Legal Dictionary

Legal Dictionary: Find all the words a personal injury solicitor is likely to use explained in plain English

Legal dictionary: Using this page you will find a legal dictionary setting out in alphabetical order words and phrases of legal-jargon used by personal injury solicitors, with a definition in plain English.

Legal Words / Phrases

Scroll down to find the word or phrase you would like the definition of – the words are set out in alphabetical order.

Personal Injury Jargon Buster

Personal Injury Jargon Buster

Accident book

A record kept by an employer detailing the date and description of all accidents to all employees from the very minor to the most serious. Accident books are also kept by businesses to record customer injury.

Accident sickness insurance

This is a private policy of insurance you can take out as an employee which will make certain payments on your behalf if you are absent from work or you are made unemployed as a result of accident or sickness. It is also known as accident sickness unemployment insurance.

Allocation hearing

If the court can not decide which track a claim should precede under after receipt of an allocation questionnaire from claimant and defendant it will list a hearing known as an allocation hearing. At this hearing the claimant and defendant will make representations to a judge who will decide which track is appropriate for a claim to proceeded under.

Allocation questionnnaire

An allocation questionnaire is completed by both a claimant and a defendant in court proceedings for a claim for compensation. The allocation questionnaire is sent by both parties to the court. The information contained within the allocation questionnaire allows the court to decide which track a claim should precede under.

Click allocation questionnaire to see a detailed page I have written explaining the purpose of an allocation questionnaire.


Scarring of lungs caused by exposure to asbestos fibres over many years. As the lung scarring becomes worse you will notice shortness of breath, coughing and quite often weight loss.

Burden Of Proof

The burden of proof describes who is responsible for proving a claim. In personal injury the Claimant is responsible, hence the phrase the burden of proof is on the Claimant. The actual test to satisfy the burden of proof in UK civil matters (including personal injury) is “on the balance of probabilities”.

Calderbank Offer

A type of contractual offer to settle a personal injury claim whilst restricting the amount of legal costs your can recover. See our Calderbank offer detailed article.

Case law

Laws decided over time by the courts. An earlier court decision can form what is known as a precedent, which can be influence later court decisions.

Case Management Conference

A court hearing in which a judge and the representatives for the Claimant and Defendant attend to set a timetable up to a proposed trial date. Click case management conference for a detailed page I have written.


A legal term in the UK which states that a negligent act must have actually caused an injury for compensation to be claimed.


The phrase Chambers can be used to mean one of two things: either referring to a “judge in chambers” which is an informal court room or a “barristers chambers” which is a barrister’s place of work.

Charge rate

Hourly rate for professional fees for the time spent by your accident lawyer working on your compensation claim.


Criminal Injury Compensation Authority – the organisation responsible for paying criminal injury compensation to victims of a crime of violence in Great Britain.


Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel


The person making the claim for compensation – which will be you if you are the person who was injured through no fault of your own.


Case management conference – see definition for case management conference.

Comprehensive insurance

A form of motor vehicle insurance which pays compensation to innocent accident victims and also pays for the repair to your own vehicle irrespective of fault.

Conditional Fee Agreement

No win no fee agreement (see no win no fee agreement)

Conflict Of Interest

A solicitor cannot act for a party if that party might have a claim against one of their own clients. For example – in a road accident if the driver of the vehicle was at fault and a passenger wished to make a claim for personal injury, a solicitor could not act for both the driver and passenger – as the passenger’s claim would be made against the driver. Hence, a conflict of interest would exist as the solicitor could not act impartially for both driver and passenger.

Contributory negligence

An act or omission by an accident victim that may have caused or partly caused your own injury. If your own negligence contributed to your own injury the amount of compensation your receive might be reduced.

Cost penalty

If you are making a claim and fail to meet a deadline set by the court you will often incur a costs penalty. The court recognises your default is not so severe as to exclude you from making a claim, but also the court likes to be sure that you stick to deadlines and other requirements it sets. In such instances the court believes a cost penalty will be sufficient and you will typically be given a short timetable to pay the cost penalty to the person you are making your claim against.

