Claims Direct doesn’t use jargon.  But we have put together this list of words and terms that you may come across when making your claim.  They might be used on other organisations’ websites, or you may hear other lawyers using them.


This is the written law of a country, also called a statute.  An Act sets out legal rules and has normally been passed by both Houses of Parliament (the Commons and the Lords) and agreed to by the Crown.  Before it becomes law it is usually referred to as a ‘Bill’.

ADR / alternative dispute resolution

ADR is short for ‘alternative dispute resolution’.  This means any way of setting a dispute or disagreement outside of the courtroom.  It can include mediation, arbitration, or even refer to ombudsman schemes.  For more information, see www.adrnow.org.uk


This is the term used to describe the arguments your lawyers make on your behalf when putting forward your case in court.


This is a type of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) for solving disagreements outside the courtroom.  Both sides will refer the problem to an independent third party.  Normally their decision is binding and you can’t go to court afterwards if you disagree.  The process is private and less formal than a court.  For more information see www.adrnow.org.uk/arbitration.

ATE insurance / after-the-event insurance

ATE is short for ‘after-the-event insurance’.  This is an insurance policy you can take out after an accident has happened and you are making a claim for compensation.  The ATE policy means that if you lose the claim, your insurance company will pay the other side’s legal costs and expenses in the event that we fail to beat a Part 36 offer.


Barristers are ‘called to the Bar’ when they have finished their training, and can then represent clients.  ‘The Bar’ is also a collective term for all barristers, represented by the General Council of the Bar.


A barrister is a lawyer in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The name comes from the process of being called to the Bar during their training (see Bar).  They are also sometimes called ‘counsel’.

Barristers represent individuals in court and provide them with specialist legal advice.  Barristers must usually be instructed (hired) through a solicitor, but in certain circumstances a member of the public can approach them directly.


This literally means a ‘break’.  A ‘breach of duty’ is failing to carry out your responsibilities.  For example, all drivers have a duty of care to other road-users; employers have a duty of care to their employees; manufacturers have a duty of care to the consumers of their products; and doctors have a duty of care to their patients.   

A contract is beached if it has been broken or ignored in some way, for example, if your car comes back from the garage after a service and it doesn't work, the garage will have breached its contract with you.

BTE insurance / before-the-event insurance

BTE is short for ‘before-the-event insurance’.  It is also known as legal-expenses insurance and is often added to car insurance and household contents insurance either free or for a small fee.  BTE insurance may pay for the legal costs of making a claim for compensation, whether you win or lose.  Your solicitor will be able to check the terms and conditions of any BTE insurance you have and tell you what it will and won’t cover.

Burden of proof

In English law the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.  This means that when you make a claim for compensation, you have to prove that the defendant or alleged responsible party was negligent in causing your injuries.

CFA / conditional fee agreement

This is a contract between you and your lawyer under which they will not get paid for their work unless you win your case.  Unless you mislead us you will not be responsible for costs if you loose. For more information see the ‘how much does it cost?’ section in the Frequently Asked Questions.

CICA / Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

The CICA is a government organisation paying compensation to victims of crime.  For more information, go to our page on criminal injuries or see www.cica.gov.uk

Civil action

A civil action is usually bought following a claim that one side has broken their contract with the other.  It can also relate to duties and responsibilities without a contract (see the examples under the definition for ‘breach’).   

Unlike criminal proceedings, where the state almost always prosecutes people who are alleged to have broken the law, in a civil action one party takes proceedings against another party. 

If they get to court, most civil cases will be heard in the county court.  The usual remedy for a civil action is financial, known as ‘damages’. 


This is your demand for financial compensation for damages relating to your personal injury and connected losses, including earnings, damage to your vehicle, medical care and so on. 

Claim form

You need to fill in a claim form to start your claim.  This will include information about where, when and how the accident happened and your injury.  Claims Direct advisers can help you with this.


You will be referred to as ‘the claimant’ once you have put in your claim for compensation.

Claims management company / claims assessor

There is no legal definition of a claims assessor or a claims management company. Different ones work in different ways.  However, claims management companies normally use lawyers to help you with your case, while most claims assessors do not.

