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Glossary of Legal Terms

Abuse of process The improper use of a legal process other than that for which it was designed.

Acceptance of service A form of acknowledgement, accepting service and undertaking to appear.

Advocate A professional with legal qualifications including both barristers and solicitors.

Affidavit Written statement to be used in evidence, sworn or affirmed (usually before a commissioner for Oaths, or solicitor) by the witness.

Audience, right of Right to appear and conduct proceedings in Court.

Balance of probabilities The standard of proof in a civil trial. Plaintiff has to establish more than a 50% probability that the Defendant is liable for the injuries caused and the subsequent losses flowing from that injury.

Barrister A member of the bar who has exclusive rights in some Courts to plead cases.

Bench Judges or Magistrates.

Beyond all reasonable doubt The standard of proof in a criminal trial in which the prosecution has to establish the case against the Defendant, without a doubt in the minds of the Judge or Jury.

Bona fide In good faith; honesty

Brief Written instructions to a Barrister, to appear and present a party's case before a Court. Distinct from Instructions to Counsel which are forwarded from Counsel to settle pleadings and to advise on evidence or in conference.

Calderbank letter A procedural step allowing a party to an action to offer to settle on a "without prejudice save as to costs" basis. It reserves the right to bring the offer to the attention of the Court when the question of costs is dealt with. Frequently used prior to the commencement of proceedings when a payment into Court is not possible. Not possible where the Plaintiff is legally aided.

Causation The relation of cause and effect, ie: that the negligent action caused the injuries.

Cause of action The facts out of which a right to sue arises.

Contributory negligence The Plaintiff's own actions or inactions which amount to negligence on his part, which the Court takes into account and which can reduce the liability of the Defendant.

Costs Can be split into two categories; profit costs (the solicitor's charges) and disbursements (eg: expert's fees). Each party must pay his solicitor's costs. Costs are within the discretion of the Court but are normally awarded against the unsuccessful party. Where legally aided, the Court will order costs not to be enforced without the approval of the Court.

Costs, taxation of An examination by an Officer of the Court of a solicitor's bill costs conducted with a view to ensuring that the costs are fair.

Counsel A practising barrister.

Junior Counsel A barrister who has not attained a silk.

Queen's Counsel A selected senior barrister who has "taken silk". Also referred to as a Leader, as he/she leads Junior Counsel on more complex cases.

Courts of Civil Jurisdiction Include the County Court, the High Court (3 divisions; the Queen's Bench, Chancery and Family Division). the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.

Damage Physical, psychiatric or economic loss or harm arising out of a wrongful act or omission.

Damages The assessment of compensation in monetary terms for damage suffered.

Defence Reply to Particulars or Statement of Claim.

Defendant One who defends an action at Law.

Deposition A statement made on Oath.

Discovery Disclosure by a party of all relevant documents to the action which are in his custody or possession.

Duty of care A duty owned by one to another to take reasonable care not to cause physical, psychiatric or economic loss or harm.

Employer's liability The liability of an employer to pay damages to employees for personal injuries sustained in the course of employment if liability is established. See also vicarious liability.

Evidence Testimony and production of documents and items which prove or disprove any matter of fact, including witness statements and expert reports.

Ex-Parte Application made to the Court by a person who is not a party to the proceedings or by one party in the absence of the other.

Expert witness A person with special skills, technical knowledge or professional qualifications, who is generally independent of the parties. Read More...

Further and Better Particulars Further factual details provided by one party at the request of another.

General Damages Non pecuniary loss for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

Hearsay What someone else has been heard to say as contrasted with direct hearing.

Inquest An inquiry held by a Coroner regarding cause of death.

Interrogatories Answer on Oath to specific questions of fact raised by one party against another.

Interim payment A payment made on account of any damages before final assessment.

Judgment A form of decision made and pronounced by a Court of Law or other tribunal.

Limitation of Actions Statutory time limit following which an action generally cannot be brought eg: in simple contract, 6 years from the dale of accrual of action. In personal injury, 3 years from the date of accrual of action or knowledge that injury arose.

Minor A person under the age of 18 years.

Negligence The breach of a legal duty to take care, leading to damage.

Nervous shock Actual illness in the form of physical symptoms or recognised psychiatric illness.

Occupier's liability Liability to ensure that premises are not in a dangerous state and likely to cause harm.

Order A command or direction of the Court other than a final judgment.

Particulars of Claim The factual allegations put forward by the claimant in the County Court. (See Statement of Claim).

Payment into Court A deposit of money into the Court to meet the claim.

Plaintiff One who brings an action at law.

Pleadings Formal written statement in a civil action, served by a party on his opponents, stating allegations of fact upon which the party pleading is claiming relief, but not the evidence by which the facts are to be proved, eg: Statement of Claim, Defence.

Prima Facie On the face of it.

Privilege Legal professional privilege. Attaches to a document, the primary purpose of which is to obtain legal advice and which need not be disclosed to the other party.

Procedure The form of steps to be taken in an action.

Proof, of evidence Statement taken from witness.

Protection, Court of The office of the Court for the protection and management of the property and affairs of persons with mental disability.

Provisional damages Damages paid to the Plaintiff with a specified right to re-apply to the Court at some time in the future if those specified events occur.

Service Any delivery of a Court document by one party to another.

Service,acknowledgement of The Defendant must acknowledge service of a writ within 14 days of service and must indicate whether or not he intends to contest proceedings.

Solicitor A person, legally qualified who is employed to conduct legal proceedings or to advise on legal matters.

Special Damage Quantifiable financial loss.

Statement of Claim A means of replacing lump sum payments with periodic payments to the Plaintiff for the remainder of the Plaintiff's life.

Subpoena A writ issued in an action requiring person to whom it is directed to be present at Court.

Summons A document issued from the office of a Court of Justice. Used as a means of commencing an action, eg: Originating summons, or commanding the parties to attend Court on an Application by either party for issues to be resolved by the Court where proceedings have already been commenced.

Third Party Proceedings A contribution or indemnity south from one who is not already a party to the action.

Trial The examination and decision of a matter of law or fact by a Court of Law.

Ultra Vires An act in excess of the authority conferred.

Verdict The decision of the Coroner or jury.

Vicarious liability Liability which falls on one person as a result of an action of another, eg: the liability of an employer for the acts and omissions of his employees during the normal course of their employment.

Without Prejudice A statement made which cannot be construed as an admission of liability or be given in evidence.

Writ The means of commencing proceedings in the High Court.


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