Here are some important legal terms used in court for parties in civil and criminal cases which are often confusing for even people from a law background, along with their meanings in simple language:
To help you, here are some of the most important legal terms you should know.
Common Legal Terms used in Civil Cases
Plaintiff: The person who initiates the lawsuit, claiming they have been wronged by the defendant. Think of them as the person “bringing the complaint.”
Defendant: The person defending against the plaintiff’s claims. They believe they haven’t wronged the plaintiff, or the plaintiff’s claims are untrue. Imagine them as the person “responding to the complaint.”
Witness: Someone who provides information about what they saw or heard related to the case. They offer evidence to support either the plaintiff or the defendant.
Tortfeasor: a person who commits a tort i.e., the wrongdoer, and if he is held liable has to pay compensation for the damage he caused
Damage: loss or harm resulting from injury to a person caused by tortfeasor to his property, or reputation.
Damages: damages are an award, typically in the form of money, to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury by the wrongdoer
Void: when something is considered “void” in a legal context, it means that, according to the law, it’s not valid or legally binding. It’s as if whatever was supposed to happen legally never really happened. like if there was deceit involved (like lying or fraud), or if one party was forced into the agreement.
So, if a contract or agreement is declared void, it doesn’t have any legal force, and the parties involved may not be legally obligated to follow its terms. It’s like the agreement never existed as far as the law is concerned.
Voidable: it refers to a situation where a contract or agreement is not automatically invalid, like something that is “void,” but it has a defect that allows one of the parties to choose whether to enforce it or make it void contract(at the option of the party).
If he decides not to challenge it within a certain timeframe or under certain conditions, the contract remains valid and enforceable.
Unenforceable: An unenforceable contract is a valid contract but cannot be enforceable in a court of law for some specific reason.
For example, you agree to sell a piece of land to X, and the agreement is made orally. However, the law requires that agreements involving the sale of immovable property must be in writing.
A void contract is invalid, whereas unenforceable contracts are valid contracts that cannot be enforced in court because of legal requirements or evidentiary issues.
Probate: Probate refers to the legal process through which a deceased person’s will is validated(authenticity check) by a court, and the administration of their estate is carried out administrator or executor as mentioned in the will or appointed by the court. The primary purpose of probate is to ensure that the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes as outlined in the will or, in the absence of a will, according to the laws of intestacy (a state of dying without a will).
Admiralty: Admiralty refers to matters related to maritime law, particularly the jurisdiction, practices, and procedures of admiralty courts. Admiralty law governs legal issues that arise in navigable waters, and it has its roots in historical maritime practices.
Common Legal Terms used in Criminal Cases
Prosecution: Prosecution refers to the act of conducting legal proceedings against someone, typically in a criminal case. The prosecution’s role is to present evidence, call witnesses, and make legal arguments to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutor: The government advocate who represents the state against the accused person. The party responsible for initiating and pursuing the case on behalf of the government is often referred to as the prosecutor.
Accused: The defendant in a criminal case.
Acquitted: Acquitted is a term used to describe a person who has been found not guilty of a crime.
Convicted: A conviction occurs when an accused person is found guilty of a criminal offense in a court of law. It often carries serious consequences, such as imprisonment, fines, or other penalties.
Proceedings: the proceedings involve the journey of parties to the courtroom till the judgment and decree are passed. It covers all the events of a case.
Trial: The trial is the main event in a case, where the evidence and arguments are presented to determine the outcome.