Glossary of Common Legal Terms in Personal Injury and
Medical Malpractice Actions
Personal Injury: When a wronged party has suffered from
any sort of injury. This includes motor vehicle
collisions, motorcycle collisions, premises liability trip
and falls, and medical malpractice. An injured party can
file a tort claim against the party that wronged them to
try to collect damages for their injuries. These injuries
can include permanent injury, pain and suffering, scars and
disfigurement, mental anguish, medical bills, and lost
Negligence: The failure of a person to behave with the
level of care that a reasonably prudent person would have
acted under the existing circumstances. This can either be
a wrongful act, or a failure to act if the individual had a
requirement to act under the circumstances (such as a
parent taking care of their child).
Medical Malpractice: A specific type of personal injury
claim brought against a health care provider. The claim is
for the negligence of a health care provider. It requires
the proving the same elements as a negligence case, but
also requires that the plaintiff hire an expert witness to
provide testimony as to what duties the doctor or other
health care provider owed to their patient, and that the
health care provider violated those standards.
Wrongful Death: This is a specific type of personal
injury claim where a death caused by the negligent or
intentional wrongful actions of another. A North Carolina
wrongful death action can only be brought by the Estate of
the deceased individual, by either the administrator or
executor of the Estate.
Plaintiff: A person or company who has filed a claim in
a North Carolina court.
Defendant: A person or company who has had a claim filed
against them by a Plaintiff in court.
Summons and Complaint: The documents filed by a Plaintiff
(or their attorney) that initiates a lawsuit in court. The
Complaint contains the material allegations about what the
Plaintiff alleges the Defendant did wrong, and the injury
that the Plaintiff alleges they suffered. These documents
are then served on the Defendant, which then imposes a
deadline on the Defendant to Answer the lawsuit.
Answer: The Defendant in a lawsuit’s initial response to
the Plaintiff’s Complaint. The Defendant can either admit
or deny the allegations of the Complaint.
Settlement: A resolution of a claim without a trial in
which both the Plaintiff and Defendant agree to the
settlement amount. In a negligence or medical malpractice
action, it is usually a compromise amount of compensation.
Mediation: A court mandated settlement conference. Every
Plaintiff that files a claim in Superior Court in North
Carolina is required to attend a mediation of their claim,
but is not required to settle the claim at mediation unless
they agree to the settlement offer by the Defendant.
Arbitration: This is a contractual obligation that an
insurance company has with its insured to allow for a more
efficient resolution of an underinsured or uninsured motor
vehicle claim. Rather than going through the expensive and
time-consuming jury trial process, an arbitration hearing
is decided by three arbitrators, one of which is a neutral
third-party, usually a retired judge or other objective
individual. Arbitration allows for a quicker resolution of
a claim against your own insurance company.