Car Accident Glossary

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This term describes the commencement of a legal claim through the civil courts against the party responsible for your car accident and/or injuries.


affidavit is a voluntary sworn declaration of written facts used to prove something in court. Affidavits are commonly used to present evidence in car accident lawsuits.

Actual cash value:

In the context of automobile insurance claims, actual cash value is a method of valuing your vehicle or that of another driver. If your car needs to be repaired after a car accident, its actual cash value will be measured by what the car could have been sold for right before it was damaged or destroyed. This is another way of saying “market value.”


An adjuster is an individual who acts on behalf of an insurance company to gather information after a car accident, and assess and monitor an insurance claim. Typically, there are multiple adjusters involved in processing claims after a car accident.

Automobile liability insurance:

Personal automobile liability insurance protects you and others in the event of a car accident. If others hold you legally responsible for property damage or bodily injuries following a car accident, your automobile liability insurance typically covers all or part of the damages. This general term encompasses bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability
(see definitions below).


Bodily injury liability insurance:

This type of insurance provides coverage in the event of an accident in which you or another person is hurt. It covers injuries that you are responsible for, and offers legal protection if someone who was injured in a car accident sues you for damages. As with most states, Texas mandates that all drivers carry a minimum level of bodily injury liability insurance. State financial responsibility law requires $30,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person, and $60,000 per accident.

Burden of proof:

In a legal case, the person or party who has the responsibility of proving what happened has the burden of proof. In a car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff (who is the person who brings the claim or lawsuit) has the burden of proof to establish that the other party should be held liable (or legally responsible) for causing the accident.



This term refers to the termination of an insurance policy contract before the end of the policy period, by either the insurance company (the insurer) or the policyholder (the insured).

Comparative negligence:

Texas courts apply a legal principle known as comparative negligence, which means that an injured party can still recover damages in a personal injury suit even where they were partially to blame for the car accident. In Texas, you can be found to be up to 51% responsible for your injuries in a personal injury lawsuit and still recover damages from the other party. This is known as the modified comparative negligence principle.



This term refers to loss or harm to a person or property.


In the legal system, this term refers to a sum of money awarded to a party to compensate for loss or harm to a person or property. In a car accident lawsuit, there are several different types of damages available to the injured party. These include (but are not limited to) damages for pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and past and future lost wages.


This term refers to the out-of-pocket expenses you agree to pay as part of your insurance coverage up to a set amount, such as $500 or $1,000. If you can afford to carry a higher deductible, you can substantially lower your costs in the event of a car accident.


This term refers to the party against whom a lawsuit is initiated. In a car accident lawsuit, the injured party (the  Plaintiff) brings a lawsuit against the party who caused his or her injuries (the defendant).


Emotional distress:

This term refers to a type of  damages (see definition above) that may be awarded by a court where a psychological or mental injury arises directly from a car accident.

Expert witness:

An expert witness is a person who, through education or experience, has developed specialized knowledge in a subject and can help the judge or jurors better understand a particular issue in a case. The parties in a car accident lawsuit may call expert witnesses to testify about a variety of topics such as injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, or fault in the accident.


First party insurance benefits:

These are the benefits that are available to an injured person from that person’s own insurance policy. First party insurance benefits cover the policyholder (the insured) in the event of an injury regardless of who caused the accident. These benefits are sometimes referred to as “accident benefits” and may cover medical and rehabilitation costs, loss of income, funeral, and death benefits.

Future damages:

This term refers to losses an injured person is expected to suffer in the years following a car accident as a result of his or her injuries. These damages (see definition above) might include loss of future income, future medical and rehabilitation expenses, and home maintenance expenses.



This term refers to the principle in insurance practice that an insured should be put back into the position they enjoyed before a loss occurred. In the context of a car accident, where a party is entitled to indemnity, he or she will be compensated in an amount that neither improves nor worsens their financial situation.


In Texas, all drivers are required to carry minimum amounts of insurance based on the state’s financial responsibility law.  Insurance is an arrangement by which a company provides a guarantee of compensation for a specified loss or damage in return for payment of a premium. There might be several types of insurance coverage at issue after a car accident, including bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability insurance (see definitions above and below).

Insurance fraud:

This term refers to an attempt to falsify or exaggerate the facts of a car accident to an insurer in order to obtain a higher settlement payment than is justified. Examples of insurance fraud include staging an accident, inaccurately preparing insurance documentation, lying to an insurance adjuster, exaggerating injuries, or forging exorbitant medical bills.


This term refers to the party to an insurance agreement who is covered in the event of property damage or bodily injury.


This term refers to the insurance company in an insurance agreement.



