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Glossary of Personal Injury Terms

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Glossary of Personal Injury Terms

Glossary of Personal Injury TermsThe law is littered with arcane technical and legal terms. These terms can confuse and intimidate accident victims. In many cases, insurers may even use these terms to frustrate you into dropping your claim.

Fortunately, the concepts behind these terms are often easy to understand. A knowledgeable and experienced injury lawyer can explain the phrases that insurers, lawyers, and judges throw around. This allows you to stay on top of your case and make informed decisions.

Bodily Injury Liability

Bodily injury liability (BIL) is a type of coverage included in a liability policy. This coverage pays for losses caused by an injury to third parties.

These losses include:

Claimants must prove the policyholder is legally liable for their losses to receive payments.


A claim is a request for payment under an insurance policy. A claim includes “proof of loss.” This term refers to documents showing how much your injuries cost you in medical bills, lost income, and other losses.

Thus, you will file a PIP claim with your insurer after a crash. If you have a serious injury, you may also file a liability claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Claim Denial

The insurer issues a claim denial when the adjuster decides not to pay the claim. This does not end your case, but it might push it into litigation.


Your damages refer to your losses due to your injuries. If you suffer a serious injury, you can seek both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses represent your financial losses. Non-economic losses represent the diminishment in your quality of life due to pain, suffering, and disability.

Insurance Claim Adjuster

Claim adjusters investigate claims to protect the insurance company from unnecessary payments. Unfortunately, this also means they deny more claims than they should.

Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is a contract between the policyholder and the insurance company. If the policyholder incurs a liability to a third party within the scope of the contract, the insurer agrees to pay it. Liability insurance does not pay for the policyholder’s injuries or property damage.

Liability insurance can come in many forms, including:

  • Homeowners Insurance
  • General business liability insurance
  • Medical malpractice insurance

New York requires vehicle owners to buy auto liability insurance. Auto liability insurance covers injuries and property damage you cause to other people, including passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.


Negligence means a party failed to exercise reasonable care and, as a result, harmed someone else.

To prove negligence, you must show:

Each of these elements requires evidence such as witness testimony, documents, and expert testimony.

No-Fault Insurance

New York uses a no-fault auto insurance system. Vehicle owners buy an auto insurance policy with personal injury protection (PIP). PIP coverage pays you after you get injured in an accident. It also covers anyone in your vehicle and pedestrians or cyclists you hit. This insurance coverage pays you even if you caused the crash, hence the name “no-fault.”

Plaintiff and Defendant

The plaintiff is the party seeking a legal remedy. The defendant is the one accused of damaging the plaintiff. In an injury case, the accident victim is the plaintiff, and the person alleged to have caused the injury is the defendant.

Policy Limits

Policy limits set the insurance company’s maximum financial exposure for liability claims. You will typically pay for higher policy limits.

The minimum auto policy limits in New York include:

  • $50,000 in PIP coverage
  • $25,000 in BIL coverage per claimant up to $50,000 per accident
  • $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) per accident

The state does not set policy limits for other types of policies

Serious Injury

In car accident cases, you are limited to your PIP coverage unless your losses exceed your policy limits or you suffer a serious injury.

The injuries that excuse claimants from the PIP system include:

  • Fatal injuries
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Bone fracture
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss or limitation of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  • A non-permanent injury that prevents the performance of all daily activities for 90 out of 180 days after the crash

Because New York has a broad definition for serious injury, many accident victims can seek compensation from the at-fault driver.


A settlement happens when you and the insurer negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution to your claim. The insurer pays you. In exchange, you waive your claim against the policyholder.

Learn More from an NYC Personal Injury Lawyer

Injury lawyers spend their careers learning these terms and the underlying concepts. Contact or call our Manhattan law office to schedule your free consultation with an experienced NYC personal injury lawyer from the Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers at (212) 265-5658.

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