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There are many legal terms surrounding personal injury law; find out what key terms mean by reading this handy legal glossary.

This is awarded in addition to an award for an injury only in exceptional cases and generally in cases where there has been a serious assault.

Partial or total loss of the ability to remember things. This may be retrograde (inability to remember before the injury) or anterograde (inability to remember things after the injury).

A balloon-like deformity in the wall of a blood vessel. This may eventually burst causing a haemorrhage.

Lack of oxygen supply to the brain (also called hypoxia).

May be ‘expressive’ (inability to express oneself clearly in speech) or ‘receptive’ (inability to understand what is said).

Inability to plan and perform purposeful movement, whist still having the ability to move and be aware of movement.

A natural mineral known for its strength, heat-resistance and sound-proofing properties, which made it the ideal material for use in many industries in the past. Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres which, if breathed in, can build up in your lungs and cause certain diseases.

A disease involving scarring of the lung tissues. It is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres.

Any disease caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, for example: mesothelioma, asbestosis pleural plaques and lung cancer.

Abnormal and unsteady movements due to the incoordination of the muscles.

The investment of large sums of money normally in stocks and shares or other interest-bearing accounts, for the purpose of either producing an income or growing the original capital sum.

Financial support and/or practical help provided by the Government or another scheme or fund.

This is a statutory award which means the limit is set by an act of Parliament. For deaths occurring on or after March 2013 the award is £12,980. Damages for bereavement may only be claimed by the spouse of the deceased unless the deceased was an unmarried minor at the date of the death, in which case the award may be claimed by both parents – divided equally if the child was legitimate or by the mother alone if the child was illegitimate. The act is applied strictly in respect of the age of the deceased at the date of death.

A lump-sum award of damages covering future (and sometimes past) loss of earnings or earning capacity.

A network of nerves arising from the base of the neck that supply the shoulder, arm and hand. Damage to these nerves can lead to complete loss of use of the limb.

The brain is the highly-developed mass of nervous tissue that forms the upper end of the central nervous system and sits in the skull. Injury to the brain can be caused through an accident or as a consequence of disease. The complexity of brain function means that the effect of an injury or illness can be very difficult to predict. ‘Minor injury’ includes such things as concussion or bruising to the brain. A more serious injury might cause a fracture of the skull leading to physical damage to the underlying tissue, such as the brain.

Failure by the Defendant to comply with a law passed by Parliament, such as the Asbestos Regulations 1969 or Protective Equipment Regulations Act.

A term used to describe the mix of case manager, occupational therapists, nurses and domestic carers employed to assist an injured client. Care packages are normally tailored to the specific needs of an injured person. The package might change according to changes in need and will normally be set up following a full assessment of those needs by the case manager and the production of a care plan.

The written description of the proposed care package necessary to meet the individual’s needs. A care plan is normally produced by the case manager although it can be undertaken by the care expert or sometimes by social services departments following a community care assessment.

In claims involving very serious injury your solicitor will often appoint a case manager to help coordinate the rehabilitation process. Case managers are most often occupational therapists who have specific experience in the type of injury in question. They will often be a member of a professional body such as the British Association of Brain Injury Case Managers (BABICM) or the Case Managers Society of UK (CMSUK).

The legal concept required to connect the accident or negligence with the damage.

Clear, colourless fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain and spinal cord.

A form of cancer treatment that, most commonly, works by killing cells that are dividing too rapidly (a property of most cancer cells).

Civil claims arise from disputes between individuals or companies which are resolved by the courts. For example, somebody injured in a road accident may bring a claim for compensation against the individual who caused the accident. Such claims are dealt with by the civil courts as opposed to criminal matters such as drink driving, theft, assault etc. which are dealt with by the criminal courts.

There are rules that govern civil procedural law and apply to all cases in the county court, High Court and Court of Appeal. The rules can be found online or in a book commonly called the White Book.

The person who initiates the claim.

This is damage to the brain in which there is no penetration through the scalp or skull to the brain tissue itself. It is often caused when the brain is thrown forwards or backwards or rotated sharply within the skull.

General term used to cover all areas of intellectual functioning. Includes skills such as thinking, remembering, planning, understanding, concentrating and using language.

The state of unconsciousness. The depth of a coma is measured by the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS).

Civil and criminal law is divided into that which arises from specific legislation, such as the Road Traffic Act 1988, and law that has arisen from the decisions of the courts over time. This latter type is known as the common law. Under the common law certain people owe a duty to others. For example, those who drive on the road owe a duty to other road users not to drive in a way that might cause injury to others. See also ‘negligence’.

An assessment under Section 47 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act. The assessment will normally be undertaken by social services. The purpose of the assessment is to decide which services the local authority provide are needed by the person being assessed. This normally relates to the provision of care and accommodation.

