Basic Legal Terms Everybody Should Understand

Knowing certain basic legal terms can help you in all aspects of life. It can help you in your business as well as personal issues that may arise in your daily life. You can use them to make better decisions that can impact your future. Here are basic legal term definitions everybody should understand.

Federal Crime

A federal crime is an act that violates federal legislation in the United States. Some examples of federal crimes include kidnapping, identity theft, animal cruelty, and bank robbery. These types of crimes are typically prosecuted by governmental agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These types of crimes feature longer prison terms if convicted, along with expensive fines and being prevented from holding certain occupations.

The factors involved in determining what is a federal crime and what is considered a state crime is incredibly complex. If a person is being charged with a crime where the government is prosecuting, they should consult with a federal crime attorney. A person who is convicted of a federal crime can also potentially face charges from the state they live in. When this is the case, the state sentence is added to the federal sentencing.

Medical Malpractice

Another one of the legal term definitions that people should be aware of is what constitutes medical malpractice. Medical malpractice happens when a health care professional or facility causes harm to a patient through either negligence or omission. Negligence may be the result of errors in either diagnosis or treatment. These errors can include misdiagnosis, unnecessary surgery, or improper dosages of medication.

In order for a medical act to be considered under malpractice, there are certain factors that must be proven. One factor is a violation of standard care, which means patients have the right to expect health care professionals to deliver a reasonable level of medical treatment. If these standards aren’t met, then negligence can be legally established. There must also be an injury that resulted in significant damages. These damages could be things like disability, pain and suffering, loss of income, or expensive medical bills.

Wrongful Death

Another one of the important legal term definitions people should know is what defines wrongful death. Wrongful death occurs when someone dies as a result of negligence or recklessness by someone else or an entity. Typically the family members of the individual who died will use a wrongful death lawyer to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for financial and emotional damages.

There are a few factors that must be proven in order to win a wrongful death lawsuit. The person filing the lawsuit must prove that negligence, carelessness, or recklessness caused their loved one’s death. It must also be proven that the defendant breached a duty to the victim. A person who drives a vehicle has a duty to follow traffic laws and drive safely. If they fail to do so and kill someone, that would be a breach of duty.

There must also be significant financial damages such as medical expenses, burial costs, or loss of income. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action where the burden of proof is set based on the preponderance of the evidence. Experienced legal counsel can help gather this evidence in order to win a wrongful death lawsuit.

Personal Injury

The legal term definitions of personal injury involve harm done to a person’s body, emotions, or mind. A person who has suffered this kind of injury can file a lawsuit using a personal injury attorney against the person who did the harm. There are many different types of personal injuries. Some examples include vehicle accidents, animal bites, nursing home neglect, libel and slander, and medical malpractice.

In order to prove personal injury, a person must prove that a breach of duty occurred. If you fail to clear your driveway of ice or snow and someone slips and falls, you failed in your duty to keep your premises safe for potential visitors. A person who has been injured in a traffic accident can file a lawsuit using an auto accident attorney because of someone’s failure to obey traffic laws. There also must be some type of damages that occurred as a result of the injury in order to have a successful personal injury claim. These damages can be in the form of medical bills or mental anguish.

Product Liability

Defective products from sellers and manufacturers create thousands of injuries every year to consumers. Product liability determines who should be held responsible for injuries caused by a defective or dangerous product. This can either be the seller or manufacturer of the product. The legal term definitions and consequences of product liability fall under state laws. If a person has been injured by a purchased product, they can hire a defective product attorney to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for damages.

There are generally three types of product defects that can occur. There can be a defect in the overall design before it was ever manufactured or a defect that developed during manufacturing. There can also be defects from the way a product is marketed, such as failures to include proper instructions or safety warnings. Product defect lawsuits are typically handled by a business law attorney.

There are a few common defenses that sellers and manufacturers use regarding product liability lawsuits. They can claim that the injured person is unable to sufficiently identify the supplier of the product in question. This generally occurs in cases involving defective medications where the plaintiff may not be able to identify the correct pharmaceutical company as the supplier. They can also claim that the plaintiff altered the product in some way after leaving the supplier’s control, and this alteration is responsible for the injury.