County court

The court used to decide most types of claim for compensation. Extremely high level claims are decided by the High Court, but the majority of claims fall within the county court jurisdiction.

Court Funds Office

The body responsible for holding compensation monies awarded to children at court in a personal injury claim. Tese monies are typically pooled together for all child Claimant’s and so attract a higher compound interest rate. When a child reaches the age of majority (typically 18 years of age in England and Wales) access can be obtained to all the compensation monies (together with the compound interest accumulated).

Criminal Injury

A personal injury caused during a “crime of violence” – the injury can be both physical and mental.

Crime of Violence

A criminal act which includes the use of personal violence or the threat of the use of personal violence; examples include: assault, rape, child abuse and wounding with a weapon.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel

The official body which hears appeals of criminal injury claims from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

The organisation responsible for paying criminal injury compensation to victims of a crime of violence in Great Britain.


Another word for compensation.


Default occurs when the claimant or defendant fails to meet a deadline set by a court. There are various sanctions which can occur if a party is found to be in default including the possibility of your claim being struck out.

Default Judgment

See later judgment in default or see our detailed article default judgment.


A formal document filed at court by the Defendant denying responsibility and disputing a claim.


The person who you make a compensation claim against. Technically this person is known as the Defendant once your claim is issued at court.

Denial of liability

See denial of liability for a detailed page I have written. This term generally means the Defendant does not accept fault or responsibility for your accident and as such refuses to pay your compensation.

Disadvantage on the open labour market

Disadvantage on the open labour market is also known as a Smith v Manchester award. It describes a potential future financial loss when you as an injured party can return to work with a current worker (so having no apparent future loss of income), but due to a disability from your injury, should you lose your job – you would be less likely than an able bodied employee (in other words yourself had you not had the accident) to find another job.

Your continued employment often reflects the goodwill of a current employer, who may forgive your limitations whereas a future employer who does not know you may be less likely to do so.


Sums of money that your lawyer makes no profit on and pays on your behalf. They include the money paid to your GP for his notes and the money paid to court to start your claim.

District judge

a district judge is a court official who decides civil matters in the county courts local to a certain geographical location.

Duty of Care

This is duty owed in many different circumstances by individuals and bodies (such as businesses, councils, government organisations, schools, etc) to keep other individuals safe, such as customers, lawful visitors, employees, (can sometimes even extend to trespassers).

Interlocutory hearing

This is a type of hearing at court which takes place before the final trial of a claim. Typically – the solicitor representing the Claimant and Defendant will attend.

Fast track

This is the type of process an accident claim is subject to at court – fast track is used for smaller claims, which do not involve too much legal complexity.

Fatal Accidents Act

A legal statute (law decided by parliament) setting out the compensation that can be claimed in the event of the death of an individual in an accident.

50/50 – fifty/fifty

A 50/50 is a term used exclusively in road traffic accidents. It describes the position where an road accident occurs when both vehicle drivers in the accident were equally at fault. In such circumstances a very rare situation in law occurs – both party is responsible for paying 50% of the other’s loss.

File at court

The Claimant and Defendant can file a document at court – to do this the document is sent to the court who is turn stamp or seal the document and date stamp it.


A test in UK law which presumes that a person could predict that their negligence could lead to injury to an innocent person.

Frozen shoulder

A frozen shoulder is the medical name given to a shoulder joint that has lost a significant amount of its range of motion in all directions.

Full and final settlement

“Full and final settlement” is a legal term used to mean that an offer or compensation payment is made for the whole of your claim and if accepted you will not be able to claim any additional sums in the future no matter what happens to your injury.

Fundamental Dishonesty

The term “fundamental dishonesty” has been introduced over the last few years by the courts. It describes when a personal injury Claimant is lying about the claim in full or in part.

