Personal Injury Terms: What it All Means

The law is confusing. This is due, in no small part, to the language used to explain the law. Much of American law finds its roots, and its words, in British law, which can make many of the words lawyers use about as clear as mud. While the field of personal injury itself is truly does cover exactly what it purports to - an injury to a person - much of the vocabulary within the field is not self-explanatory. There are only two kinds of people who brush up on personal injury vocabulary; injured people in lawsuits and attorneys. While attorneys dedicate their careers to this field, people who have been injured have much less time to perfect their understanding. If you or someone you know has been injured, read through this guide for a brief understanding, and contact a personal injury attorney for immediate assistance.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is simply a law that has been created by the legislature to limit the amount of time a plaintiff can sue after they have been injured. In Illinois the limit is generally two years from the time a plaintiff is injured or should know that they are injured. However, while two years is the general rule, shorter (or longer) time frames may apply in certain cases. In ceertain personal injury actions, the statute of limitations is only one year. In Illinois medical malpractice cases there is something called a "discovery rule" - an absolute bar of four years from the time the incident that is the basis for the suit occurs. The key point as it relates to the statute of limitations is that It is unsafe to assume that the statute of limitations in every personal injury or medical malpractice case in Illinois is two years.


Negligence is among a family of words that appears to have a common meaning at first glance, yet, upon further inspection, has a more technical application within the law. Negligence is a cause of action for plaintiffs, meaning it is the basis on which you bring suit. To state that someone's negligence caused your injury is a claim that said person has acted outside of the standard of care that the law required them to follow.

Breach of Duty

Each member of society owes a duty, of some level, to every other person. The level of duty owed depends on the relationship between the two parties and the circumstances under which they are interacting. For example, a surgeon performing an operation will owe a higher duty to a patient than a jogger passing a stranger who has injured their ankle. In general, everyone owes a duty to each other to behave as a reasonable person. This is important because in order to show that a person was negligent, you must show they breached their duty to you.

Standard of Care

The standard of care is a range of appropriate courses of action in which a healthcare provider may act in order to not breach their duty of care to a patient. More simply put, to prove that a doctor breached their duty you must show they acted outside of the standard of care. The standard of care depends on the training of the doctor, the training of medical professionals in the same field and geographic area, the accepted courses of action in similar circumstances in the medical community, and other factors that indicate that the doctor did or did not act appropriately.

These foundational terms are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a personal injury lawsuit. If you have questions regarding these terms, or need assistance in a personal injury case, contact the experienced team at Willens Law Offices today. We will help you in any way that we can.

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