10 more terms you need to know as a New York personal injury litigant

Expanding on our previous article, here are 10 more terms to help you understand the legal concepts involved in your personal injury lawsuit.

If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit in New York, you are likely to encounter some unfamiliar words and phrases. By learning about a few key concepts, you can improve your ability to understand the process and communicate with your attorney about what is happening in your case.

Civil court

Civil court is where non-criminal disputes between people or organizations take place. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are litigated in civil court. Sometimes both civil and criminal issues can arise from the same set of circumstances.


A tort is a civil wrongdoing by one party against another resulting in damages, regardless of whether the act was accidental or deliberate. A lawsuit filed by a car accident victim seeking damages for his or her injuries is an example of a tort claim.


A subpoena is an order from the court requiring a witness to appear in court and testify or provide evidence.

Compensatory damages

Most damages awarded in personal injury cases are compensatory damages. This term refers to a monetary award that is meant to offset the recipient's actual losses and restore that party to the financial circumstances he or she would be in if the injury had not occurred. Common examples of compensatory damages include medical and hospitalization expenses, lost income, property damage and the cost of replacement services.

Punitive damages

In certain cases, another type of monetary award called punitive damages can be awarded. These damages go beyond compensation and are meant to punish an at-fault party for especially egregious, fraudulent or malicious conduct.


A stipulation is an agreement by both sides in a lawsuit on any issue of facts or other matters relevant to the proceedings.


The people or entities involved in a civil lawsuit are called parties.

  • The party that initiates the lawsuit is called the plaintiff.
  • The party defending against the lawsuit is called the defendant.

In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is typically the injured person or, in some cases, his or her dependents. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit may be an individual or a business entity or both. For example, the potential defendants in a drunk driving case could include the driver, his or her insurance company, and under certain circumstances even the driver's employer or the party that provided the driver with alcohol.


Indemnity refers to an agreement in which one person or entity agrees to take responsibility for another's losses, damages or legal liability. Car insurance is a common example of an indemnity agreement; in exchange for premium payments, the insurance company agrees to be held liable on behalf of the insured driver for any injuries he or she may cause.

Statute of limitations

A statute of limitations is the amount of time that a plaintiff has after an injury before he or she loses the right to file a lawsuit. In New York, the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims is three years.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, is a type of auto insurance coverage that typically provides no-fault benefits for the insured person's own medical costs, lost wages and replacement services. In cases involving fatal accidents, PIP coverage may also provide accidental death and survivor benefits as well as funeral expenses.

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