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Definitions of Legal Terms and Procedures

Adjuster:
An insurance adjuster is a person who, for a fee or commission, as an employee for an Insurance company or as an independent contractor, reports on or investigates insurance claims on behalf solely of either the insured or insurer. (48.17.050)


Agent:
An agent is any person appointed by an insurer to solicit applications for insurance on its behalf, and (if authorized to do so) to collect premiums on insurance so applied for or effectuated. (48.17.010)

Attorneys:
For the purposes of personal injury cases (as opposed to divorce attorneys, probate attorneys, tax attorneys, etc.), attorneys come in two types: the plaintiffs' personal injury attorney (PI attorney/ plaintiff's attorney), and the insurance defense attorney (defense attorney). Personal injury attorneys are paid by their clients out of the proceeds collected on their behalf via Jury verdicts, arbitration awards, and/or settlements. These fees are specified by the contingent fee agreement that the client and attorney signed when the case was begun. Insurance defense attorneys are paid by insurance companies to represent the companies' "insured," the negligent persons who have insurance policies and who are being sued as the defendants in personal injury lawsuits. These defense attorneys technically represent the defendants, but are actually being paid by the defendants' insurance company. 

Other attorneys may also become temporarily involved in personal injury cases as neutral parties such as arbitrators or mediators.


 Comparative negligence:
The carelessness of an injured person that contributes to an accident; the injured person's right to compensation is reduced by the percentage of his or her comparative negligence.
Contingent Fee Agreement:
When an injured person hires a personal injury attorney to represent them in a personal injury claim or a lawsuit, they both sign a contingent fee agreement. This document is essentially the employment contract for the attorney and should lay out in detail all of the terms of that employment. "Contingent fee" refers to the fact that personal injury attorneys in California are almost always hired on the basis that they will only receive a fee from the client contingent upon the client receiving money from the person(s) causing their injuries. The amount of the attorney's fee is completely open to negotiation with the client, although law regulates certain fee agreements.

The contingent fee agreement should also lay out such details as who is responsible for the costs of the case and how any money collected for the client is to be distributed. Most personal injury attorneys will advance the case costs to the client and will be reimbursed for these costs out of the proceeds of the case. Case costs include such things as court fees, charges for acquiring copies of the client's relevant medical records, witness fees and expert witness fees, deposition fees, et cetera. 

Because of efficiencies of operation, the Law Offices on this web site are able to offer discounted rates on personal injury cases taken in via our Web site if the client is willing to communicate with us through the case via e-mail.


Damages:

How Insurance companies decide how much to pay in damages?
Insurance companies consider the actual monetary costs that you are facing. These costs may include medical bills and lost wages. Insurance companies also consider your pain and suffering and whether you have become disabled or disfigured.


Damages:

If I am partially responsible for an accident, can I still make a claim?
Under comparative negligence, you can recover a portion of your damages if you were partially at fault. For example, if you were 40% at fault, then you would recover 60% of your damages.


Defamation:

What is defamation?
The law of defamation protects people against harm to their reputations. For a statement to be defamatory, it must be a false statement, not just someone's opinion. For example, suppose that Lee told Mary something false about Beth that caused Mary to have a lesser opinion of Beth. Beth may have a defamation claim against Lee.


Defamation:  Defenses

What are some defenses to a defamation claim?
Defamation claim. Another defense to a defamation claim is consent. If Ruth gives Alex permission to make certain statements about her, Ruth cannot sue Alex for defamation based on those statements. In addition, some statements may be "privileged" and therefore cannot be the basis for a defamation claim. For example, statements made by a witness in a courtroom cannot be the basis for a defamation claim as long as they were relevant to the case.


Defamation:
 libel vs. slander

What is the difference between libel and slander?
There are two types of defamation: libel and slander. The term "libel" refers to written statements or some other sort of tangible materials that are defamatory. For example, someone whose reputation is harmed by a false newspaper article may be able to sue the newspaper for libel. The term "slander" refers to spoken statements that are defamatory.


Duty of care:
The legal obligation to be careful in conduct or care of property so that people are not injured by our actions or our failure to act.

Economic Loss:
The monetary losses that an insured would suffer.

Indemnification:
“Restoring “ the insured’s to the approximate economic position after suffering a loss “without profiting”

Injured at work?
If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to workers' compensation. In most states, under workers' compensation an employee who suffers a work-related injury may receive money for medical expenses and disability pay without having to sue the employer and without having to prove that the employer was negligent.


Injured at a neighbor's home?
Whether the neighbor will be liable for your injuries depends on why you are at the neighbor's home. If you were a social guest at your neighbor's house (a "licensee"), your neighbor would be liable only if he or she did not protect you from a known danger. If you were at your neighbor's house without permission (a "trespasser"), your neighbor would probably not be held responsible.


Injured on a bus, airplane or train?
Companies that operate a bus, airplane or train ("common carriers") owe their passengers a high degree of care. Whether you can recover for injuries that occurred while you were a passenger depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident. For example, if a bus slid off the road during a blizzard, a jury may decide that the bus company is not liable, if the driver acted reasonably under the circumstances.


