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Legal Dictionary - Glossary of Legal Terms

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Capacity Defense. Broadly, describes a defendant's lack of some fundamental ability to be held accountable. For example, in Pennsylvania, persons under 7 years of age are presumed incapable of negligence.

Caption. The heading on a legal document listing the parties, the court, the case number, and related information.

Carve-out. Carve-out programs allow employers and unions to create their own alternatives for workers' compensation benefit delivery and dispute resolution under a collective bargaining agreement.

Case Law. Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the Supreme Court.

Casualty. A loss of property due to fire, storm shipwreck or other casualty, which is allowable as a deduction in computing taxable income.

Causation. The act by which an effect is produced. See also "legal cause" and "proximate cause."

Cause. A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause of Action. Fact or facts that give someone the right to seek a remedy through the court because the facts of the case apply to a certain law sought to be enforced.

Certification. 1. Written attestation. 2. Authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

Certiorari. (Latin: "To be informed of.") Writ issued by a superior or higher court to a lower court requiring the lower court to produce a certified record of a case tried there so that the superior court can examine the lower court proceedings for errors. See record .

Civil Action. Action brought to enforce private rights. Generally, all actions except criminal actions.

Civil Law. Body of law concerned with private rights and remedies, as contrasted with criminal law. Compare with criminal law.

Civil Procedure. The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.

Claim Petition. In cases where a worker is injured on the job, the injured employee files a claim petition to seek initial compensation. This occurs when there has been a Notice of Denial - no workers' compensation payments have been made or medical benefits have not been paid.

Class Action. A means by which one or more individuals are able to sue for themselves and as representatives of other people. A class action requires: an identifiable group of people with a well-defined interest in the facts and law of the suit; too many people in the group for it to be practical to bring them all before the court; and the individuals bringing suit are able to adequately represent the entire group.

Claim Form. The form used to report a work injury or illness to your employer. The form is filed out and turned in at your place of business.

Claim Petition. When a worker is injured on the job, he or she files this type of petition to seek initial compensation after receiving a Notice of Workers Compensation Denial.

Claimant. In a workers compensation case, the person who makes a claim or asserts a right; the injured worker who files a claim petition or otherwise receives workers compensation benefits.

Claims Administrator. The term for insurance companies and others that handle your workers' compensation claim. Most claims administrators work for insurance companies or third party administrators handling claims for employers. Some claims administrators work directly for large employers that handle their own claims.

Clear and Convincing Evidence. Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency cases. It governs the amount of proof that must be offered in order for the plaintiff to win the case.

Collateral Source Rule. The rule ensures that compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit will not be reduced if the plaintiff receives compensation for the same injury from another source, such as insurance. Under the rule, a defendant tort-feasor is unable to benefit from the fact that the plaintiff received money from another source, such as insurance, because of the defendant's tort.

Commonwealth Court (Pennsylvania). The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is an appellate court that hears appeals from decisions of administrative agencies.

Commutation. An order by a workers' compensation judge for a lump sum payment of part or all of your permanent disability award.

Comparative Negligence. Comparing the plaintiff's contributory negligence to the defendant's negligence. Pennsylvania's Comparative Negligence statute states that when a plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence and that negligence was not greater than the defendant's negligence, the plaintiff's damages will be diminished in proportion to his negligence in causing the accident.

Compensation. Something that makes up for a loss. In workers' compensation cases, it refers to payment to unemployed or injured workers or their dependents.

Compensatory Damages. Damages that cover actual injury or economic loss. Compensatory damages are intended to put the injured party in the position he was in prior to the injury. Compensatory damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages and the repair or replacement of property. Also called "actual damages".

Complainant. The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. Also called the plaintiff.

Complaint. In the legal sense, the document a plaintiff files with the court which contains allegations and damages sought. A complaint generally starts a lawsuit.

Compromise and Release. In workers compensation cases, this occurs when a lump sum payment of money is paid by the insurance carrier to an injured worker to resolve the case. This lump sum is in lieu of the weekly compensation benefits the injured worker is receiving and may or may not include future medical benefits.

Circumstantial Evidence. Evidence not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the fact in dispute, but, rather, evidence of other personal knowledge or observation which allows a jury to infer the existence or nonexistence of the fact in dispute. An example of direct evidence of who was at fault for a car accident would be a witness who actually saw the accident. An example of circumstantial evidence in this case, would be a witness who drove by after the impact and saw the defendant's car in the wrong lane.

Common Law. Law deriving its authority from usage and customs or judgments of courts recognizing and enforcing such usages and customs. Generally, law made by judges rather than by legislatures.

Comparative Negligence. Comparing the plaintiff's contributory negligence to the defendant's negligence. Pennsylvania's Comparative Negligence statute states that when a plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence and that negligence was not greater than the defendant's negligence, the plaintiff's damages will be diminished in proportion to his negligence in causing the accident.

Conciliation. A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but it may be less formal.

Conservatorship. Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself or herself. (See also guardianship. Conservators have somewhat less responsibility than guardians.)

Contingent Fee Agreement . An agreement between an attorney and his or her client whereby the attorney agrees to represent the client for a percentage of the amount recovered. This fee agreement is frequently used in personal injury actions.

Continuance. Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

Contract. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

Contributory Negligence. Broadly, carelessness on the plaintiff's part. More precisely, conduct which falls below the standard of care established by law for the protection of one's self against unreasonable risk of harm.

Corroborating Evidence. Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.

Counterclaim. Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against the plaintiff.

Court. Refers to a specific court, such as The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, or may also refer to a judge.

Court Costs. The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys' fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court costs.

Court Reporter. The person who stenographically records and transcribes testimony during court proceedings or related proceedings such as depositions.

Criminal Law. Criminal law declares what conduct is criminal and prescribes punishment to be imposed for criminal conduct. The purpose of criminal law is to prevent harm to society.

Cross Claim. Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against a co-defendant in the lawsuit.

Cross-Examination. The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

Cumulative Injury. An injury that was caused by repeated events at work.

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