Filing an Insurance Claim or Lawsuit: Glossary of Basic Terms

If you have been involved in a car crash and are filing a lawsuit or an insurance claim, chances are you have delved into the world of insurance adjuster and injury attorney language. This language is very specialized and can often be confusing, especially when you are immersed in it after a significant crash. The beneath-listed glossary of basic crash related terms should help you translate fancy adjuster language into common language relating to your case.

Actual Cash Value. The actual cash value of something is ultimately its market value. So, in terms of a property damage claim, wherein a vehicle needs to be repaired following a crash, the actual cash value is measured by what the car was worth before it was damaged. Often, actual cash value comes into play when a vehicle is totaled, and the insurance company is offering to pay the owner the cash value instead of paying for repairs.

Burden of Proof. This term places the responsibility of proving what happened in a certain case on the plaintiff (the individual bringing the claim or lawsuit).  After a car crash, the victim has the burden of proof to establish that the other party is at-fault for causing the crash and subsequent damages.

Contingent Fee Agreement. This type of agreement reflects payment to an attorney for legal services that depends upon there being recovery in a case.

Damages. Money payment recovered for an injury or loss incurred by a victim of the negligence of another.

Defendant. In civil law, the defendant is the party who is defending a lawsuit.  In other words, the defendant is often the at-fault party that the plaintiff seeks to recover damages from.

Joint Fault. Sometimes a car crash is the fault of more than one driver.  Maybe one driver was driving too fast, while the other was hanging out too far in the turn lane.  When both drivers are jointly at fault, the insurance adjuster or court will attempt to divide the loss. Thus, recovery will be reduced based on each party’s joint negligence, or fault.

Liability. This term designates who is responsible for causing an accident, and who is therefore responsible for any resulting damages. Liability for a car crash can be established in several ways, including scene evidence and photographs, police reports, vehicle damage, and witness statements.

Lien. This term, under the Medical Lien Law, refers to a health care provider’s right to assert an interest in the personal injury recoveries of its patients.

Med Pay Coverage. Med Pay (medical payments) is a type of car insurance coverage designed to provide the policyholder with limited benefits to pay for medical treatment for injuries from a car crash. This type of coverage is only applicable to subscribing policyholders.

Negligence. Someone is negligent when she or he fails to meet a legally imposed standard.  If someone’s negligence causes damages, then he or she will be liable for those damages.  In a car crash, someone is committing negligence when they fail to operate their motor vehicle in safe and reasonable manner.

Negligence Per Se. This term describes an act that is so careless that no further evidence of fault needs to be shown. For example, in the case of a car accident, any driver who breaks a traffic law, can be referred to as negligent per se.

Plaintiff. In civil law, a plaintiff is someone who starts a lawsuit.

Settlement. This term refers to the monetary payment applicable to a car accident case outside of the formal legal process to resolve all claims.  If a car accident victim signs a settlement release, he or she waives all legal rights pertaining to the crash, and cannot receive additional compensation for future related damages.

Statute of Limitations. This refers to the time allowed by statute in which a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit.

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Insurance (UIM). This term refers to a type of coverage that most states require drivers to carry as a part of their insurance policy.  This type of coverage typically provides compensation for a crash victim who was hit by a driver who either has no insurance (uninsured driver), or who does not have enough insurance (underinsured driver) to cover the damages caused by the crash.

This glossary is a starting off point to help you make sense of all the adjuster language that is undoubtedly flooding your ears following a crash.  For clarification on any of these terms, or an explanation of others, call a Missouri auto accident attorney today at 314.409.7060 or toll free at 855.40. CRASH.

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