Claims assessors will usually take a percentage of your compensation as their fee.  They can negotiate directly with the organisation you are claiming against but they can’t take legal action, which means you may still need to contact a lawyer.  

Claims management companies have different ways of charging, the most common is ‘no-win, no-fee’ (see CFA).  They also work in different ways: some will use claims managers who will liaise between you and your solicitor, while others will just put you in touch with a solicitor.


A sum of money paid to make amends for loss, breakage, hardship, inconvenience or personal injury caused by another.

Compensation Act

The Compensation Act 2006 regulates claims management companies, meaning they now have to be registered and abide by a code of conduct.  For more information see www.claimsregulation.gov.uk

Contributory negligence

Accidents are not always the responsibility of one side.  If you were partly to blame for your accident, this might reduce the amount of damages you receive.  This could also apply if the accident wasn’t your fault, but your injuries could have been prevented or reduced if, for example, you were wearing a seat belt. 


Your lawyer will start to bear costs as soon as they take on your case.  In many personal injury claims the costs will be paid for by the losing party (the defendant) and normally by their insurer.  There is likely to be a shortfall between what the defendant will pay and our costs for running you case.  You will be responsible for this difference, but only if you win.  The difference will be taken from your compensation. There are a number of different elements making up the bill of costs - including disbursements and time spent.

Counter claim

This is when the defendant or person you hold responsible for your injuries and loss makes their own claim against you in response to your action.  This does not normally happen in personal injury claims.

County court

The Court of Appeal hears appeals in all the leading civil action cases.  Much of the law around personal injury has been set in the Court of Appeal.

CRU / Compensation Recovery Unit

When someone claims compensation, the person or organisation paying the compensation (the compensator) must tell the Compensation Recovery Unit, which is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).  

If you have claimed compensation and have also received a social security benefit because of your accident injury or disease, the compensator has to pay back the amount of this benefit to the DWP. 


This is the person or organisation you are making a claim against.


Disbursements are expenses, such as court fees, medical reports, police accident reports and after-the-event insurance premiums.

Duty of care

A duty of care is a legal obligation someone has to ensure their actions do not harm someone else.  If someone acts without a duty of care, for example, they are driving carelessly or they don’t clear up a spill on the floor of a public place, they may be found to be negligent.  

Employers liability

This is the responsibility of an employer to pay compensation to employees for any personal injuries they suffer during their employment. 


When you take out insurance you may decide to pay the first amount of any claim you make (eg £250), which will lower your premium (the cost of your insurance).  This is called the voluntary excess.  

Your insurer may also impose an additional amount you have to pay for any claim you make, which is called the compulsory excess (for example because of your age or the type of vehicle you drive).  

If there is any excess on your insurance policy, you will have to pay this first, even if you weren’t responsible.  If the accident wasn’t your fault, you should get this back from the other side’s insurers when your claim is settled.

Expert witness

An expert witness is a witness who, because of their training, profession or experience, has a special knowledge of their subject.  They give independent expert opinions, often on medical matters, in legal disputes.

Fast track

The English and Welsh legal system is split into three ‘tracks’ for personal injury compensation claims.  The small claims track is for cases below £1,000, the fast track is for cases between £1,000-£25000 and the multi track is for cases over £25000.  Most personal injury claims go through the fast track process.

General damages

This is the money you get for your personal injury to compensate you for pain and suffering.  This award can be settled before you get to court or following a court hearing.  See also special damages.

High Court

The High Court hears the most serious civil action cases, and appeals from the county courts.  It is divided into three divisions:  Queen's Bench, Family and Chancery.  Personal injury cases are heard in the Queen’s Bench division.

HSE / Health and Safety Executive

The HSE’s role is to protect people’s health and safety by ensuring risks in the workplace are properly controlled.

It looks after health and safety in nuclear installations and mines, factories, farms, hospitals and schools, offshore gas and oil installations, the safety of the gas grid and the movement of dangerous goods and substances, and many other aspects of the protection both of workers and the public.  

Local authorities are responsible for enforcement in offices, shops and other parts of the services sector.

