Glossary of Legal Terms for Personal Injury Claims

One of the most common requests we get from clients at Plaza Injury Law is to explain the legal terms related to their claims. As an experienced Kansas City personal injury lawyer, Donovan Dodrill will always take the time to educate you about your claim.

If you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, basic knowledge of important legal terminology can help. For your convenience, the list below includes some of the more frequently used terms:

Civil Lawsuit

A civil lawsuit is when a plaintiff who has been injured sues a defendant for damages. The damages are in the form of money to recover what the plaintiff lost. Civil lawsuits differ from criminal cases in which an individual is arrested and charged with a crime. A private citizen cannot file a criminal case against another person – criminal charges can only be filed by a federal, state, or local government. The goal of a criminal case is punitive. The goal of a civil claim is always to make the client financially whole.


A plaintiff is a person (or entity) who initiates a lawsuit when they have been wronged or injured. A plaintiff can be an individual or an organization. Attorney Donovan Dodrill will file a civil action on your behalf after consulting with you about the most advantageous approach.


A person (or entity) being sued is a defendant. A defendant can be an individual or an organization. In a single lawsuit, there can be more than one defendant.

Personal Injury

In legal terms, an injury means more than just a physical injury like broken bones or a concussion. It also includes defamation of character, wrongful death, emotional injury (including pain and suffering), and even financial loss. Car accidents and premises liability (slip and fall accidents) are the two most common types of personal injury accidents.


In a personal injury lawsuit, the term “damages” refers to the amount of money equal to the loss sustained in the injury. Damages include pain and suffering; punitive damages; incidental and consequential losses; actual and special damages.

Statute of Limitations

A Statute of Limitations (SOL) is simply the amount of time the injured party has to legally file a claim, and they vary by state and the type of injury. In Missouri, for example, the Statute of Limitations for some personal injury claims is five years. Other personal injury claims in Missouri have much shorter statutes of limitation. That’s another reason that it’s important to call Attorney Donovan Dodrill as soon as possible following an injury accident to ensure you meet the guidelines as described in the Statute, or you may risk losing the right to file a claim.


Liability arises from the breach of a duty someone is legally bound to perform. For example, in Missouri, the “Highest degree of care” is required in the operation of a motor vehicle Section 304.012. 1; and Country-man v. Seymour R-II Sch. Dist., 823 S.W.2d 515 (Mo. App. 1992) “Highest degree of care means that degree of care which a very careful and prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances.” citing Martin v. Turner, 306 S.W.2d 473 (Mo. 1957). We call this degree of care, the “Standard of Care.” The Standard of Care changes from claim to claim depending upon the nature of the negligence.


A tort is a civil (not criminal) wrong (not arising from a breach of contract) that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in liability for the person who commits the tortious act. It can include personal injury, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, financial losses, injuries, invasion of privacy, and many other things. The word ‘tort’ stems from Old French via the Normal Conquest and Latin via the Roman Empire.

Intentional Tort

Intentional tort is a wrongful act committed on purpose. If someone punches you in the face because they wanted to and they are successful, that’s an intentional tort. Importantly, it is possible for a defendant to be liable for both an intentional and a negligent tort arising from the same conduct. For example, that person who intentionally punched you in the face might have negligently caused the extent of damages you sustained.

Negligent Tort

The failure to act with responsible care is negligence. A person is negligent if their carelessness caused harm or damage to another individual. In order to establish a claim for simple negligence the Defendant must have owned the Plaintiff a duty, breached that duty, and have suffered damages as the actual and proximate result of that breach. The operator of an automobile owes other drivers and pedestrians a duty of due care to act as a reasonable person in the operation of their motor vehicle.


Some states (Kansas and Massachusetts among them) are so-called “No-fault” jurisdictions. States that have adopted no-fault laws require every auto owner to carry a minimum amount of personal injury protection insurance. In their simplest form, no-fault laws require that unless injuries reach a certain financial or physical threshold (called a “tort threshold,” which in Kansas is $2,000.00), an injured party cannot bring a third party claim regardless of who was at-fault for the accident.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is different from the standard of care. In a civil case, usually, the burden of proof to be met by the Plaintiff is called the “preponderance of the evidence.” Some jurisdictions define that to mean 51%. It is also called a “more likely than not” standard. Importantly, evidence must establish that the defendant is in violation of the standard of care by a preponderance of the evidence. In a criminal case, usually, the burden to be met is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a higher standard of care. This, for example, is why OJ Simpson was found not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the criminal matter, but the same evidence was able to establish that he was civilly liable by a preponderance of the evidence.

Strict Liability

Strict liability is rare. The concept arises from special circumstances, usually, in situations where the party at fault has also violated a statute that was intended to prevent the harm caused [this is also called Per Se Liability] or when other facts establish a minimum threshold. For example, strict liability can also be found in product liability claims if the defective product was placed into the stream of commerce in the defective state alleged.

If you have any questions about these terms or need a Missouri personal injury attorney to help file a legal claim, contact Donovan Dodrill of Plaza Injury Law. He is a Kansas City injury lawyer based on the Country Club Plaza. Call today for a free case consultation or to make an appointment: (816) 945-4409

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