Common Terms in a Georgia Personal Injury Case

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Legal jargon and terminology can be difficult to understand for anyone, including lawyers.  Below is a list of commonly used legal terms in a Georgia personal injury claim.

Personal injury

Personal injury refers to any injury caused by another party’s negligence. It could be physical, mental, or emotional and includes property damage. The victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover compensation for the negative consequences of the latter’s actions.


Aa lawsuit is initiated by filing a complaint with the appropriate court. The personal injury complaint is the formal expression of your grievances.

Prayer for Relief

The complaint also includes a "prayer for relief", which is a fancy way of saying it includes information concerning how much money you want.


The plaintiff is the individual, or group of individuals, bringing the lawsuit.  Generally this is an individual who is claiming they were injured or damaged as a result of the actions of someone else.  For example, If you slip and fall and sue the store where the slip and fall occurred, you would be the plaintiff in the lawsuit.


The plaintiff serves the complaint upon the defendantThe defendant is the party that is allegedly liable for the plaintiff's injuries. In the prior example, the grocery store would be the defendant.


Defendants file a formal answer to the complaint, which serves to notify the plaintiff and the court of the defendant's position regarding the allegations.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is the time period (set by law) in which you may file suit claiming damages. The statute of limitations can vary from case to case depending upon the circumstances, and can vary from as little as one year to as long as ten or more in civil suits.

Personal injury cases, which generally are based on negligence, tend to have statutes of limitations in the area of two to three years, with special exceptions carved out for malpractice cases.

State law controls statutes of limitations, so if you are thinking of filing suit, be sure to speak with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible,


A tort is any wrongful act that is not a crime and does not arise from a contract.  Nearly every cause of action in a civil suit -- including personal injury suits -- is a tort.  Negligence, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and libel/slander are all examples of torts.

Intentional Torts

Intentional torts are wrongful acts committed on purpose. Many intentional torts can also be considered crimes.   For example, assault/battery, can lead to both civil and criminal liability. So, too, can theft, and wrongful death (murder, manslaughter, etc.).

A tort forms the grounds for a lawsuit seeking damages that are necessary to make a plaintiff whole. Criminal cases, even if arising from tortious acts, don't provide for damages. They are brought by the state with the express intent to punish criminals.


Negligence is a tort arising from carelessness or the failure to act with reasonable care, when such conduct causes damage to the person or property of another. To prove negligence a plaintiff has to prove four things. First, that the defendant had a duty or legal obligation to the plaintiff. Second, that the defendant violated or breached that duty. Third, that the breach caused damage to the plaintiff; and fourth, that damages actually exist. Duty, breach, causation and damages are the backbone of nearly every personal injury case.

For example, all stores have a duty to keep the aisles free of hazards.  They breach this duty if they fail to adequately clean up the spills and other hazards in a reasonable period of time.  If a store breaches their duty, and you slip and fall as a result causing physical and financial damages.  Given these facts, the store was negligent.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof refers to the plaintiff's obligation to prove his or her allegations to be true -- or at least more likely true than not. There are several different threshholds that could apply depending upon the type of case being litigated.

In a personal injury case, the burden of proof normally applied is that a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is liable. Simply put, personal injury plaintiffs must prove that the defendant's actions more likely than not caused the plaintiff's injuries. Continuing on with our example, in your suit against the grocery store, you'd have to prove that the store was more than 50% at-fault for your injuries in order to recover damages.

Strict Liability

Strict liability is a legal theory that imposes liability for certain acts or injuries causing damage regardless of fault or wrongdoing. For example, farmers are strictly liable for the actions of their cattle. So if a farmer's herd tramples a neighbor's crop, the farmer is liable regardless of any wrongdoing. In the 21st Century, strict liability is most often applied in cases involving defective products holding manufacturers liable for injuries sustained as a result of using their products.

Strict liability essentially shifts the burden of proof to the defendant, forcing the defendant to prove that they are not liable as opposed to typical negligence-based cases where the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is at fault.


Damages are what a plaintiff is seeking to recover in a lawsuit. In a personal injury suit, damages generally equal money. Damages are separated into two categories, economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are quantifiable damages such as medical expenses, wage loss, replacement services and auto repair bills. Non-economic damages are not specifically quantifiable, and include such things as pain, suffering, and humiliation.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a legal concept that relates to personal injury and tort law.  Comparative fault and contributory negligence can reduce or even eliminate damages altogether.   It refers to a situation where the plaintiff's own actions or behavior contribute to their own injury or damages. In other words,  plaintiff was partially at fault for their own injuries or losses.  Georgia has a modified contributory negligence standard, which means if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, then they are owed no damages.

Georgia Courts have held contributory negligence is not an available defense to a defendant when an intentional tort, such as assault, battery, or theft, is alleged.  McEachern v. Muldovan, 505 S.E.2d 495, 500 (Ga. App. 1998).

If you have been injured due to the actions of someone else, give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.


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