Workers Compensation

This is one of the legal term definitions that many people may already understand in some capacity. Workers compensation is a type of insurance that gives medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who become injured on the job. An employee that accepts workers compensation relinquishes their right to sue their employer in exchange for these benefits. These benefits can be paid out as weekly wage replacement payments, medical expense coverage, and payments to dependents of employees who died because of a workplace accident. Compensation for pain and suffering and punitive damages due to negligence aren’t available for work injury claims.

Driving Under The Influence (DUI)

Another one of the legal term definitions people may have heard of that they should understand is driving under the influence. It’s commonly referred to as drunk driving. Driving under the influence (DUI) occurs when someone attempts to operate a motor vehicle when their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit. The legal limit varies from .08 to .10, depending on the state the person lives in. A person whose blood alcohol content is above the legal limit cannot legally drive a vehicle safely.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is one of a few legal term definitions that can be the same offense or have a different definition as driving under the influence. It can cause confusion because its definition depends on what state the person is pulled over in. If a state uses both terms, then a DUI typically refers to driving under the influence of alcohol. A DWI would refer to driving while under the influence of drugs or an unknown substance. In a few states, the legal term definitions operating under the influence and operating while intoxicated are used instead.

If a person is arrested for a DUI, they can face serious legal consequences such as loss of their driver’s license, court fines, and jail time. They’ll most likely have expenses in hiring a DUI attorney to represent them. Their car insurance premiums may double or triple for approximately three years. Depending on the state they live in, they may be required to pay for an ignition interlock device to be installed on their car to prevent them from repeating the offense.

Tort Law

The legal term definitions of tort law are generally a reference to various civil claims filed in court. Personal injuries, wrongful death, and defective product lawsuits all fall under tort law. There are three types of tort law. One of the legal term definitions under tort law is an intentional tort. This means that a person deliberately caused injury to another person and the victim is seeking monetary compensation for damages.

Another one of the legal term definitions pertaining to tort law is negligence. Negligence means that a person was injured by someone’s carelessness or failure to take any action they were responsible for. An example of this would be someone slipping and falling over equipment that wasn’t properly secured. The last type of tort law is strict liability, which refers to an accidental injury such as a dog bite.

Burden Of Proof

Burden of proof refers to the standard set to convince a judge or jury to rule in your favor. In civil cases, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. It means that the evidence you provided to the judge proves that what you claim more likely than not is the truth. Other legal term definitions you may want to learn to surround the legal term burden of proof involve beyond all reasonable doubt, clear and convincing evidence, and substantial evidence. If you ever find yourself in court, knowing the differences between all these legal term definitions could make or break your case.


The legal term definitions concerning probate are something everyone should definitely know. Probate refers to the process involved in proving in court that a person’s will is valid. If the will is valid, this determines how the dead person’s assets will be distributed. The probate process starts by having the will filed with the county clerk in the county that the dead person established residence in while they were alive. A petition is filed along with the will to request that the executor named in the will is approved by the court.

Whether or not probate is necessary depends on the overall assets of the deceased person. If the assets are under a certain amount set by the county, probate may not be required. Probate may be required if there are taxes that need to be collected or real estate property titles need to be transferred. The probate process can be expensive with numerous court costs and fees and estate planning attorney charges.

Statute of Limitations

One of the most complex legal term definitions involves the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations refers to the maximum amount of time a person has to file civil or criminal charges against someone else from the date the alleged offense occurred. This timeframe can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction and the civil or criminal charges involved. For example, some states may place a statute of limitations of two years for medical malpractice claims. Once that timeframe has passed, a filing for a medical malpractice claim is no longer valid.

Certain serious criminal offenses have no statutes of limitations, such as sex offenses, murder, or arson. Crimes that fall under international law typically don’t have statutes of limitations. These crimes include things such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Statutes of limitations can also apply to issues involving consumer debt, depending on the type of debt and the state involved. A time-barred debt means that creditors can’t sue for payment after a certain length of time. However, any payment made on the debt can restart the clock for the statute of limitations. With certain crimes, the statute of limitations can be highly controversial because of its limited timeframes to file a charge. It’s also considered controversial because they vary so widely across states and even in various jurisdictions within a state.

You can learn many more legal term definitions that can benefit you through legal dictionaries you can find online. These legal dictionaries help people understand complex terms in a simple way. The more terms you learn, the more you’ll be able to protect yourself if a legal situation arises in your life.

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