PERSONAL INJURY LEGAL GLOSSARY
Glossary of Personal Injury Law Terms
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- P -Pardon: A form of executive clemency
preventing criminal prosecution or removing or extinguishing a
Parens Patriae: The doctrine under which the court
protects the interests of a juvenile.
Parole: The supervised conditional release of a prisoner
before the expiration of his or her sentence. If the parolee
observes the conditions, he or she need not serve the rest of his or
Party: A person, business, or government agency actively
involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.
Partial Disability: In a workers' compensation case, this
refers to any disability that is less than total. Workers'
compensation benefits are generally measured by earning power in
Patent: A government grant giving an inventor the
exclusive right to make or sell his or her invention for a term of
Peremptory Challenge: A challenge that may be used to
reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving a
Perjury: Intentional false statement of material
importance made under oath; lying under oath.
Permanent Injunction: A court order requiring that some
action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action. It
differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary
restraining order or preliminary injunction.
Person: Generally, a human being. Legally, a "person" may
statutorily include a corporation, partnership, trustee, legal
Personal Property: Tangible physical property (such as
cars, clothing, furniture, and jewelry) and intangible personal
property. This does not include real property such as land or rights
Personal Jurisdiction: The power of a court over a person.
Compare with subject matter jurisdiction.
Personal Recognizance: In criminal proceedings, the
pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his or her promise
to return to court. See also own recognizance.
Personal Representative: One who stands in the place of
Person in Need of Supervision: Juvenile found to have
committed a status offense rather than a crime that would provide a
basis for a finding of delinquency. Typical status offenses are
habitual truancy. violating a curfew, or running away from home.
These are not crimes, but they might be enough to place a child
under supervision. In different states, status offenders might be
called children in need of supervision or minors in need of
Petition: A formal request that the court take some action; a
Petitioner: The person filing an action in a court of
original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of
a lower court. The opposing party is called the respondent.
Petition to Terminate, Modify or Suspend Benefits: In a
workers' compensation case, this is the petition filed by the
employer/insurance carrier in an attempt to modify, suspend or
terminate an injured employee's compensation.
Plaintiff: In civil law, the person who brings an action
or starts a lawsuit.
Plea: In a criminal proceeding, it is the defendant's
declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty.
The defendant's answer to the charges made in the indictment or
Plead: In civil law, a defendant's formal answer to a
Plea Bargaining or Plea Negotiating: The process through
which an accused person and a prosecutor negotiate a mutually
satisfactory disposition of a case. Usually it is a legal
transaction in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some
form of leniency. It often involves a guilty plea to lesser charges
or a guilty plea to some of the charges if other charges are
dropped. Such bargains are not binding on the court.
Pleading: A document filed in a court that pertains to a
Pleadings: The written statements of fact and law filed by
the parties to a lawsuit.
Polling the Jury: The act, after a jury verdict has been
announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the
Possessor of Land: A person who occupies land and intends to
control it. Most often, it is the owner of the property.
Pour-Over Will: A will that leaves some or all estate
assets to a trust established before the will-maker's death.
Power of Attorney: Written document authorizing one person
to take certain legal actions on behalf of the person giving the
power of attorney..
Precedent: Decision by a court that provides an example or
authority for later cases involving a similar question of law. See
Preliminary Hearing: Another term for arraignment.
Pre-Injunction: Court order requiring action or forbidding
action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent
injunction. It differs from a temporary restraining order.
Preponderance of the Evidence: The amount of evidence
needed for a plaintiff to win in a civil action. A preponderance of
the evidence is the greater weight of the evidence or the more
convincing evidence in comparison to the evidence offered in
opposition. A plaintiff can win by a preponderance of the evidence
even if plaintiff's evidence merely tips the scales in plaintiff's
Presumptively Capable of Negligence: Pennsylvania law places
minors in three categories based on age. Minors under 7 are
conclusively presumed incapable of negligence. Simply put, under the
law, they cannot commit torts. Minors between 7 and 14 are presumed
incapable of negligence, but the presumption is rebuttable or
disputable, and the presumption grows weaker as the child nears his
or her 14th birthday. Minors over 14 are presumptively capable of
negligence. Simply put, under the law they are presumed as being
able to commit torts. The burden is on the minor to prove
Pre-Sentence Report: A report to the sentencing judge
containing background information about the crime and the defendant
to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision.