IIDB / Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

You can claim this benefit from Jobcentre Plus if you are disabled because of a disease or deafness caused by your work in certain occupations.  You may also be able to claim it if you are disabled by an accident at work.  For more information see www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk

Industrial/occupational disease

An industrial or occupational disease is one you have contracted due to your working conditions.  This could be asthma caused by working with flour or grain, deafness caused by being exposed to loud noise, or vibration white finger caused by using drilling equipment.

Interim payments

An interim payment is an early payment made before your case has been finally settled.  

For example, if you are involved in a car accident and your car is damaged beyond repair, you may get an interim payment to enable you to buy another car and go back to work.  The amount you get for your personal injury and lost earnings would be sent to you later on once the case has been settled.  

You might also get an interim payment if you had a serious injury and needed to pay for private medical costs or have your house adapted to your needs before your case has been finally settled.


The area and matters over which a court has legal authority.

Law Society

The Law Society is the organisation representing solicitors (see www.lawsociety.org.uk).  Regulation of solicitors is now the responsibility of a new organisation, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Legal aid

A government scheme to help people with low income and limited savings to pay for legal advice, assistance, mediation and representation.  You can’t normally get legal aid for personal injury cases, but your solicitor will be able to give you more information.  Or you can use the legal aid calculator on the CLS Direct website www.clsdirect.org.uk/legalhelp/calculator.jsp?lang=en.

LEI / legal expenses insurance

LEI is short for ‘legal expenses insurance’.  It is also known as ‘BTE’ or ‘before-the-event insurance’ and is often added to car insurance and household contents insurance either free or for a small fee.  LEI may pay for the legal costs of making a claim for compensation, whether you win or lose.  Your solicitor will be able to check the terms and conditions of any LEI you have and tell you what it will and won’t cover.

Letter of claim

This is the initial letter sent to the person or organisation responsible for your accident giving the details about your claim.


This means ‘responsibility’. If you caused an accident, you have liability for the damage and any personal injuries.  This responsibility will normally be taken on by your insurer who will pay any costs associated with the damage and injuries caused. 


‘Lien’ is the legal right to hold onto goods or property of another person until payment has been made.  This will only apply to you if you are paying your legal fees yourself.  Your lawyer will hold on to all documents and money from your case until the fees are paid, whether this is directly by you or by your opponent. 


This is the period of time within which you must make a claim for compensation.  It is usually three years for personal injury cases and six years for other claims.  After this time, you are very unlikely to be able to make a claim, although there are exceptions to this.  Your solicitor will advise you about the limitation period that applies in your particular case.  This is a good reason for seeing a solicitor as soon as you think you may have a possible claim for compensation.

Litigant / litigation friend

A litigant is any party in legal proceedings – so if you are making a personal injury claim you are a litigant and so is the other side (or defendant).  

Any claimant under 18 years of age must have a 'litigation friend' to pursue the case on their behalf.  Usually this will be the parent or guardian, unless they caused the injury or were negligent and in some way involved in the action.


Legal proceedings.

Maximum severity

Maximum severity cases are the most serious personal injury cases, involving catastrophic injuries such as losing a limb, brain damage or spinal injuries. 

MIB / Motor Insurers’ Bureau

The MIB pays compensation to victims of accidents caused by uninsured or untraceable drivers.  All motor insurance companies have to be a member of the MIB and contribute to its funding. 


A ‘minor’ is any person or claimant under 18.  Minors need a litigation friend to pursue any claim.

Multi track

The English and Welsh legal system is split into three ‘tracks’ for personal injury compensation claims.  The small claims track is for cases below £1,000, the fast track is for cases between £1,000-£25000 and the multi track is for cases over £25000.  Most personal injury claims go through the fast track process.


This is short for ‘motor vehicle accident’.  They are also referred to as RTAs (road-traffic accidents).


Negligence is when a person or organisation doesn't take reasonable care over something where they have a duty to do so, for example, failing to drive carefully. If you are injured because someone was negligent (they did something they shouldn't, or didn't do something they should), you may be able to claim compensation.