Compensation is a something, typically money, awarded to someone in recognition of loss, suffering, or injury.

The compensation you receive will depend upon the severity of your injuries and the impact they have on your life. The more severe your injuries, the greater impact they will have on your life and, subsequently, the larger amount of compensation you may receive in order to pay for care such as rehabilitation and any future medical treatments.

Personal injury compensation is usually made up of two parts: general damages and special damages. ‘Damages’ refers to the sum of money you may receive, as the claimant.

‘General damages’ is money that you receive for the pain and suffering caused by your injuries.

‘Special damages’ is money to cover a range of costs and expenses, including:

  • Loss of earnings
  • Private care
  • Surgery, medication and other medical expenses
  • Transport
  • Rehabilitation
  • Counselling
  • Physiotherapy
  • Any other expenses relating to your injuries

No two injury claims are the same and, subsequently, no two compensation amounts will be the same. Your solicitor will calculate the amount to request from the defendant using recognised guidelines and by looking at what other claimants have received in similar cases. You can also claim for any future financial expenses you may incur after your claim has settled, such as any future loss of earning and any future private care. This is why you need a specialist solicitor, with understanding and experience of personal injury cases, to make sure you receive the maximum possible compensation.

A No Win No Fee arrangement to provide for the costs of a legal claim. See Guide to Funding.

This is stiffness and resistance to stretching in joints and muscles which are not used regularly.

Bruising of the brain tissue on the opposite side to where the blow was struck.

An award of damages may be reduced because the claimant is responsible for part of the damage because of a failure to take for their own safety. This applies to actions in negligence, nuisance and breach of statutory duty.

A bruise caused by a blow by a blunt object.

Coroners are appointed by the Lord Chancellor’s department. Their main function is to hold inquests into violent, unnatural, sudden or unexpected deaths.

The Court at Appeal deals with appeals from decisions made by the High Court or County Court in both civil and criminal cases. The Court of Appeal normally sits in London and decisions made by it are binding on the High and County Courts. The Court of Appeal is itself bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court.

A barrister, who will: provide additional advice to you about the chances of success of a claim, prepare the legal documents setting out the allegations against the Defendant and who will represent you in court. Senior Barristers are referred to as Queen’s Counsel or QC’s.

Taking someone to court. For example where the claimant takes action against the defendant.

The court that has the specific task of making decisions about the property and affairs of adults and children who cannot make decisions for themselves (who lack mental capacity). The court has the power to decide whether the person has capacity and, if not, they appoint a Deputy to make decisions for the person. For more information look at www.publicguardian.gov.uk or www.hyphenlaw.co.uk.

Operation to remove part of the skull.

A series of X-rays taken of different levels of the brain used to identify bruising and clots on the brain.

A government scheme which provides compensation to blameless victims of violent crime.

A sum of money awarded by the court (or agreed through negotiated settlement) as compensation to the claimant.

The person or organisation against whom a claim is made.

A claim for damages in a fatal accident claim made by a defined class of individuals (this includes husbands, wives and civil partners) who were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of his or her death.

The person appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the money and affairs of a person who cannot do this for themselves. This can be a trusted friend or family member or a professional such as a solicitor.

The process of identifying the nature and cause of an illness.

Widespread tearing of nerve fibres across the whole of the brain.

A social services department having completed a community care assessment may decide that rather than offer somebody care or accommodation, they will instead offer a direct payment of money to enable that person to source their own care or accommodation.

Monies that must be paid out during the claim for things like obtaining medical records, expert reports etc.

This is part of the litigation process. A party has a duty to disclose documents that he has or has had under his control that he intends to rely upon or adversely affect his own case.

Difficulty in controlling urges and impulses to speak, act or show emotions.

Difficulty in speaking, due to weakness and lack of coordination of the muscles used for speech.

Difficulty in writing.

Difficulty in swallowing.

May be either expressive (difficulty in expressing oneself in speech), or receptive (difficulty in understanding what is being said).

Difficulty in planning and performing purposeful movements (whilst still having the ability to move and be aware of movements).

Abnormal muscle tone.

Abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. It involves seizures or fits affecting parts of or all of the body.

The proof of facts asserted in a claim e.g. witness statements, documents supporting the claim and expert reports.

Planning, organisation, problem solving, sequencing, self-monitoring and controlling behaviour.

An accident causing the death of one or more of those involved.

This term is normally used to refer to the method by which a solicitor’s costs are to be paid. For example funding by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement or by Legal Expenses insurance.

Claims for damages are normally calculated in relation to those losses and expenses that occurred up to the time of the settlement of the claim or trial, and those that will occur after that date. The latter losses and expenses are referred to as future losses. This may typically include claims for future loss of income and the cost of future care and accommodation.

