Useful Terms in Motor Vehicle Accident Lawsuit Settlement or Awards

Actual Cash Value (Fair Market Value):  This is the fair market value of a vehicle at the time of the accident assuming the vehicle was damaged or destroyed. Insurance companies pay the owners the actual cash value (fair market value) if the vehicle (bus, truck or car) is considered a total loss. This does not necessarily mean that all parties will recover their vehicle property losses. Recovery of vehicle property losses depends on collision coverage amounts, negligence of the parties, and whether the accident occurred in a “no fault” or a “non-no fault” state.
Additional Insured: This is another party other than the protected person or entity named in a vehicle’s insurance policy.
Automobile Insurance: Insurance protects the owner against certain losses as a result of damage to their vehicle and damages to third party vehicles as well as injuries sustained by themselves or third parties. Specific types of coverage include 1) medical payments, 2) bodily injury, 3) property damage and 4) comprehensive physical vehicle damage.
The Burden of Proof: The plaintiff is the individual who initiates a claim or lawsuit. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, i.e. the plaintiff must prove 1) what occurred during the accident and 2) that the fault lies with the defendant.
Case: Any action, cause, lawsuit, proceeding or controversy initiated through the court system by filing a petition, indictment or complaint.

Cause of Action: Synonymous with a legal claim.
Claim: An assertion of a right to property or money.
Comparative/Contributory Negligence: When more than one party is at fault in an accident, the separate and combined fault will be determined either by an insurance company or the court. The total net damages caused by the plaintiff will be calculated by subtracting the percentage of the plaintiff’s negligence by that of the defendant’s negligence.
Damages: Monetary losses, physical losses, and mental costs caused by the unlawful act or negligence of another party. These losses or costs include income, emotional distress, pain and suffering, medical treatment, and property loss.
Deductible: The amount an insured individual is required to pay before the insurance company pays the remainder of each covered loss, to the limits of the policy.
Defendant: The defendant in a civil case is an individual or entity that is subject to a civil action and who is being sued in civil court.
Estimated Future Medical Expenses: This is a factor in calculating special damages. An example of special damages would be the cost of required ongoing medical treatment for an individual’s injuries.
Evidence: Presented during the trial, this is the legally presented proof which would include documents, records, witnesses, photos, and other pertinent information or facts.
Hearing: An in-court proceeding before a judge that typically allows the public to attend.
Future Lost Income: A component of a settlement or awards that represents lost income due to 1) missing work because of treatments or 2) an inability to working during recovery.
Hit and Run: When an individual causes an accident but does not stop to help or cooperate by sharing information. A “hit and run” is sometimes referred to as an individual that flees the scene of the accident.
Judgment: The ultimate determination by a court of the rights and claims of the parties in an action.
A Lapse in Coverage/Policy Lapse: A specific date when a policy is terminated due to a failure to pay the premium or when the policy contract is void for any other reason.
Property Damage: A component in the calculation of a settlement or award. The cost associated with the repair or replacement of the damaged property so that it is again worth the same fair market value it had before the damage occurred.
Liability: Liability in a car accident is determined who is at fault and responsible for damages to others. Assessment criteria include vehicle damage, evidence at the scene, witness statements, and police reports.
Lost Income: A factor in the calculation of a settlement or award such as the work missed because of your injuries Paid Time Off (PTO).
Medical Expenses: The costs incurred in the treatment of injury or disease. It is included in “special damages” when calculating settlements and awards.
The Multiplier for General Damages: The multiplier is used to estimate your general damages — your “pain and suffering”. The more serious, long-lasting, and painful the injuries, the higher the multiplier. It is usually in the range of 1.6 to 5 times the general damages plus special damages is a potential settlement or award amount.
Negligence: When a driver is negligent when breaches the duty of care and fails to operate a vehicle safely. Parties: Individuals, organizations, or corporations who initiated a lawsuit or who are defendants.
Nuisance Value Settlement: It is an amount which an adjuster will use to settle small claims to resolve where a prospective plaintiff filing the claim may not be able to show significant injuries — small medical bills, a symptom that no doctor has been able to diagnose.
Personal Auto Policy: Auto insurance policy referred to as PAP and providing coverage for physical damage protection, liability, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and medical payments. 
Physical Damage: Collision, crash, fire, theft, vandalism, or other objects that damage a vehicle.
Plaintiff: The party who initiates an action, sues or complains is named a plaintiff or petitioner by the court.
Policy: The written documents of an insurance contract between the insurance company and the insured individual. Documents may be attachments, riders, forms, and endorsements.
Settlement: A monetary payment in a car accident is known as a settlement. It is used to resolve claims of individual injury and vehicular damage. Legal rights are forfeited by signing a settlement release, so a future lawsuit would not be allowed.
Total Loss: A vehicle is declared a total loss if it is damaged beyond repair or the costs to repair surpasses the value of the vehicle. 
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UIM): This is coverage for individuals who have been hit by a driver who does not have insurance or inadequate insurance to cover damages caused by the car accident.
Witness: An individual who testifies under oath before a court, about what he or she observed, heard or saw.
Collision Damage: Damage to your vehicle as the result of a collision with another vehicle or object.
Comprehensive Damage: Damage to your vehicle that is not the result of a collision, such as theft, flooding, fire or vandalism.  

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