No Win, No Fee

Under a No Win No Fee agreement, your lawyer will not get paid if you lose your case. If you fail to beat a Part36 offer your offer will be at risk to pay your opponents costs.

You can buy insurance to protect your offered award.  This is called ‘after-the-event insurance’. If you already have insurance, for example as part of your car or household insurance, you may be able to use this to fund your case. Your solicitor can give you more information about these different types of insurance. 

If you are a member of an organisation that has insurance (such as your employer, a trade union or sports club) you may not need to fund your case using a ‘no-win, no-fee’ agreement. Speak to that organisation first to see if their insurance covers you.


The Court can make an ‘order’ requiring someone to do (or not do) something. 

Part 36 offer

When your opponent first receives your claim they can make a judgement about how much they think the claim is worth and will make a Part 36 offer.  If you do not accept the amount then the case goes to court.  

If you don’t accept the Part 36 offer and the judge later awards a lower amount, your opponent can claim costs from you.  So make sure you get legal advice before accepting or rejecting a Part 36 offer.


Any of the participants involved in a claim or court proceedings.

Personal injury

Of course, any injury you suffer is personal.  But in legal terms, a personal injury for which you can claim compensation is where another person or organisation is at least partly to blame.  An injury doesn’t have to be physical - you may be able to claim compensation for a psychological injury, such as shock or distress.

Personal injury protocol

This is a system set up to try and help parties reach a settlement without having to go to court.  It sets out a basic timeframe and outlines what each side should do.  It is also called the ‘pre-action protocol’.


These are the documents setting out the claim or defence of parties involved in a claim.  

Provisional damages

If your injuries are likely to cause complications in later life, the court can initially award you provisional damages.  This amount will be based on what your injuries are ‘worth’ at the time of your claim.  This means that if your condition gets worse or you develop new problems because of your injuries, your case can be reviewed and you may get more damages later on. 


This is the value of your claim and is made up of general and special damages.


This is short for ‘road-traffic accident’.  These are also referred to a MVAs (motor vehicle accidents).

Small claims court

This refers to the small claims track, which is the special procedure for resolving claims worth less than £1,000 for personal injury (up to £5,000 for other claims) in a county court.

Cases are dealt with differently in the small claims court.  It is supposed to be a simple process so that anyone can deal with their own case from start to finish without using a solicitor.  If you decide to use a solicitor in the small claims court you cannot get the costs back from your opponent when you win. 

Most personal injury claims are for more than £1,000.  But if your claim is for less than this, you can get advice about using the small claims court from Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) or your trade union might be able to help.

Small claims track

The English and Welsh legal system is split into three ‘tracks’ for personal injury compensation claims.  The small claims track is for cases below £1,000, the fast track is for cases between £1,000-£25,000 and the multi track is for cases over £25,000.  Most personal injury claims go through the fast track process. 


A legally qualified professional whose main role is to advise clients, prepare their cases and represent them in some courts.  They are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (see SRA).  

Special damages

This is compensation for  money you have had to pay out before a trial and have lost because of the accident / injury / illness.  This could be the costs of travel, prescription fees, buying special equipment, damage to property and insurance excess.

SRA / Solicitors Regulation Authority

This is the organisation that regulates solicitors in England and Wales.  For more information see www.sra.org.uk

Success fees

Solicitors who act under a CFA or ‘no-win, no-fee’ agreement will charge you an extra fee on top of their basic charges if you win your case. This is called a success fee. It is a proportion of your solicitor's basic charges and cannot be more than 100 per cent (in other words, it must be no more than the basic fee itself) and is capped at 25% of the General Damages that are awarded. 

Your solicitor should explain their success fee before you start your claim. If you win your case, the other side will usually pay most of the success fee. But you may have to pay some of it out of your compensation.

Third party

In a personal injury claim, the third party is the person or organisation you are claiming against, for example, the driver who caused the accident.


A tort is a civil wrong, or wrongful act, for which the injured party can get compensation, for example, personal injury and negligent driving.

Read more: http://claimsdirect.epiphanydev4.co.uk/jargon/#ixzz3lED9jo8U