This is personal care provided by friends or family which is not paid for. The need for the care arises from the person’s injuries or illness.

The collection of blood in pools or clots. If this is in the brain, it forms a swelling that compresses the brain around it.

This is the Government body responsible for ensuring compliance with health and safety at work law and regulations. HSE inspectors have powers similar to police officers to enter work premises and interview members of staff. They will often conduct an investigation following an accident at work and if they consider that there has been a breach of health and safely law they can bring criminal charges against either the company or an individual.

A leading national brain injury charity, which provides advice and support to those who have suffered a brain injury www.headway.org.uk

Weakness of one side of the body.

Paralysis of one side of the body.

A care facility for people that are terminally ill (called end of life care). Hospices usually specialise in pain and symptom relief and providing emotional support for the patient and their family.

Build-up of fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain, which can cause injury to the brain.

Lack of oxygen supply to the brain (also called anoxia).

An assessment undertaken of the claimant’s needs when solicitors are first instructed. This is usually a joint instruction with the defendants who fund it and will identify the immediate needs the client has after they leave hospital such as: accommodation, care, equipment and treatment.

In cases involving children, a judge must approve any compensation amount offered by the defendant before it is accepted This is in order to safeguard the child; to ensure the child’s claim is not under-settled and the compensation will be appropriately managed for them until they turn 18. Subsequently, if you are making a claim on behalf of a child who is under 18, you will have to attend the infant approval hearing at court.

Area where brain cells have died as a result of the loss of blood supply.

An enquiry by the Coroner’s Court into the cause of a person’s death.

Compensation paid to the claimant by the defendant before the case is concluded. Payments are usually made after the defendant admits responsibility for the injury or illness.

Inside the skull.

This is a meeting which the claimant his Solicitors and barrister attend with the defendant’s representatives, to see if any agreement can be reached regarding the outstanding issues in the claim and if a settlement can be achieved.

These are broad guidelines which are updated annually to help assess the value of an injury.

The fees and other costs incurred during a case, e.g. fees for lawyers, barristers, expert witnesses, medical professionals, etc.

An insurance policy which will cover the solicitors fees in acting for you in certain circumstances. See Guide to Funding.

This is the responsibility of an act or omission. Failure to meet this responsibility can result in a person, group, company or trust being liable for a claim. It is for the claimant to prove such liability on the part of the defendant.

The time period after which the right to bring a claim expires. Generally this is three years from the date of the accident or date of knowledge, although there are shorter time periods for accidents which occurred abroad, at sea, or in the air. The limitation period for a child starts when the child attains 18 years old and they then have three years to bring a claim. Legal advice should always be sought as early as possible to ensure that the time limit is not missed.

This is the name given to a person appointed to act on behalf of someone that lacks capacity to litigate under the Mental Capacity Act. A child who is under 18 years old also requires a litigation friend to bring proceedings on their behalf.

An injured claimant may have had the chance of a future career path and consequential earnings but this has been ended as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident. A broad-brush approach may be applied where it is difficult to be precise about the claimant’s likely career path but for the accident.

This is a claim to compensate for the loss of joy of a craft and or vocation.

If someone is unable to work due to their injury or illness they can claim for their net loss of earnings. The precise calculation will depend on the circumstances of the claim.

If the life of a claimant has been shortened as a result of his or her injuries, he or she is entitled to seek compensation in relation to a benefit which he or she would have received during the period of his or her life which he or she has been deprived. They are usually claims for loss of earnings and loss of pension.

Compensation is commonly paid by a single lump sum. In certain cases there may be a lump sum and an order for periodical payments. Periodical payments are generally made annually to pay for the cost of care or case management for the remainder of the claimant’s life.

This enables detailed pictures of the brain or other parts of the body to be taken. An MRI uses a strong magnet rather than x-rays.

The defendant is liable for the claimant’s losses caused by the defendant’s breach.  The burden is on the defendant to show that the claimant has acted unreasonably in failing to mitigate, reduce their losses.

A scheme operated by the insurance industry to provide compensation to the victims of uninsured and untraced drivers.

This is a malignant tumour of the mesothelium, usually of the lung. It is generally caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.

This is the annual cost or loss of an item of future loss. For example, the annual sum for loss of earnings.

It is a well-established approach to calculating future losses and there is a table (known as the Ogden tables) for calculations which are annually produced in a book called Facts and Figures.

This track applies to personal injury claims where court proceedings have been issued and the value of the claim is more than £25,000 or where the trial is likely to last longer than one day.  The Civil Procedure Rules sets out how cases in the multi track are to be managed by the court.