Injuries that occur in my home or on my property?
Whether you are liable for injuries that occur to someone in your home or on your property depends on why that person was on your land. If the person was a customer (a "business invitee"), you may be liable if you did not act reasonably to protect him or her, even if you did not know about the danger.

If instead the person were a social guest or a door-to-door salesperson (a "licensee"), you would probably be liable only if you did not protect that person from a danger that you knew existed. And, if the person was on your property without your permission (a "trespasser"), you would probably not be held responsible because you generally do not owe a duty of care to a trespasser.


Injured by a dog Bite?
The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness. Any dog that aggressively attacks and causes severe injury or death of any human shall be immediately confiscated by an animal control authority, placed in quarantine for the proper length of time, and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.


Insurance:
Insurance is a risk transfer vehicle. If a party faces the possibility of a financial loss, he or she could transfer this risk to an insurance company by purchasing insurance. By paying a premium (a certain loss), you are transferring the large risk (uncertain loss) to the insurance company. Insurance is often called an indemnity contract.

Insurer:
Insurer means any insurance company licensed to write property insurance business, including the property insurance components of multi-peril policies, on a direct basis in Washington.

Liability:
Legal responsibility for an accident; a person who is liable must pay for injuries caused in the accident.


Liability issues on backyard swimming pools:
Backyard swimming pools present special liability issues. Many states have adopted the "attractive nuisance" doctrine. Under this doctrine, a landowner who maintains a potentially dangerous man-made object (such as a swimming pool) must take reasonable steps to protect children who may come into contact with the object.

Anyone who owns a backyard swimming pool should make sure that an adult is always present when children are swimming and should also warn the children to never swim without an adult. There may also be state or city laws that apply to backyard swimming pools. For example, a state law may require a certain height fence around the pool.


Medical Malpractice:

What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is negligent behavior by a doctor or other health care provider. A doctor's behavior is negligent if a doctor's failure to follow accepted professional standards of care causes harm to a patient. The fact that medical treatment was unsuccessful does not necessarily mean that the doctor was negligent. Instead, the question of whether the doctor was negligent depends on whether the doctor acted with the skill of a "reasonable doctor."


Medical Malpractice:

Can I make a claim against a doctor even if I signed a consent form?
Hospitals typically require patients to sign forms giving their consent to medical treatment. Even if you signed a consent form, you may still be able to make a claim against a doctor. For example, if your doctor did not follow proper procedures when performing an operation and you were harmed as a result, you would be able to make a malpractice claim even if you had signed a consent form.


Negligence:
The carelessness that causes, or contributes to, an accident.

Personal injury:

What is the basis for personal injury law?
Personal injury law is based on negligence, strict liability, or intentional misconduct theories. Under a negligence theory, the question is whether the defendant failed to use ordinary care in the circumstances that led to the injury. Under strict liability, a manufacturer or designer may be liable for injuries caused by a defective product if that product was unreasonably dangerous, even though the manufacturer or designer used reasonable care in making or designing the product. Intentional misconduct includes battery (harmful or offensive contact), false imprisonment (wrongful detention), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (outrageous behavior resulting in severe emotional distress).

Personal Injury Protection (PIP):
Personal Injury Protection pays benefit for loss and expense for bodily injuries caused by an accident arising out of the ownership or use of a private passenger automobile, (but not a motorcycle). Befits are payable to or on behalf of an insured, regardless of whether the insured was to blame for the accident or not.


Product Liability:

What is strict product liability?
Under the doctrine of strict product liability, a company that manufactures, designs, or sells a product may be legally responsible for injuries caused by the product. The injured person does not need to prove that the company acted unreasonably in order to succeed with a strict product liability claim. Instead, the injured person simply needs to show that the product was defective.


Product Liability:

What should you do if a product injures you? If you are injured by a product, you should keep as much of the remaining product as possible. You should take pictures of your injuries and of the location where the injury occurred. In addition, you should keep all receipts and instructions that relate to the product. Finally, as soon after the injury as possible, you should write down everything that you remember about the accident, including names of witnesses and health care providers. You may then wish to consult an attorney for an evaluation of your claim.


Risk:
Aspects in life that are deemed an uncertainty and Pure risk- “Chance of loss” only. No opportunity for gain.

Salvage:
If the insurance company pays for the damaged property in full, it gains the rights of ownership to that property (salvage rights). You can’t force the insurance company to salvage your car. It is called abandonment.

Subrogation:
Whenever an insurance company pays for a claim that was not caused by its' insured, it has the right to sue or demand the responsible party (3rd party) to obtain its' cost back.

UM/UIM Coverage:
You can add a UM (uninsured motorist)/ UIM (underinsured motorist) coverage to your existing minimum state required liability policy in order to protect yourself and your passengers in an event of an accident caused by an uninsured motorist. The UM/UIM portion of your coverage then acts as if the other party had coverage, limited to the amount of coverage you have purchased.

 

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