Common Legal Terms & Their Meanings | McPartland & Sons Solicitors

Common Legal Terms & Their Meanings

The law and the terms used can be complicated to those who are unfamiliar with legal jargon. Unless you work in the legal profession or watch legal dramas on television, the terminology can be difficult to understand. This guide of common legal terms and phrases provides definitions of key legal terms that solicitors and their clients will come across in litigation within Northern Ireland.

Here are 20 commonly used words and their definitions:

  1. Plaintiff – the person that initiates a lawsuit against someone else
  2. Defendant – the person, company, etc., that a lawsuit is brought against
  3. Deposition – a statement under oath, taken down in writing, to be used in court in place of the spoken testimony from a witness.
  4. Damages – an award, typically of money, paid to a person or organisation for loss or injury.
  5. Bankrupt – the legal status of a person or organisation that is unable to repay debts owed to its creditors.
  6. Beneficiary – someone who is entitled to a benefit (eg under a will or trust).
  7. Insolvent – being unable to pay debts when they are due or where liabilities exceed assets.
  8. Discovery – investigation before a lawsuit goes to a trial; parties gather facts and information about the other party to build their case; it can be written or oral.
  9. Fraud – intentional misrepresentation or concealment of an important fact upon which the victim is meant to rely, and does rely, to the harm of the victim.
  10. Motion – a request by one party for a judge’s ruling on an issue parties cannot agree on that is made orally or in writing at any point during a lawsuit
  11. Medical Malpractice – care given by a healthcare provider that is negligent or does not meet standards of care, which results in a patient’s injury or death
  12. Wrongful death – a death caused by the negligence of another person
  13. Negligence – the failure to act with the degree of care that the law requires to protect other people and their interests, which often results in injuring others
  14. Damages – the amount of money a client can recover in a lawsuit.
  15. Magistrate – non-legal volunteer who hears cases in their community and administers the law, usually in a court that deals with minor offences and holds preliminary hearings for more serious ones.
  16. Agreement – where two parties reach a consensus on a set of facts or course of action. For example, when a formerly married couple agrees to the terms of their divorce.
  17. Allegation – a claim made against someone, often without proof. Or a claim that someone has engaged in an unlawful act.
  18. Out-of-court settlement – an agreement between the two sides to settle the case privately before the court makes its decision.
  19. Tribunal – a person or group of people who collectively have authority to judge and/or determine claims or disputes.
  20. Compensation – a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.

These terms are just a small sample of many you need to know about the legal field. Check out the sites below for more definitions.

The Public Prosecution Service

The Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission

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