Guide to legal terminology

This is a summary of some of the terms that you may encounter if you take legal action as a result of an injury sustained while cycling.

Causation
Showing the incident in question caused your injury.

Case Management Conference
A stocktaking of the case after court proceedings have begun. It allows the Judge dealing with the case to narrow the issues and decide what needs to be done before the case is tried.

Claim
This is the claim for personal injuries and any financial losses arising from your cycle accident.

Claimant
The person making the claim (previously known as the Plaintiff). A Claimant who is under the age of 18 or by reason of disability unable to give instructions to their lawyer has to act through a “Litigation Friend”, usually a close family member.

Conditional Fee Agreement
A conditional fee agreement is an agreement between yourself (the Claimant) and the law firm as a way of paying for legal services. It is also known as a ‘no win no fee’ agreement. Many personal injury claims are funded this way.

Contributory Negligence
Where the Claimant is partly to blame for their injuries. Compensation will be reduced to take account of this.

Cross Examination
The right for one party to ask leading questions of the other party or a witness when they are giving evidence in Court. “Evidence in Chief” is the evidence given by a witness of a party who called them.

Damages
a) General Damages are for pain and suffering and for future financial losses

b) Special Damages are for financial losses already incurred at the date of settlement or trial.

When an offer is made in settlement, your lawyers ought to advise you on the offer. Interest may be payable on some parts of the damages.

Defendant
The person blamed for causing injury. Where the individual responsible for an accident was carrying out their job usually a claim is made against their employer. This is known as “vicarious liability”. Almost always the defendant will be insured.

Detailed Letter of Claim
A letter should be sent to the Defendant which sets out what the claim is about so that they can assess it properly. The Defendant has about three months to investigate the claim and make a decision on liability once they have received it. This is known as the Pre-action Protocol period.

Disbursements
Payments that have to be made on behalf of the Claimant such as court fees, expert’s fees, police reports or accident report fees and travelling expenses. These are usually funded by the claimant’s lawyers.

Disclosure
The documents relevant to the claim which both sides must reveal to each other at various stages of a claim, e.g. documents to prove a financial loss such as a receipt for a cycle helmet.

Fast-track
The set of procedures that apply to cases worth less than £25,000.00, unless the Court thinks that there are complex issues or a lengthy trial is necessary. All other cases are dealt with on the “multi-track” procedure.

Forseeability
A test applied that establishes if the Defendant should have anticipated the accident or loss suffered.

Hearsay Evidence
Evidence given by a witness which is not something that they directly saw themselves.

Joint Liability
Where more than one Defendant may be held liable to a claimant.

Judgment
The Court decision on liability or the amount of compensation the Claimant is entitled to, or both. Judgment on liability is sometimes obtained, with the consent of the Defendant, before a case goes to court.

Liability
Liability is the legal term for fault.The burden is on the claimant to prove liability, not on the Defendant to disprove liability.

Limitation Period
The period within which a claimant must start Court Proceedings. After that time the claim is said to be “statute barred”. For a an adult personal injury case the limitation period is normally three years from the date of the incident. But that period can be extended where the Claimant did not realise that they had been injured or in rare circumstances, if the Court thinks that it is fair not to apply the rule.

Litigation
The step of the case that occurs in court. Court proceedings can only be started once the, “pre-action protocol” period has been complied with. If injuries are sustained a medical report must be served with the court proceedings.

Multi-Track
For cases worth at least £25,000.00 or where the issues are complex or a lengthy trial is required.

Over-riding Objective
The Court’s underlying principle of ensuring that cases are dealt with justly, including putting the parties on an equal footing, saving expense and dealing with cases in a way proportionate to the amount of money involved, the importance of the case, the complexity of the issues and the financial position of each party. In addition, the Court will try to deal with the case quickly and fairly, taking into account the priorities of other cases.

Part 36 Offer/Payment
A formal offer or payment of compensation under the court rules. These can be made by both the Claimant and the Defendant.

Pre-Action Protocol
This is the protocol that must be complied with by both a Claimant and a Defendant. The claimant must provide a detailed letter of claim known as the pre-action protocol letter. This must set out the allegations against the Defendant, details of any personal injuries and details of financial losses. The Defendant must acknowledge receipt within 21 days. They then have three months to make a decision on liability. If liability is denied they must set out the grounds for their denial together with copies of any relevant documents.

Provisional Damages
Damages that a court says a defendant must pay, or which a Defendant agrees to pay, on the basis that the Claimant will be able to go back to the court at a future date for further damages if the Claimant develops a serious disease, or the condition deteriorates in a way which has been proved or admitted to be linked to the personal injury claim.

Quantum
What the claim is worth.

Retainer
The arrangement to provide legal services in respect of a claim, e.g. a conditional fee agreement.

Settlement
The legally binding agreement to finish a case on a once and for all basis. Once a case has been settled, it is not possible to go back on the agreement, even if things do not turn out as anticipated (such as predicted medical prognosis or job security).

Statement of Truth
A form of words which you need to sign to confirm that Court Documents (including statements of evidence) are true to the best of your knowledge and belief. The Court requires this for all Court documents. Once it has been signed it will be almost impossible to change it.

Statutory Duty
The obligation imposed (usually on the Defendant) by an Act of Parliament. For example, the Highways Act 1980 imposes upon a highway authority a statutory duty to maintain the highway.

Stay
Stopping Court Proceedings, usually until a specified time, or until the Claimant completes a task set by the court.

Success Fee
The success fee is a percentage uplift payment added to your lawyer’s basic costs to reflect the percentage risk of losing. This is paid to your lawyers by the Defendant’s insurance company if the claim is unsuccessful. This applies in all cases where your claim is funded under a conditional fee agreement.

Without Prejudice
Description usually applied to settlement negotiations so that the fact of the negotiations or what is discussed will not come to the attention of the Court if the claim cannot be resolved by negotiation.


This glossary of legal terminology was written by Paul Kitson, Partner at Slater and Gordon Lawyers



Paul is a claimant personal injury specialist with Slater and Gordon Lawyers, whose particular expertise lies in road traffic incident (RTI) litigation as well as sports injury litigation. He has a niche practice in cycling injury claims and is the client partner for CTC, the national cycling charity

2008, Updated 2015

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