injury or loss, including past, present, and future income loss, treatment costs, and other out-of pocket expenses. STATUTE: Written law enacted by the legislature.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: Laws enacted by every state which govern the time frame when a lawsuit must be filed, and beyond which the claim can no longer be made. Statutes of limitation differ from state to state and according to the nature of the claim. In Washington, the limitation. period applicable to most claims for personal injuries and damages caused by negligence, including motor vehicle accidents, is three years.
SUBPOENA: A written command requiring a person to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony at a deposition or other proceeding. A subpoena need only give the person five (5) court days notice to be valid.
SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM: A written command requiring a witness to produce documentary or other tangible evidence he/she possesses or controls and which is relevant to matters at issue in the case.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT: A procedure by which one party seeks to persuade the court that there is no genuine issue or controversy regarding material facts, and accordingly, that the party filing the motion is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.
SUMMONS: Notice to all defendants that a lawsuit has been commenced, that they have been named as a defendant, and that they must answer the complaint within twenty (20) days or a default judgment may be taken against them.
SUPERIOR COURT: Court of general jurisdiction over claims exceeding $300.00 and cases involving probate, family law, real estate and criminal felonies. Also has jurisdiction over appeals from District Court.
SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON: Highest appellate court in Washington state. Has discretion to accept or reject any appeal from the Court of Appeals.
TESTIMONY: A formal statement, by a party or witness in a case under oath. Statement may be verbal or written.
TORT: French word meaning "wrong". Body of law which determines rights and liabilities when property is damaged or a person is injured, through negligent or intentional conduct.
TORT REFORM ACT: In 1986, the Washington State Legislature made numerous and substantial changes to Washington tort liability law. Changes include automatic waiver of patient/physical privilege after ninety (90) days after filing a lawsuit, and a cap on non-economic damages (which has since been found unconstitutional and invalidated by the Washington Supreme Court).
TORTFEASOR: One who has committed a tort.
TRIAL: judicial examination and determination of legal and factual issues between the parties to an action. Maybe civil or criminal. In a trial by jury the jury decides questions of fact with the judge determining the law to be applied. In a trial by judge, he/she decides both the facts and the law to be applied.
TRIAL DE NOVO: Means "new trial." In mandatory arbitration, after the parties receive the award or decision, a party not satisfied with the award may appeal by filing a request for a trial with the Superior Court. The request must be made within twenty (20) days of the award being filed with the court. No information about the previous arbitration hearing or award can be revealed at the trial.
TRIER OF FACT: The decision maker who will hear the evidence and decide the outcome of a claim. Can be an arbitrator at a hearing, or a judge or jury at trial.
VENUE: Relates to determination of which county a lawsuit should be filed in. In personal injury cases the plaintiff may sue the defendant in the county where the defendant resides, has his/her principal place of business, or where the accident took place.
VERDICT: The definitive answer given by the jury concerning the issues the judge asked them to resolve.
VOIR DIRE: Part of the jury selection process. A number of prospective jurors are selected and seated in the jury box. The judge and/or lawyers ask a series of questions to disclose any predisposition or biases that may impact their judgment. Generally, each party is entitled to three preemptory challenges by which prospective jurors can be removed without cause. If the judge so finds, jurors may also be removed for cause due to obvious bias or other reasons demonstrating an inability to serve.
WAIVER: A knowing, intelligent, and voluntary surrender of a known right or claim.
WASHINGTON ADMINISTRATIVE CODE (WAC): Current administrative regulations created by state agencies to carry out the laws passed by the state legislature. When rules are proposed, they must be published and an opportunity given for public comment before they can go into effect. Also includes rules for hearing claims and appeals over which agencies have jurisdiction.
WITNESS: Someone with knowledge pertaining to the facts of the case. Each party identifies his/her witnesses prior to trial or arbitration.
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