For example – the Claimant who stages a road traffic accident to fake injury or even be genuinely injured, but the sole purpose was to make a claim.

Alternatively, it might apply to a claimant genuinely injured in an accident, but who has grossly exaggerated the claim. For example – pretending that he is wheel chair bound and unable to walk when in actual fact there is no problem with his legs and ability to walk.

If a claimant is found fundamentally dishonest – he will have to pay the other sides costs (mostly likely his own solicitor’s costs) and is at risk of being prosecuted in the criminal law for contempt of court and fraud.

Future lost income

Income losses after your compensation claim concludes. Future lost income is calculated from an estimate by a medical expert as to how long your injuries will affect your ability to work.

General damages

Money to compensate you for your pain and suffering and uncertain losses as a result of personal injury – such losses do not have a fixed value and are calculated by your solicitor.

Going to court

The process of commencing a claim at court by the issue of court proceedings (used in this sense often by lawyers) or the act of attending at court to give evidence to support a claim (used in this sense often by members of the public).

Click accident claim going to court to see the detailed article on this full meaning.


Hand arm vibration syndrome – often used to replace the term VWF. It relates to the vascular injury caused by exposure to vibrating objects affecting the hands and upper limbs.

Health and Safety Executive

A government body which monitors and enforces health and safety law in the UK workplace.

Highway Code

Safety rules for all lawful users of public roads in the UK.

Independent Witnesses

Witness to an accident event that are not connected to you. For example – in a car accident another road user or a pedestrian witnessing your accident would be independent whereas your passengers would not be.

Insurance company outlay

It is typical that a comprehensive motor vehicle insurer may have met some expenses associated with your road accident before your claim for compensation from the driver at fault was made, such as the cost of repairing your vehicle. This expense is known as your “insurance company outlay”.

Insurance excess

A small sum of money, normally between £50 – £100, which you will have to pay on your insurance when making a claim. E.g. comprehensive motor vehicle insurance will pay the full expense of the repair of your vehicle when it is involved in an accident subject to you paying the policy excess.

Insurance panel solicitor

A solicitor who has a relationship with an insurance company – such as Legal Protection Cover on a motor insurance policy. The insurer will want you to use one of their panel solicitors to make your claim for compensation.

Issue proceedings

To “issue proceedings” is another way of saying “issue at court”.

Issue at court

The process of formally lodging your compensation claim in a UK court – when your solicitor sends your claim and supporting documents to court the court stamps them and it is at that stage your claim is issued at court.

Interim Payment

A sum of compensation paid before a personal injury claim is concluded, so as to avoid the Claimant too much financial hardship (from for example ongoing lost income or onerous medical expense) whilst the claim is ongoing. For an interim payment to be made – the Defendant will have already accepted liability (legal fault), but the issue of quantum (how much the claim is worth) may not have been resolved, either because it is in dispute of the evidence has yet to be fully obtained. An interim payment is typically a small proportion of the likely final payment.

Judicial College Guidelines

This is the replacement to the Judicial Studies Board – providing guidelines for calculating compensation payouts for pain and suffering (see general damages) for all manner of bodily and psychological injury.


The court official who is responsible for determining the outcome of claims and setting a timetable that both Claimant and Defendant should comply with.

Judgment in Default

If the person you have served court proceedings on fails to acknowledge service or provide a Defence within the time period specified by the court on the court papers – you can apply for judgement on the issue of liability in default of a Defence.

Judgement in default can also be obtained should the court specify a step within the court timetable which the Defendant fails to comply with.

Judicial Studies Board (see Judicial College Guidelines)

Early guidelines describing the amounts of compensation awarded by the courts in England and Wales for pain and suffering for all manner of personal injuries. It is a general guide with a range of compensation values for each injury and is updated annually.

Law Society

The Law Society is the official body which monitors all the solicitors practising in each country that makes up the UK. There is a Law Society for England and Wales, one for Scotland and one for Northern Ireland.

