Wrongful Death Legal Glossary P

Per Se Laws: Laws that declare it illegal to drive a vehicle above a certain alcohol level, as measured by a blood or breathe test. In most states, the per se limit is .08% or greater. Violating the per se law has nothing to do with one's ability to drive a car safely; it is based solely on body chemistry. The only question is whether the driver was above the legal limit at the time of driving. The alcohol level at the time of testing may be higher, lower, or the same, when compared to the time of driving.

Personal Injury Attorney: A professional personal injury attorney (sometimes referred to as a PI attorney) is dedicated to representing clients who have suffered physical and emotional injuries resulting from the negligence (or intentional actions) of other people and/or corporations. Often times, these attorneys will be hired by a family member of a deceased person who was killed in a car accident, died while getting surgery, etc. A personal injury attorney is hired by an injured person when both the injured person and the attorney have signed a Contingent Fee Agreement, which states the conditions of the attorney's employment by and representation of the client. In most cases, the personal injury attorney only receives payment from the client when the attorney has secured a settlement, binding arbitration award, or jury verdict for the client. This allows even clients of very modest means to hire the very best attorneys for their cases. A good personal injury attorney will be experienced in all phases of case work, and will be able to properly guide the client's case while it is an insurance claim, and, if necessary, on through the stages of lawsuit, discovery, arbitration, mediation, and/or trial.

Physician-Patient Privilege: The records that a physician has regarding his or her patients, as well as any communications between the doctor and patient have a special degree of confidentiality under the law referred to as the "patient-physician privilege." When an injured person files a personal injury lawsuit with a court to recover for their damages, the injured person waives this confidentiality, but only to a certain specific degree. Only medical records relating legally to the injuries they have suffered can be released. An experienced personal injury attorney will carefully guard his client's medical confidentiality for all medical matters not relating to the lawsuit. This is very important, because insurance adjusters and defense attorneys will often seek access to all of an injured person's medical histories; an inattentive person handling his or her own claim may inadvertently give access to more of their medical records than is necessary.

Plaintiffs and Defendants: When a lawsuit is filed with a court, it will name the people, corporations, business organizations, and government entities involved in the case. The individual who has suffered injury and is seeking recovery for damages by filing the lawsuit is referred to as the "plaintiff." Plaintiffs would be family members in the event a death occurred from the applicable injury. If recovery is sought, prior to the lawsuit, by way of an insurance claim, the individual is referred to as a "claimant." The person (or persons) who are alleged to have caused the injury is named in the lawsuit as "defendants." For example, in an automobile accident case, the defendants may include parties such as the negligent operator of a motor vehicle, the owner of the vehicle, the driver's employer (if the driver was on-the-job), a public entity that may have had responsibility for an improperly designed roadway or malfunctioning traffic signal, and so on. It is very important not to overlook any possible defendants, because if they are not brought into a lawsuit in a timely manner, the injured person's right to recover from them may be forever lost.

Prescription Error: A form of medical malpractice that occurs when a patient does not receive the appropriate medication, at the right dose, at the right time. A prescription error can often cause harm to a patient, and in some cases, can even lead to death. A prescription error is considered medical malpractice when a medical professional's negligence or mistake led to patient harm or death. A wrongful death case can often follow if death occurs.

Pretrial Conference: The first court appearance after an arraignment. It is a meeting with the DA, where they usually make a plea offer if you agree to plead guilty, and other procedural issues are dealt with, such as court date scheduling and discovery issues. In some courts, there is a separate and distinct date for a "pre-trial hearing", where these procedural issues are divided up.

Probation:  A common element of a penalty for certain first offenses. A person on probation may be subject to a one-year unsupervised probation, where they would have to send their probation officer a postcard form once a month.

Product Liability: A generic term used to describe the onus on a producer or others to make restitution for loss related to personal injury, property damage or other harm caused by a product or service. Products liability refers to the legal liability of manufacturers and sellers to compensate purchasers for damages, injuries, or death caused by defects in the products purchased.

Punitive Damages: In rare cases where the court determines that the defendant engaged in particularly reckless behavior, the court may assign to the plaintiff monetary awards over and above compensation.

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