A failure to exercise the care toward others which would reasonably be expected in the circumstances, or taking action which a reasonable person would not take.

A “Conditional Fee Agreement” arrangement to provide for the costs of a legal claim. See Guide to Funding.

Excess fluid in the body tissues causing swelling.

An injury where the skull is broken open by a blow to the head.

A relatively new method for the direct attachment of prosthetics to residual skeletons.

This is lump sum compensation for the injuries or illness suffered. This is compensation for the physical and psychological injury and the effect it has had.

A term used in the Mental Capacity Act that means someone who lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions in relation to property, finances or healthcare etc.

If a client is unable to work, either permanently or over a limited period of time, there is a possibility that they may not only lose their wages – but they may also suffer a pension loss. It will be necessary to look at the pension arrangements and contact the pension company to calculate the actual or potential loss.

Traditionally, compensation has been paid by way of a lump sum. There is now the option for the court to consider periodical payments for part, or all, of an award. Instead of a one-off lump sum, the claimant will receive an annual index linked sum to meet the costs of care, case management and loss of earnings for the remainder of his or her life. The claimant can then be assured that there will always be money to meet their care and living costs.

An accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

Scarring of the lining of the lungs. Indicative of exposure to asbestos but does not attract compensation.

Thickening of the membrane lining the lungs. Can cause restrictions to breathing.

A procedure in which a chemical (usually talc) is blown into the pleural cavity in an effort to prevent the build up of fluid.

Fibrosis and scarring of the lungs as a result of repeated inhalation of occupationally associated dust such as silica, asbestos and coal dust.

The period after being unconscious when there may be confused behaviour and an inability to remember continuous events.

An application can be made before court proceedings are issued for pre-action disclosure against a party that is likely to be a party to future litigation and if the litigation was started that party would have to disclose the document. An order is made if the court considers it is desirable for there to be early disclosure to fairly dispose of the anticipated proceedings or assist in resolving the dispute without proceedings to save costs.

Perception of the position and movements of the body, limbs and head.

This is the provision that, if there is a serious or significant deterioration within a certain period and this was caused by the accident, a claimant can return to court to obtain more compensation. There are tight restrictions on when a provisional damages award may be made. It should be considered in all cases whenever a client has an increased risk of developing epilepsy in the future.

The administrative branch of the Court of Protection. The PGO is responsible for supervising former receivers and current Deputies.

The formation of fibrous tissue (scarring) in the lungs as part of a repair or reactive process. This can be caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres.

The level of damages awarded to a claimant.

Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase that means “the thing speaks for itself. This is used where the claimant needs to prove something but cannot exactly be certain how the events occurred, so they will say that the circumstances of the accident speak for themselves.

This is the name of the leading case to calculate the compensation for a claimant in relation to the increased costs of new accommodation required as a result of their injuries.

The document prepared by the claimant setting out all of the financial and other losses for which compensation is claimed.

The resolution of a legal claim prior to a final court judgment.

Device to remove excess fluid or divert blood.

This could be a compound fracture (a crack in the skull) or a depressed fracture (in which bone fragments are pushed inwards into the skull).

This compensates the claimant for any disadvantage in seeking employment on the open labour market caused by their injuries arising from the accident or illness. It is called a Smith v Manchester award as this is the name of the Court of Appeal case.

An involuntarily increase in muscle tone (tension).

The trial of a preliminary contested issue in a case such as liability or causation.

When a person is legally responsibility for their acts or admissions, regardless of whether they were at fault.

A leading charity providing advice and support to those have suffered a spinal cord injury and their families www.spinal.co.uk

A duty can be imposed by an act of parliament known as legislation. A breach of a statutory duty can provide an entitlement to compensation.

A carer or enabler, who will assist an injured person with all activities of daily living. They can live in if required.

The most senior court in the country whose decisions are binding on other courts.

A surgical technique for taking a biopsy, in which a telescopic instrument fitted with a lighting system is inserted through the chest wall.

An operation to open up blocked airways by cutting through the neck and inserting a plastic tube in to the windpipe.

The amputation of a limb that occurred during the course of an accident rather than an operation.

A Personal Injury Trust is a legally binding arrangement in which money is held by trustees for the benefit of another under the terms of a document called a Trust Deed. One benefit is that the trust can enable the injured person to continue their entitlement to means tested benefits.

This is also called a respirator. It is a machine that pumps oxygen enriched air into the lungs when they are not working efficiently.

This is either of the two lower chambers of the heart or a cavity of the brain that makes and contains cerebrospinal fluid.

A legal document that allows the person who makes it – the testator – to determine how their estate (money, property, other assets, etc) will be managed and distributed after their death.

A person present at some event who is able to give an account of it. If asked to attend court they will provide sworn testimony.


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