Law Society accredited solicitor

A solicitor who has proved to the Law Society to have sufficient experience and expertise to be endorsed by the Law Society as a specialist. The two main accreditation schemes for accident claims include personal injury accreditation and clinical negligence accreditation.


Legal professional qualified to practise law in the UK – either a barrister or a solicitor.

Legal aid

Government funding which will pay your legal costs for certain types of personal injury claims, such as medical negligence. To be eligible you must have a limited income and savings below a certain amount.

Legal jurisdiction

A country or geographical area where the law is consistent throughout – any accident claim should be made in the courts of that country or area only. For example, the UK is made up of 3 distinct legal jurisdictions namely: England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; each having slightly different laws and different courts.

Legal Protection Cover

A clause on an insurance policy which will pay for your legal costs in pursuing a personal injury claim following an accident. It is often found, for example, as an added extra on household contents insurance or motor vehicle insurance.

Legal Protection Insurance

An insurance clause on a broader insurance policy which will pay for your legal costs in pursuing a personal injury claim following an accident. It is often found, for example, as an added extra on household contents insurance, motor vehicle insurance or travel insurance.

Legal Services Commission

Formerly known as the Legal Aid Board – the organisation responsible for public funding of the legal costs in pursuing a claim.

Letter of claim

A formal letter to the person you hold responsible for accident which starts your compensation claim process. See letter of claim for more details.


Legal liability or legal responsibility for your accident. A person or business who is legally liable for your injury can be made to pay you compensation.

Litigation friend

The adult, such as father or mother, who makes a compensation claim for their child injured in an accident. In English law you must be over 18 to make a claim – if under 18 years a litigation friend must make the claim on your behalf.

A litigation friend can also be used to make a personal injury compensation claim for an adult who lakes mental capacity to make a claim.


A Claimant who is making the claim on his own behalf without employing the services of a solicitor to help with the claim.


MedCo is a not for profit company that accredits medical experts to have the requisite expertise and independence to be instructed to produce medical reports in support of personal injury soft tissue claims in road traffic accidents that are either classed as small claims or low value personal injury claims. Your solicitor can instruct MedCo via an online portal.


A rare type of cancer – which can be caused by a single asbestos fibre becoming embedded in the thin lining, known as the “mesothelium”, surrounding your internal organs. The asbestos fibre can cause a malignant tumor (an abnormal growth which doesn’t respond to treatment) which is known as “mesothelioma”.


Motor Insurers Bureau – the organisation which pays compensation when the driver of a driver of a vehicle who caused a road accident was not insured or cannot be found.

Motor Insurers Bureau

The organisation which pays compensation when the driver of a driver of a vehicle who caused a road accident was not insured or cannot be found.

Motor vehicle insurance

A policy of insurance which all vehicle owners and drivers in the UK must have in place which will pay for compensation to injured innocent accident victims.

Multi track

This is the type of process an accident claim is subject to at court – the multi track is used for higher value claims or those which are considered more complex. Most industrial disease claims irrespective of value will be allocated to the multi track.


An error or legal fault, which allows you to have a claim for compensation under UK law.

No claims bonus

A percentage reduction in the annual premium of an insurance policy (for example motor vehicle or household contents insurance) as a result of no claims being made on that policy.

No admission of liability

An offer in an accident claim can be made “without an admission of liability” – meaning that the offer is made in an attempt to settle your accident claim without the person accepting that the accident was their fault. Click without prejudice offer to see a page I have written giving examples and explaining the term in more detail.

No win no fee

An agreement for the paying of your legal costs in making a personal injury claim. Under this agreement your solicitor agrees not to charge you any legal costs if you do not win your claim. Normally if the your accident claim is successful your legal costs will be paid by the losing party. A “no win no fee” agreement is also known as a “conditional fee” agreement.

Notice of funding

A document sent to the court at the commencement of your claim, which describes how you are funding your legal costs of making your claim.

