Legal Glossary - D
Damages - This term refers to the amount of money the plaintiff may receive in a lawsuit. The word "damages" is often preceded by another word, which serves to specify the type of damages awarded. For example, "special damages" awarded in an asbestos case may include money to cover medical and hospital bills and/or loss of wages. "General damages" might include compensation for pain and suffering, future problems and crippling effects of the illness, loss of ability to perform various acts, shortening of life span, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and loss of anticipated business and other harm. "Punitive damages" (also referred to as exemplary damages) combine punishment with the setting of public example. It is more difficult to obtain punitive damages than special or general damages.
Defendant - In a civil lawsuit, the defendant is the party sued by the plaintiff. In a criminal lawsuit, the defendant is the person(s) charged with the crime. In a mesothelioma lawsuit, there is often more than one defendant. It is not unusual for asbestos-related lawsuits to name dozens of defendants, including employers of the plaintiff as well as companies who produced asbestos-containing products used by the plaintiff.
Deliberate - This word, when used as a verb, refers to the consideration of facts and laws of a case by a jury or panel of judges. Similarly, the word "deliberation" refers to a process used to determine the verdict of a lawsuit; i.e. whether the case will be won by the plaintiff(s) or defendant(s). As an adjective, the word deliberate refers to an intentional act. For example, in a mesothelioma-lawyer case, the plaintiff may allege that the defendant deliberately exposed him/her to asbestos even though that defendant knew of the dangers.
Deposition - Depositions, which usually occur before the start of a trial as part of the pre-trial discovery process, are common during mesothelioma-lawyer cases. A deposition is the taking and recording of testimony from the plaintiff, defendant, or from a witness involved in the suit. Depositions are done outside the courtroom. If the person being deposed is the plaintiff or defendant, the other side's attorney must be notified. Any recorded testimony will then become a written transcript and the testimony can be used during the trial when necessary, usually to refresh the memory of the deposed or to contradict any later testimony.
Disbursement check - When an award is made in the plaintiff's favor, the way in which the plaintiff receives the money is via a disbursement check. The check will be for the gross amount to be received by the plaintiff, minus lawyer's contingency fees or any other expenses incurred that are to be deducted from the total amount awarded.
Discovery - This term refers to the process by which the parties to a lawsuit can gather information pertinent to the suit before a trial begins. Discovery may include the deposition of the parties involved in the lawsuit as well as witnesses - including expert witnesses. It will also include the gathering of pertinent documents and written interrogatories (questions and answers written under oath). It may also include examination of any physical property involved in the lawsuit. (i.e. a crime scene) Discovery is an integral part of the process and is the time when much debate and argument between the two sides in a lawsuit takes place.
Durable Power of Attorney - A power of attorney is a legal document that transfers power from one person (the Principal) to another (the Agent), allowing the Agent to make property, financial, and legal decisions for the Principal. A Durable Power of Attorney allows the Agent to make decisions for the Principal even after the Principal is not mentally competent or physically able to make decisions.
Last modified: December 27, 2010.