Ad Litem: A Latin term meaning for the purposes of the lawsuit. For example, a guardian “ad litem” is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration and settlement among others.
Affidavit: A written statement that is affirmed or sworn to under oath.
Allegation: The claim made in a pleading by a party to an action, setting out what he or she expects to prove.
Answer: The defendant’s written response to the plaintiff’s complaint that either admits or denies the facts alleged by the plaintiff.
Arbitration: A mini-trial, which may be held in place of a court trial and conducted by a single person or a panel of three people who are not judges. The arbitrators generally are former judges or experienced lawyers. Generally arbitrations are less expensive and occur more quickly than jury trials.
Assumption of Risk: When a person voluntarily and knowingly proceeds in the face of an obvious and known danger, she assumes the risk. Some states have determined that a person found to have assumed the risk cannot successfully prove a negligence cause of action. The theory behind the rule is that a person who chooses to take a risk cannot later complain that she was injured by the risk that she chose to take. Therefore, he or she will not be permitted to seek money damages from those who might have otherwise been responsible.
Bench Trial: A trial held before a judge and not a jury.
Beneficiary: A person who is designated to receive property or money as directed by a deceased person in his or her will. A beneficiary may be entitled to damages obtained by the deceased person’s estate in a survival action.
Bodily Injury Liability: A legal liability that may result from the injury or death of another person.
Burden of Proof: The duty of a party in a lawsuit to persuade the judge or the jury that enough facts exist to prove the allegations of the case.
Bystander Emotional Distress Claim: A cause of action for damages for emotional distress suffered by a person who personally witnesses another, typically a close relative or loved one, suffer personal injuries. The requirements for this cause of action vary greatly among the states, with some states not recognizing its validity.
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