Legal Dictionary

Statute of Limitations

A legal time limit by which a case must filed in the appropriate court or the case may be barred. There are different Statutes of Limitations for different types of cases, classes of plaintiffs or defendants. 


The person who is alleged to have committed a wrongful act resulting in damages.

Proximate cause

The act that is or closest to that which is responsible for the injuries claimed.


In Illinois, negligence is when a reasonably careful person fails to do what is proper or does something improper to cause injuries to another. To recover damages, an injury victim must prove a defendant was negligent.

Burden of Proof

If a party has a burden of proof on an issue, the party must prove the assertion is more probably true than not. In other words, one must prove something is at least 50.1% more likely. Generally, the injury victim has the burden of proof on all issues in the case.


A legal obligation to not act negligently. For example, all drivers have a duty to drive as a reasonably careful person. 

Reasonable degree of medical certainty

The professional standard on which a doctor bases his or her opinion about whether an injury was caused or aggravated by the action of the defendant. 

Aggravation of pre-existing condition

In Illinois, an injury victim is entitled to damages if the negligent act aggravates a pre-existing condition.


The amount of money the injured person is awarded if negligence and proximate cause are proved. So called because the money is for items such as pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of normal life, disability, income and disfigurement. Money damages are not taxable for personal injury cases.

State court

The court in which cases that follow Illinois law are filed. Cases are usually filed in the county the event occurred or the county of residence of the defendant. These cases can be tried by a judge or jury of twelve. 

Federal court

The court in which cases are filed if they involve federal law as well as state law or, if the all of the defendants are from a different state in a personal injury case, the injured victim can file in federal court. These cases can be tried by jury or judge. Federal juries can be as small as six and the verdict must be unanimous.

Collateral source

Collateral source is the amount of money paid by a third party source such as a group disability plan, group health, Medicare, Medicaid or medical pay before a case is concluded. In Illinois that amount does not diminish the damages otherwise recoverable from a plaintiff.


The right of a first party payer such as medical pay, Medicaid, Medicare or group health to recover the amount they paid as a result of the third persons’ negligence.

Motion in Limine

A request by either party to the court asking to restrict or limit certain evidence from being presented to a jury.

Medicare conditional payments

Payments for medical bills made by Medicare pending reimbursement upon receipt of proceeds from the insurance company. Medicare can make conditional payments when there is no expectation of prompt payment of the bills through the case within 120 days.

Medical pay

The medical coverage limit set in almost every automobile policy, usually in the amount of $1,000, $5000, $10,000 or $50,000. Insurance companies will pay for medical bills up to your limit amount regardless of fault.

Uninsured motorist coverage

That held by the plaintiff’s auto insurance company to pay medical bills if the tortleasor has no insurance. After payment of UM benefits, your own insurance will personally pursue the uninsured driver.

Underinsured motorist coverage

Coverage held by the plaintiff’s auto insurance company in the event the negligent party has insufficient insurance coverage and policy limits. A person can only make a UIM claim if their own UIM policy limit exceeds the policy limits of the at-fault party. For example, if the at fault party has the state minimum liability limits of $20,000 and the injured person has $50,000 in UIM limits, the injury victim would make a claim for UIM benefits and could collect up to a maximum of $30,000 in additional payment. UIM claims are governed by the term of your insurance policy.

Summary judgment

A ruling made as a matter of law by the judge on issues that then will not be considered by a jury. If a defendant wins a summary judgment on liability or negligence, the case is dismissed and over. 

Loss of normal life

An element of damages that provides for the recovery of money when a person is unable to pursue the normal pleasurable aspects of life due to injury from a negligent act.

Wrongful death

The death caused by the negligence of another. The next of kin of the deceased are entitled to pursue a wrongful death case.

Survival action

Recovery of damages for the pain and suffering of an injury victim prior to his or her death. This recovery is through the deceased‘s estate rather than wrongful death because the damages were suffered prior to death.

Agency/Respondent Superior

If a person in the course and scope of employment or agency, causes injury from a negligent act, the employer or principal can also be sued for the negligence as the actions of the employee/agent are imputed to the employer/principal. For example, a truck driver causes an accident. In this situation, lawsuit would be filed against the truck driver and the employer of the truck driver.

Strict Liability

This is a tort law concept that imposes liability for harm suffered without requiring proof of negligence of the defendant.

Temporary total disability (TTD)

The disability pay an injured worker receives, which is supposed to be paid at a minimum every 14 days, during the time he/she does not work due to medical restrictions. TTD is paid at two-thirds of average weekly wage and are not taxable.

Temporary partial disability (TPD)

If an injured worker has work restrictions and the employer can accommodate but offers less hours than normal worked, the employer is to pay two-thirds of the difference in lost pay, which is not taxable.

Permanent partial disability (PPD)

If a worker sustains a permanent injury and can return to work without significant reduction in hourly wage rate, the injured worker is entitled to a settlement or award for permanent partial disability, which is not taxable.

Average weekly wage (AWW)

The average of earning for the 52 weeks prior to the date of earning. Generally overtime is not included unless regular and mandatory. The AWW forms the basis for calculation of TTD, TPD, PTD and PPD benefits.

Permanent total disability (PTD)

If a worker cannot return to gainful employment in a reasonably stable job market due to medical restrictions, the injured worker is permanently and totally disabled. The PTD worker is entitled to 2/3rds of average weekly wage for life, which are not taxable. PTD benefits are subject to maximum and minimum benefits rates.

Maximum medical improvement (MMI)

When a medical condition has plateaued and a person’s condition is unlikely to improve or worsen. 

AMA impairment exam

For all cases after 9/1/11, the employer is entitled to schedule an AMA impairment exam to determine a PPD rating for consideration in evaluating permanent partial disability. The AMA impairment rating is one factor an arbitrator has to consider in rendering a PPD award.

Section 12 IME exam

An employer has a right to send a worker for an exam with a physician of the employer’s choice to evaluate issues of causation and medical necessity. If the employee does not attend the exam, benefits can be suspended or denied. Employer is responsible for mileage to and from the exam as well as wages for any work missed attending the Section 12 exam.

Nurse case manager

A nurse assigned by the insurance company to monitor treatment and report to the insurance about issue of work status and medical treatment. Nurse case managers can be by phone or attend appointments. If the nurse case manager attends an appointment, the worker has a right to a private exam with doctor and if nurse wants to talk with doctor, it should only be done with the injured worker present.

Wage differential 8d-1

If an injured worker cannot return to his or her job because of medical restriction and has to take a job that pay less money, the injured worker is entitled to the two-thirds of the wage differential between what he/her could be earning and what he/she is able to earn. A wage differential benefit is not taxable. As a result of the changes to the Act, wage differential benefits are not a lifetime benefit for cases after 9/1/11.

Fringe benefits

Fringe benefits such as retirement, pension, or health insurance are not included in the calculation or benefits that a judge can award or consider in rendering a decision. Section 10 of the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) excludes fringe benefits.


The arbitrator is the judge assigned to manage and decide your case. This is the first judge in the process.


The Commission (IWCC) is the governmental agency that handles workers’ compensation. The three-judge appeal panel that hears cases appealed from arbitrators are the Commissioners. The Commissioners consist of the second level of hearings and first level of appeal in Illinois workers compensation.

Legal Dictionary

legal dictionaryThe legal dictionary is a quick resource for commonly used words in the legal world.

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Statute of Limitations

statute of limitations

Use this to see if your case needs to be filled within a particular time limit.

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