Legal Terms to Know2017-04-19T19:40:20+00:00

The process of filing a lawsuit or pressing criminal charges can be overwhelming. To help you navigate the legal system, we have compiled a list of some of the most common legal terms. Familiarize yourself with these to make this process as simple as possible.

What is a Defendant?

The defendant in a case is the person being accused of committing a crime. In this situation, the defendant in the lawsuit will be the person accused of neglect or abuse. This is a term used in both civil and criminal cases, and it means the same thing in both. If a criminal case is brought against your loved one’s abuser, the abuser is the defendant in that case.

What is a Plaintiff?

The plaintiff in a civil case is the party bringing charges against someone else. In this situation, your parent will be the plaintiff of the lawsuit. This term is only used to distinguish your parent’s position in the case. It does not have any negative connotations.

What is Liability?

Liability refers to the party that is legally responsible for the safety of the residents in a home. The person or entity that is liable for the safety of residents will get pursued if neglect or abuse happens. In some cases, the person that committed the neglect or abuse is liable. In other situations, the nursing home owner might be liable for the actions of employees. Before you can file a lawsuit, you need to know who is liable for your parent’s injuries.

What is Breach of Duty?

In order for neglect or abuse to take place, two things must be proven. First, that the abuser (or the defendant in the case) had a duty to your parent. Second, that the defendant breached this duty by causing your parent harm. You can prove that the employee had a duty to care for your parent because they were a resident of the nursing home. The employee did not fulfill this duty because they neglected or abused your parent.

What is Breach of Contract?

A breach of contract is like breach of duty. If you can prove that breach of contract occurred, you might also prove that breach of duty occurred.

Most nursing homes ask staff members to sign a contract. When signing, they promise to care for all residents to the best of their abilities. If an employee fails to do this by neglecting or abusing a resident, breach of contract will take place. This can be one factor in a lawsuit against the liable party.

What is a Deposition?

If involved in a neglect or abuse lawsuit, a deposition might happen. Your parent’s lawyer will most likely depose the defendant in the case. They might also depose other staff members, the director of operations, etc. A deposition is a piece of sworn evidence that will try to make your case stronger. Depositions occur under oath. This means that if you lie during a deposition, you could be charged with perjury. When your parent’s lawyer deposes someone, you can collect evidence against the defendant. You can do this to make your argument stronger.

In some cases, the defendant’s lawyer will depose your parent. Your parent must give testimony at a deposition if deposed. There is no need for your parent to be nervous about giving a deposition. Their lawyer will be present and will make sure that the questions are appropriate. So long as your parent answers honestly or to the best of their ability, there shouldn’t be any issues.

What is the Pretrial Period?

Before a trial takes place, there will be a pretrial period in which both parties can gather evidence. They can also file motions, and prepare their arguments. At the end of this period is a pretrial hearing. At the pretrial hearing, both parties and their lawyers will meet with a judge. They will attempt to resolve any legal issues before the actual trial begins. This ensures that both parties are on the same page and that they are prepared for trial.

What is a Settlement?

In many civil cases, one party or both parties will attempt to settle the case before it goes to trial. There are many different reasons to settle the case. Maybe you realize that your case is not as strong as you initially thought it was. Maybe you don’t want to spend the time and the money on going to trial. Or, maybe you want to avoid the risk of trial and establish a compromise instead. Whatever the reason, either party may propose a settlement before the case goes to trial. In most cases, the plaintiff is the one that proposes a settlement. But, either party may try to settle the case before it goes to trial. If a settlement gets reached, trial will be avoided. If both parties cannot come to an agreement, the case will proceed to trial.

What is Compensation?

One of the main purposes of filing a lawsuit against an abuser is to receive compensation. Compensation is for the pain and suffering that your parent has experienced. Compensation can get awarded for:

  • Any bills associated with the neglect or abuse (hospital bills, medication, medical equipment, etc).
  • Money or property that got stolen.
  • Pain.
  • Suffering.

These are the main categories that compensation will be provided for. A judge will determine compensation for each case based on your parent’s specific situation.

Statute of Limitations

In each state, there is a certain amount of time that a victim has to file a lawsuit against the at fault party. This time period is known as the statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations passes, a lawsuit against the abuser can’t get filed. The statute of limitations is different in each state. regardless of the time period that you have, it is always best to be proactive. Begin building your case as soon as possible.