Novus actus interveniens

A convenient Latin phrase used in law to mean “an intervening act breaks the chain of causation”. If you are suffering symptoms from one accident, but before the symptoms subside a second accident occurs affecting the same part of the body and the second accident would have caused the same or worse injuries whether the first accident had occurred or not then the first accident is only responsible for pain and suffering for the time period up to the second accident event.

Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992

The law in the UK which protects UK citizens who have booked a package holiday – includes being able to claim compensation in the UK for an accident overseas. Click package holiday claims to read the page I have written explaining how the regulations work in relation to overseas accidents.

Part 36 offer

A formal offer of settlement typically for a fixed sum of money in compensation claims which stays open for at least 21 days. It is made in accordance with Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, hence its name. See our detailed part 36 offer article.

Past lost income

Income losses which have already taken place before a compensation claim concludes. These losses can be calculated exactly and are normally calculated as a nett figure – income after deduction of tax and national insurance.


An abbreviation for personal injury.

Procedural law

The law of “how to do things” in the courts. The procedure for personal injury claims is currently governed by The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 and explains all the technical requirements to take any legal steps in the courts.


An opinion given by a medical expert as to how an injury from an accident will continue into the future. A prognosis will often provide an estimate of the severity of pain into the future, the likely future recovery period and the effect on your ability to work and enjoy any hobbies you may have.

Protective Proceedings

This term is often used when when protective proceedings are issued at court to prevent the claim failing by the statutory limitation period expiring. The purpose of issuing the claim is to protect the claim from failing whilst it is properly investigated to see if the claim has merit. In this instances your solicitor might delay serving proceedings on the Defendant or request a stay or proceedings.


The amount of compensation a personal injury claim is worth – includes both compensation for injuries and financial losses incurred.

Repetitive Strain Injury

An occupational injury caused from excessive small repetitive movements of the upper limbs. Click repetitive strain injury to see how to make a claim.

Res ipsa loquitur

This is a legal phrase in latin often abbreviated to “res ipsa”. The phrase means “the facts speak for themselves” and it is an argument used by a Claimant to prove liability of a Defendant.

The most common example of Res ipsa Loquitur is in a work accident claim against an employer and the case example most law students will encounter is: an employee is at work walking through a factory when he is hit on the head by a sack causing injury. UK law requires a Claimant to prove that his employer was negligent to win compensation, but as he did not see who dropped the sack he can offer no evidence only to say that “the facts speak for themselves” – in other words the fact that he was hit on the head with a sack at work must mean that another worker was negligent to drop the sack and so in turn the employer is “vicariously liable” for the negligent act of an employee.


Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations – a report sent to the Health and Safety Executive by an employer following certain accidents at work.

Risk assessment

Before an employee can do a job in the workplace an employer is required to look at the way the job is done and assess any possible risks of danger to ensure the employees safety at all times. If an injury occurs another risk assessment should be completed to reassess how the job should now be done and any dangers involved. An employer must keep a record of these assessments.

Road traffic accident

An accident involving at least one motor vehicle on a road or other public highway resulting in personal injury or property damage.


Repetitive Strain Injury – an occupational injury caused from excessive small repetitive movements of the upper limbs.


Road Traffic Accident – an accident involving at least one motor vehicle on a road or other public highway resulting in personal injury or property damage.


Road Traffic Collision – this is a term often used instead of RTA (road traffic accident), but generally has the same meaning.

Schedule of special damages

A document used at the commencement of your claim at court to describe all of your financial losses u to that date.


The most common form of lung disease from inhaling dust such as quartz – quartz is one of the earth’s most plentiful minerals.

Setting aside judgement in default

A Defendant can apply to the court to set aside a judgement on liability obtained because the Defendant failed to meet a time period specified by the court within the court proceedings.

Settle out of court

To “settle out of court” is a term generally used to mean that your claim is settled before court action is necessary often “without an admission of liability”.