In the legal system, liability designates legal responsibility. In many car accident lawsuits, both the plaintiff and the defendant or defendants are found to be partially responsible for the car accident. The percentage of liability assigned to each party corresponds with the amount of resulting damages they will be required to pay. In Texas, liability for a car accident can be established in many ways, including police reports, witness statements, evidence collected at the scene of the accident, vehicle damage, and evidence of traffic violations.


After a car accident,  loss refers to the value of property damage and/or injury suffered by a party. Loss can include damages for pain and suffering, past and future income lost, past and future medical care, and any other services that are required due to the accident.

Lost wages:

This term refers to the amount of money you were unable to earn through working as a result of your injuries. In a car accident lawsuit, you may be entitled to recover damages for past lost wages as well as the wages you will not be able to earn in the future as a result of your diminished earning capacity.



In the legal system, this term refers to a duty to reduce or minimize any possible damages by taking reasonable and appropriate action. A person who is injured in a car accident should seek prompt medical care and should attempt to return to work if possible.



In the civil legal system, negligence is the failure to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances. In a car accident lawsuit, if a party’s  negligence causes damage or injuries then he or she will be liable for that damage.  Negligence is different from intentional conduct, which can also be punished in car accident lawsuit. A person is negligent when he or she unintentionally fails to take proper caution.

Negligence per se:

This term describes an act that is considered to be negligent in and of itself because it violates a law meant to protect the public, such as a speed limit. Unlike in a normal negligence claim, a plaintiff alleging negligence per se does not need to prove that a reasonable person would have acted differently under the same or similar circumstances. The other party’s conduct is automatically considered to be negligent once it is established that he or she violated the law. The focus of the lawsuit then becomes whether the conduct caused damage to the plaintiff.


Pain and suffering:

In a car accident lawsuit, a party may be awarded damages for pain and suffering to compensate for the physical and psychological injuries he or she suffered as a result of the accident. Physical injuries may include broken bones, back and neck injuries, lacerations, burns, and bruises. Psychological injuries may include depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.


This term refers to a person who commences a lawsuit. In a car accident lawsuit, the  plaintiff is the injured person who initiates a lawsuit against the other party, the defendant, who is alleged to have caused the injuries resulting from the accident.

Property damage liability insurance:

This type of insurance covers you if your car damages someone else’s property. If your car was damaged in a car accident, the other driver’s property damage liability insurance may cover some or all of the damage. In Texas, state financial responsibility law requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of property damage liability insurance: $25,000 per accident.



In a car accident lawsuit, a  settlement is an agreement that ends the dispute and results in the voluntary dismissal of any related litigation. It is typically a monetary payment offered by one party outside of the formal legal process. The parties to a car accident suit may enter into settlement negotiations – discussions about how much the case is worth – at any time after an action is filed. Settling a case outside of court can help you avoid expensive legal fees. But sometimes it is best to bring a case to trial, especially if the other party is unwilling to settle your case for a fair amount. This term may also refer to the resolution of an insurance claim after a car accident.



tort is a wrongful act resulting in damage or injury upon which a civil action can be based. Common torts include negligence, assault, and battery. Most car accident lawsuits include a claim or claims for negligence (see definition above).

Total loss:

After a car accident, a vehicle is considered to be a total loss when it cannot be repaired, or when the cost of the repair would exceed the fair market value of the car itself. Typically, when a car is a total loss an insurance company will offer the actual cash value (see definition above) of the vehicle.

Traumatic brain injury:

traumatic brain injury or “TBI” is an injury to the brain that usually results from an external physical blow to the head. A traumatic brain injury can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from temporary nausea and dizziness to a permanent impairment of a person’s cognitive and emotional functions.


trial is the hearing of legal issues by a court. A trial might be either a  jury trial, in which jurors decide the case, or a bench trial, in which a judge decides the case. Your car accident
can help you better understand what type of trial is right for you based on the facts of your accident.


Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage:

This type of insurance, also referred to as ” UIM,” is typically part of an automobile insurance policy. It provides coverage in situations where you have been involved in an accident with another driver who either has no insurance, or not enough insurance to cover the property damage or bodily injuries caused by the accident. In this case, your UIM coverage should provide compensation for any damages for which the other party has no coverage.



At the scene of a car accident, there is usually at least one witness who saw the accident occur. You should ask witnesses for their names and contact information, and request that they write down a brief statement of what they saw before leaving the scene of an accident. The police may want to talk to the people who witnessed your car accident so that they can file an accurate police report. Insurance company representatives may also need to contact witnesses to determine who was at fault in the accident. During the judicial process, witnesses can provide evidence to assist the parties in proving their version of events. The people who witnessed your accident are generally considered to be “lay” witnesses. Expert witnesses such as doctors and accident reconstruction experts may also present testimony about the car accident or your injuries in court.

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