For your edification, this is our first in what will be a continuing series of legal terms defined:
Civil Law: Law developed by governmental groups such as statutes, regulations and ordinances enacted by legislative bodies such as Congress, state legislatures, county and city officials. This is different from laws based on custom.
Perjury: False or misleading testimony while under oath to tell the truth. A criminal offense.
Voir Dire: Part of the jury selection process. A number of prospective jurors are selected and seated in the jury box. The judge and/or lawyers ask a series of questions to disclose any predisposition or biases that may impact their judgment. Generally, each party is entitled to three preemptory challenges by which prospective jurors can be removed without cause. If the judge so finds, jurors may also be removed for cause due to obvious bias or other reasons demonstrating an inability to serve.
Waiver: A knowing, intelligent, and voluntary surrender of a known right or claim.
Lay Witness: A person, with knowledge based on his/her first-hand observations, whose testimony is helpful to determine the facts at issue. Liability lay witnesses testify regarding the facts of the accident. Lay damage witnesses testify regarding the plaintiff’s injuries and the effects of those injuries on the plaintiff’s lifestyle.
Mitigate: To diminish or reduce. An injured party has the duty to mitigate his/her damages, including pain and suffering, by taking reasonable steps to get better.
Bench Trial: A case heard and decided by a judge without a jury.
Brief: A written document prepared by an attorney to serve as the basis for a legal argument. It includes a summary of legal points and precedent, together with arguments to be presented to the court deciding the case or a particular issue of the case.
Claimant: A person who makes a claim or asserts a right. The plaintiff in a personal injury case may also be known as the claimant.
Trial De Novo: Means “new trial.” In mandatory arbitration, after the parties receive the award or decision, a party not satisfied with the award may appeal by filing a request for a trial with the Superior Court. The request must be made within twenty (20) days of the award being filed with the court. No information related to the previous arbitration hearing or award from it can be made at the trial.