Legal Terms Glossary

Helping You Understand Law

Witherite Law Group attorneys Nic Coward, John Nohinek and Rob Loar.

Witherite Law Group Glossary of Legal Terms

We know that there are many legal terms that are difficult to understand. That's why we together some of the most used legal terms in our area of law to help you better understand your case.

Accident Report:

  • An Accident Report is a formal account of an incident or event that contains information about the parties that were involved and a description of what happened based on an investigation by peace  officer

Act of God:

  • An Act of God is a natural event that causes severe damage, such as an earthquake, tornado, flooding or storms, that cannot be prevented by humans


  • An Affidavit is a written statement under oath made before a person that is authorized to administer oaths.


  • An Answer in law is a written response to the accusations or charges in the complaint of the plaintiff filed by a defendant.


  • An Appeal is a request to a higher (appellate) court reverse the judgment or ruling of a lower court.


  • An Appearance is showing up in court in-person or through an attorney.


  • Arbitration is a legally binding hearing that is held before a neutral party (person or panel of people) that is not a judge that resolves a legal dispute


  • A Brief is a written legal argument that uses case law, statutes, legal rules, and the specific facts of a case to explain the reasoning behind the argument.

Case law:

  • Case law is law that is based on the decisions of appellate courts. Appellate courts interpret and apply statutory law to the facts of a case before issuing a decision. Case law is also known as common law.

Circumstantial Evidence:

  • Circumstantial evidence is evidence that requires an inference of a fact or is not drawn from a direct observation to reach a conclusion


  • A Claim is to make a demand for compensation or an enforceable right that is provided by law

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL):

  • A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a professional license that certifies the holder of the license has satisfied the minimum requirements of a state to drive large commercial vehicles and buses on public roadways. There are different classes of CDLs; each with different knowledge and skill requirements.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

  • A Commercial Motor Vehicle is any vehicle used to transport goods or passengers for the profit

Common Law:

  • See case law

Comparative Negligence:

  • Comparative Negligence is the amount of balanced fault of each of the groups that contributed to the injury.


  • A Complaint is the original, written claim filed in action which begins the lawsuit. The plaintiff usually files a complaint.

Contributing Factor:

  • A Contributing Factor is something that partially or fully caused an incident

Contributory Negligence:

  • Contributory Negligence is used to describe actions by an injured individual who may have contributed to their own injuries with careless actions or lack of consideration for the circumstance.  The degree of fault that each party played in the situation.

Court Costs:

  • Court Costs fees for the use of the court that commonly include the initial filing fee, fees for serving the summons, complaint, and subpoenas, and fees to pay for the transcription by a court reporter of depositions or in-court testimony.


  • A Counterclaim is a claim brought by a defendant against the plaintiff for money or specific actions.


  • A Crossclaim is a claim brought by a defendant against another defendant, or a claim brought by a plaintiff against another plaintiff.


  • Damages are the amount of money that a party seeks in a lawsuit.


  • The Defendant is the party being sued or accused of wrongdoing in a lawsuit.


  • A Demand is a written request for payment or performance based on a legal right that identifies the basis for the legal right


  • A Deposition is an out of court proceeding in which a witness provides testimony of under oath before trial as part of the pre-trial investigation (discovery).

Direct Evidence:

  • Direct Evidence is clear or tangible evidence of a fact that does not require an inference to reach a conclusion, such as eyewitness accounts or video proof


  • Discovery is the phase of the lawsuit in which the parties exchange information about the witnesses and evidence that could be presented during trial. Commonly used discovery tools include request for admissions, interrogatories, and depositions.

Electronic Logging Device:

  • An Electronic Logging Device is a device within a commercial vehicle’s engine that automatically records driving hours.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations:

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are regulations put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ensure motor carrier, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and commercial vehicle driver safety.


  • Judgment is the final decision of the court in a lawsuit.


  • A Lawsuit (or suit) is legal action brought by a party again another that will be decided in court

Liable or Liability:

  • Liable or Liability is the legal responsibility to another person for an act or omission that resulted in their injury


  • Litigation is the process of taking legal action or filing a lawsuit with a court to resolve a dispute


  • Mediation is a non-binding attempt to resolve a dispute with the help of a neutral 3rd party (the mediator), that attempts to find a range of agreement


  • Negligence is a failure to act as a reasonable person would in the same or similar circumstances that results in the injury of another person.


  • A Party is a person or company that has an interest in a legal dispute.


  • A Petition is a written legal document that is a formal request for a court order or action.


  • The Plaintiff is the party who initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint in a court against a defendant


  • Pleadings are formal documents filed by a litigant in a lawsuit that layout the facts from which legal relief should be granted or challenges the claims of an opposing party

Pre-Trip Inspection:

  • A Pre-Trip Inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck, trailer and load by a driver before getting on the road to ensure that each part safe to operate on the road

 Preventable Accident:

  • A Preventable Accident is an incident in which a driver did not take every reasonable action to prevent the incident

 Respondeat Superior:

  • A Respondeat Superior is a legal rule that holds an employer responsible for the actions of its employee if the employee is acting within the scope of their employment.


  • A Settlement is an agreement between the parties of a legal dispute that resolves the dispute.

Statutory law:

  • Statutory law is written law that is created by a legislative body. Statutory law consist of statutes.


  • Telematics are used in the trucking industry to gather dates with a combination of GPS technology, sensors and on-board diagnostics. This can provide information like vehicle location, driver behavior, vehicle activity and real-time engine diagnostics.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):

  • A Traumatic Brain Injury is the impact from a head injury that results in a diminishes or altered state of consciousness that may impair a person physically, mentally or emotionally. Often a result of a severe auto accident or other sports-related injury.


  • A Verdict is the jury’s findings or factual conclusions based on the evidence presented in a case.

Voir Dire:

  • Voir Dire is the process in which potential jurors are questioned by either judges or lawyers to determine if they are suitable for a case.