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January 19, 2022

Glossary to Help You Understand Personal Injury Legal Jargon During a Car Accident Case Settlement Process

by Evan Breaux | Personal Injury Law | 0 comments

Getting in an auto accident can be an unsettling and difficult experience, especially when dealing with insurance companies in the aftermath. Below, Breaux Law Firm has compiled a Car Accident Terminology of common legal terms used in car accident case settlement. This no-nonsense guide—combined with the expertise you gain by hiring a personal injury lawyer—will help you navigate the legal process and receive fair compensation for your injuries or loss.

But First, Some Advice.

Our suggestion is that you try to avoid navigating the legal system on your own! Although we are providing this helpful glossary of legal terms, one of the best things you can do for yourself as a victim of a car accident is to seek professional legal representation. Pursuing a car accident case settlement requires dealing with insurance companies, filing claims, and filing a lawsuit, which are complicated matters that a lawyer can guide you through.

This glossary is intended to help you understand the legal process, but a good lawyer will take the time to walk you through each step of the process and explain what the legal jargon means. This glossary is not meant to replace hiring a personal injury lawyer.

This is important, so it bears repeating: Your lawyer should be respectful, take the time to explain terms to you, listen to your concerns, and feel like your advocate. If you’re located in New Orleans or South Louisiana, the personal injury lawyers at Breaux Law Firm are who you can trust. 

If you were injured in a car accident in the state of Louisiana, reach out to us today. At Breaux Law Firm, we provide personalized attention and care to each of our clients, and we fight for you as if we were fighting for one of our own family members. Every client deserves to feel respected and cared for—which is why we’re providing this glossary of terms to help you navigate your car accident case.

What is Legal Jargon?

Legal jargon (sometimes also called “legalese”) is the highly specialized, specific language that lawyers use in their professional world. This might mean the language used in the courtroom or in contracts. Don’t be dismayed by how confusing it sounds—it is generally difficult for most non-lawyers to understand legal Car Accident Terminology. 

If you are hiring a personal injury lawyer after a car accident to help you with your car accident case settlement, your lawyer might need to use legal jargon on occasion. There are instances where personal injury legal jargon is appropriate. However, you should always feel comfortable enough with your lawyer to ask what the different terms or phrases mean “in layman’s terms” (which means language anyone can easily understand).

Personal Injury Legal Glossary

Below is a shortlist of the most common legal terms relating to automobile accidents. For a more extensive list, see the Legal Information Institute’s Open Access Legal Encyclopedia or the American Bar Association’s Consumer’s Guide to Legal Help – Legal Terms Glossary. So, Let’s move on to learn Car Accident Terminology.

Actual Cash Value: The amount the vehicle could have been sold for right before it was damaged or destroyed (also called the “market value”). If the car is totaled, the insurance company will pay the vehicle owner an amount equal to the vehicle’s actual cash value, rather than paying for the cost of repairs. 

Adjudication: Legal ruling or judgment, or the legal process of resolving a dispute or deciding a case through the court system.

The burden of Proof: In a car accident case, the plaintiff (the person bringing the claim or lawsuit) has the burden of proof, which means they are responsible for proving what happened and establishing that the other party (the defendant) is liable for causing the accident or injury.

Claim: A civil action relating to the physical or mental harm suffered by the plaintiff (i.e. victim) due to negligence on the defendant’s part. 

Compensation: Monetary payment that makes up for a loss or harm suffered.

Damages: Payment recovered in a civil court case for an injury or loss caused by another person’s negligence. Damages may be either compensatory (meaning monetary) or punitive (meaning a monetary or societal punishment meant to deter further willful and wanton misconduct, such as drunk driving).

Defendant: In a civil matter, the person or people being sued by the plaintiff (or victim); in a criminal matter, the person or people accused of committing an offense (i.e. a crime).

Demand Letter: A formally written document stating a car accident victim’s claims, total damages, and requested payment amount, sent to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. A demand letter may be accepted by the insurance company (thus settling the claim), denied, or receive a counter-offer.

Evidence: Documents used to prove the truth of a claim, such as medical records, medication, medical treatment receipts, witness testimony, photos, and videos.

Gross Negligence (also called Willful Negligence): A lack of care by recklessly disregarding another person’s safety, health, or property; a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety. This affects the amount of damages deemed appropriate.

Lawsuit: A civil legal action by one person or entity (i.e. the plaintiff) against another person or entity (i.e. the defendant), to be decided upon in a court or through a car accident settlement process outside of court.

Liability: Determining who is at fault for a car accident and to what degree, which also determines who is responsible for losses suffered by the people involved in the crash. Liability can be established through police reports, witness statements, evidence, vehicle damage, and evidence of a traffic violation.

Negligence: Unintentional failure to meet a legally imposed duty of care, such as failing to operate a vehicle in a reasonable and safe manner. 

Negligence Per Se: An act that is careless and demonstrates evidence of fault, such as breaking a traffic law, driving much faster than the posted speed limit, or driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Personal Injury: Injury sustained to one’s body, mind, reputation, or emotions, but not property.

Personal Injury Claim: A formal request to an insurance company in which the victim of a car accident tries to negotiate a settlement privately with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The claims process does not involve the courts.

Personal Injury Lawsuit: A civil lawsuit filed against the at-fault driver and/or their insurance company that is then decided upon either by negotiating via a car accident settlement process or a trial in court.

Plaintiff (also called a Complainant): The person or group of people who brings legal action or files a lawsuit.

Pure Comparative Negligence: How fault is determined in Louisiana, which means each driver involved in the accident is responsible for their percentage of fault in the accident. The amount of compensation a plaintiff receives is determined by their percentage of fault.

Settlement: An agreement to end the dispute; in car accident case settlement, monetary payment offered outside of the legal process (i.e. going to trial) in order to resolve all claims—both vehicle damages and personal injury—relating to the accident. In the car accident settlement process, a settlement means the plaintiff waives all future legal rights stemming from the accident, and will not be able to file a lawsuit relating to the crash in the future, even if damages turn out to be worse than previously understood or otherwise increase.

Statute of Limitations: The time limit in which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit. Article 3492 of the Louisiana Civil Code states that a plaintiff has one year from the day of the accident to file a lawsuit.

Bonus: FAQs about Car Accident Case Settlements 

  • How long does it take to get a car accident case settlement?

The length of a car accident case settlement can vary greatly. It may take a few weeks, months, or even years. The length of time depends on the complexity of the case, the severity of the injuries or property damage, the number of parties involved, and the depth of the investigation on both ends. 

  • What is the average settlement for a minor car accident?

There is no average settlement amount for car accident cases. The settlement amount depends on many factors, such as the damages, injuries, insurance policies, and percentage of responsibility. However, a minor car accident settlement might be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $25,000. 

  • Why is my car accident settlement taking so long?

A car accident settlement might take many months or years if it involves very complex damages, extensive injury or death. In other words, if the insurance company is being asked to pay a lot of money in damages. Then they will spend a lot of time investigating the crash to ensure liability before agreeing to the payment amount.


The personal injury legal jargon used in a car accident case settlement or a Car Accident Terminology is notoriously confusing. We have only scratched the surface of this complicated car accident terminology. Filing a claim against an insurance company can be challenging. If the insurance company does not cooperate or agree with you, it may have to take the case to court.

But remember—you don’t have to navigate this difficult terrain alone! Contact the personal injury team at Breaux Law Firm for help, and to ensure that you are properly compensated for the damages, losses, and injuries sustained in an automobile accident.