Presentment: Declaration or document issued by a grand
jury that either makes a neutral report or notes misdeeds by
officials charged with specified public duties. It ordinarily does
not include a formal charge of crime. A presentment differs from an
Pretermitted Child: A child borne after a will is
executed, who is not provided for by the will. Most states have laws
that provide for a share of estate property to go to such children.
Pre-Trial Conference: A meeting between the judge and the
lawyers involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues in the suit,
agree on what will be presented at the trial, and make a final
effort to settle the case without a trial.
Prevailing Party: Generally, the winning party in a lawsuit.
Prima Facie: Literally means "at first sight" or "on the face
of it." "Prima facie evidence" is evidence that is good and
sufficient on its face. A plaintiff makes out a "prima facie case"
when he or she presents "prima facie evidence," which means that the
plaintiff is permitted to prevail on that evidence alone, unless the
defendant can put forth sufficient evidence to overcome it.
Prima Facie Case: A case that is sufficient and has the
minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the
Primary Care Physician (PCP): A physician that is employed
by or contracts with a managed health care system like an HMO that
coordinates all of the member's medical care. A PCP is usually
afamily practitioner . PCP's are also known as "gatekeepers" because
they control a member's access to medical care within a health plan.
Privileged Communication: Statement protected from forced
disclosure in court because the statement was made within a
"protected" relationship such as attorney/client. See
Probable Cause: A reasonable belief that a crime has or is
being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and
Probate: The court-supervised process by which a will is
determined to be the will-maker's final statement regarding how the
will-maker wants his or her property distributed. It also confirms
the appointment of the personal representative of the estate.
Probate also means the process by which assets are gathered; applied
to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed
to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.
Probate Court: The court with authority to supervise
Probate Estate: Estate property that may be disposed of by
Probation: An alternative to imprisonment allowing a
person found guilty of an offense to stay in the community, usually
under conditions and under the supervision of a probation officer. A
violation of probation can lead to its revocation and to
Procedural Law: Generally, the body of law establishing
the method or procedure of enforcing rights or obtaining redress for
invasion of rights. Compare with substantive law which establishes
Process Serving: The method by which a defendant in a lawsuit
is notified that a plaintiff has filed a suit against him.
Products Liability: Area of the law involving the
liability of manufacturers and sellers of dangerous or defective
goods or products.
Promulgate: To officially announce.
Property Damage Liability Coverage: Automobile insurance
coverage required under Pennsylvania law that provides money to pay
claims if your car damages the property of another person.
Pro Bono: (Latin: "for the good") Used to describe the
provision of services free of charge.
Pro Bono Publico: For the public good. Lawyers representing
clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.
Pro Se: A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in
courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without
Prosecutor: A trial lawyer representing the government in
a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In
criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding
who and when to prosecute.
Proximate Cause: The proximate cause of an injury is the
primary or moving cause that produces the injury and without which
the accident could not have happened, if the injury is one which
might be reasonably anticipated or foreseen as a natural consequence
of the wrongful act.
Public Defender: Government lawyer who provides free legal
defense services to a poor person accused of a crime.
Punitive Damages or Exemplary Damages: Compensation greater
than is necessary to pay a plaintiff for a loss. These damages are
awarded because the loss was aggravated by violence, oppression,
malice, fraud or wanton and wicked conduct on the part of the
defendant. Such damages are intended to punish the defendant for his
evil behavior or make an example of him or her.
Purchaser: In products liability law, a person who buys a