Small claims track

The name given to the court procedure for a compensation claim worth less than £1000 for pain and suffering for personal injury and less than £5000 in total for all losses and injuries. In a small claims track the winner does not have to pay the loser’s costs, but only a very small proportion of them.

Special damages

Past financial expenses that you have already incurred as a result of your accident and include: lost income up to the date your claim settles known as “past lost income”, the cost of repair to your damaged vehicle, medical expenses, the cost of a hire vehicle, travel expenses etc.

Stay of proceedings

Stay of proceedings is a term used to describe a situation in which a court orders that neither party need take any step to further a claim for a specified period

The court will order this if it believes the parties can attempt to settle a claim. The periods authorised by the court are typically very short and most likely no more than a month.


Laws decided by parliament.

Statutory Limitation Period

The time period you have to start a claim at court before it is too late to claim. Personal injury claims generally have a period of 3 years from the date of injury or knowledge of injury. There are a number of exceptions to this rule (for example children have three years from the date of majority – currently up to 21 years of age in England and Wales and up to the age of 19 years in Scotland.)

Strict Liability

In most personal injury claims – the Claimant (the injured person making a claim) must prove through a solicitor that the Defendant (person claim made against) is negligent or legally at fault. The Claimant must satisfy the burden of proof to succeed with a claim. Strict liability is different – the burden of proof is shifted onto the Defendant who must show that there was no fault on their behalf otherwise the Claimant succeeds with a claim.

Strike out

A court can order strike out of a claimant’s case or a defendant’s defence. This is a very unusual step to be taken by the court and is only done in exceptional circumstances when either of the parties have failed to meet deadlines or requirements set by the court.

Remember if a claim is struck out or a defence is struck out – the affected party will have liberty to apply to reinstate the claim or defence. Action must be taken immediately and there should be good grounds for making an application. Even if an application is successful it is likely the defaulting party will have to pay penalty costs.

Substantive law

The theory of law based on case law and statute.

Third party insurance

A type of motor vehicle insurance policy which pays compensation to innocent accident victims injured by due by the insured vehicle driver.


The trial is the final court hearing of a case – it decides whether the Claimant is entitled to receive compensation or the Defendant has successfully argues that there is no responsibility to pay compensation.

Unless order

An unless order is a very severe order made by the courts. The court will set out that unless you take a step or provide documentation to the court by a certain date a sanction will take place. This might include debarring you from being able to produce a piece of evidence to support your claim or in the most severe of cases – your claim could be struck out.

Vibration white finger

A type of industrial injury caused by exposure to vibrating machinery in the workplace.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability describes the liability of an employer for the negligent acts of its employees (technically “an employer is vicariously liable for the torts of its servants”).

When a worker causes you injury – your claim would typically be made against the employer who would have the requisite liability insurance and bear responsibility as a matter of law.

Volenti Non Fit Injuria

Sometime abbreviated to Volenti – this is a legal phrase in Latin, but is still used in UK law. It means that there is “no injury to those who consent”. Volenti is a phrase often use by a Defendant to argue that no compensation should be paid to a Claimant if that Claimant new the risks and consented to take them resulting in injury.

If a Defendant suggests this argument to you (it is very common in employment accidents) – don’t be put off making a claim. It is very rare that this defence will succeed in full – it might lead to a reduction in the level of compensation you can claim for “contributory negligence”, but not defeat your claim in total.


Vibration white finger – a type of industrial injury caused by exposure to vibrating machinery in the workplace.

Without prejudice

This is a legal phrase which when used means that whatever offer or is said without prejudice cannot be referred to at court. Click without prejudice offer to see the page I have written explaining the use of this term in an accident claim.


Injury to the bones, muscles or soft tissues of the neck or cervical spine. It typically occurs from the head being violently thrown forwards and backwards as can occur from the use of a seatbelt in a car accident.

Worker compensation insurance

An insurance policy your employer is required by law to have in place which will pay your compensation claim if you are injured in the workplace.