Tort: this is a term for a wrong done to another that causes damages.
Plaintiff: the party who brings the legal action against another.
Defendant: the other; or more particularly, the person or company that allegedly caused the injuries and damages. Also referred to as the “tortfeasor.”
Pleadings: the papers filed in court to advance the lawsuit.
Complaint: the pleading filed by the Plaintiff that initiates the lawsuit.
Answer: the pleading filed by the Defendant in response to the Complaint.
Discovery and Disclosure–
Disclosure Statement: after the lawsuit is initiated (with a Complaint filed by the Plaintiff and an Answer filed by a Defendant), the parties must exchange Disclosure Statements. Although it may not be unique to Arizona, not every state has this requirement in its rules of civil procedure. The Disclosure Statements tell the other side what your case (or defense) is all about, who your witnesses are, what your evidence will be, and any other relevant information about the case that you may know, but the other parties may not know. As new information becomes known, the parties have a continuous duty to supplement their Disclosure Statements.
Interrogatories: these are questions, and usually come in written form, served by one party onto another party. For instance, the Defendant may serve interrogatories onto the Plaintiff. The party served must answer these written questions within a certain amount of time. The attorney assists his or her client in answering the interrogatories. Interrogatories are part of the discovery phase of the case.
Request for the Production of Documents: like written interrogatories ask for information, these requests ask for copies of documents. For instance, if the Plaintiff is making a lost wages claim (i.e., that he or she lost income as a result of the Defendant’s wrongful act), the Defendant may ask for past tax returns to establish what the person was making before the loss occurred. Or one party could ask for copies of pictures the other party may have of the cars involved in a vehicular crash. Again, the attorney will assist the client in responding to these requests.
Depositions: another form of discovery. See FAQs, for a full description of depositions.
Site Inspections: if the scene where an car crash or incident took place is important for an understanding of how it happened, or who was at fault, the parties have a right to visit that scene and inspect it.
Mediation: See FAQs, for a full description.
Arbitration: See FAQs for a full description.
Verdict: this is the decision of the jury (or the court, if a jury isn’t used). It becomes a “judgment,” and if one of the parties is going to appeal the case, the verdict must become a judgment, for only judgments may be appealed.
Injuries, Losses, and Damage: These include, but are not limited to, physical and mental injuries; missed trips and vacations because of injuries; loss of the use of your car if damaged or totaled; past medical expenses; future medical expenses; lost wages; lost earning capacity; pain; suffering; mental anguish; increased risk of future harm, such as arthritis in an injured joint; loss of the enjoyment of life’s activities, etc.
Liens on your personal injury recovery (See FAQ Do I really need a lawyer): Often times, the injured person’s medical expenses are paid by a source other than the wrongdoer or his/her insurance company, at least until the case against the wrongdoer is resolved. This could be the injured person’s health insurance (if they have any), Medicare, Medicaid, AHCCCS/ALTCS (state of Arizona assistance), Workers’ Compensation (if the injury happens on the job, but is still someone else’s fault), or healthcare coverage through military benefits Tricare, VA). Other times, if the injured person has no other way to pay for the injury-related treatment, the medical provider might just wait for payment until your case (or lawsuit) either settles or a jury awards you money at trial.
Whether another source has paid for those medical expenses, or the medical provider is waiting for payment, either situation usually means there is what we generally refer to as a “lien” on your recovery. Sometimes the lien on your recovery is authorized by statutory rule (like in the case of AHCCCS/ALTCS, Medicare, and Workers’ Comp.), or by operation of a contract you might sign with the medical provider (often called a “private lien” or “consensual lien”).