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Legal glossary

From HM Courts service website

Assisted person (legally)
A party to legal proceedings who is receiving legal aid

Result of an arbitration hearing or the amount of damages assessed by a Court

An action, suit or claim in a court of law. It can also mean the arguments put forward by parties in a court of law

Case Management Conference (CMC)
This is a meeting between all parties to a case and the Judge to check the progress of the case, with regards to costs and other matters. The numbers of CMCs held depend on the complexity of the case

Proceedings issued in the County or High Court. Previously know as an Action.

The person issuing the claim. Previously known as the Plaintiff

Conditional fee agreements (CFAs) also known as No win, no fee agreements
A way of paying for your legal advice. If you do not win your case you are not liable for your own legal costs. If you win you are liable for your costs but the costs should almost all be paid by your opponent. It is crucial to realise that if you lose your case it is highly likely that you will be made liable for your opponent's legal costs. 

If you win your case a "success fee" can be charged by your solicitor calculated as a percentage of the basic costs. If you enter into a conditional fee agreement you will need to buy an accompanying policy of insurance to protect you from an adverse costs order in the event that your case was lost.

Contributory Negligence
Partial responsibility of a claimant for the injury in respect of which he/she claims damages

Costs (civil)
In civil proceedings the general rule is the person who wins the case is entitled to his or her costs. The court may decide to reduce the costs to be paid by the losing side if it feels that the winner has behaved unreasonably. The award of costs is at the court’s discretion

An amount of money claimed as compensation for physical/material loss, e.g. personal injury, breach of contract

Defence or defending a claim (civil)
When the defendant disputes the claim made by the claimant
Defendant (civil)
The person who has a claim made against them. They can defend (dispute the claim) or admit liability, in part or in full

The inability of a person to handle their own affairs (e.g. through mental illness or a minor under 18 years of age) which prevents involvement in civil legal proceedings without representation

Expert Witness
Person employed to give evidence on a subject in which they are qualified or have expertise

A person appointed to safeguard/protect/manage the interests of a child or person under mental disability (see Next Friend)

A hearing is the trial of the case. Hearings are usually held in public

Also known as a minor: A person under 18 years of age which prevents them from acting on their own behalf in legal proceedings (see Next Friend)

Issue / issuing
To initiate legal proceedings in pursuit of a claim

Judicial review
The High Court can review decisions of inferior (lower) courts, public bodies and other bodies to ensure that the decision making process has been lawful

Legal Aid / Public Funding
State funded assistance, for those on low incomes, to cover legal fees.

Litigation friend
A person who conducts legal proceedings on behalf of a child or a mentally incapacitated person

Someone below 18 years of age and unable to sue or be sued without representation, other than for wages. A minor sues by a next friend and defends by a guardian

Multi Track
The path to which defended claims over £15000 are allocated.

Next Friend
(see GUARDIAN) A person representing a minor or mental patient who is involved in legal proceedings

Official Solicitor
A solicitor or barrister appointed by the Lord Chancellor and working in the Lord Chancellor's Department. The duties include representing, in legal proceedings, people who are incapable of looking after their own affairs i.e. children/persons suffering from mental illness

Independent ‘referees’ who consider complaints against public and private organisations in a wide range of fields including housing, health and banking. They are often used as a last resort when complaints cannot be resolved through an organisation’s own complaints procedure. Ombudsman services are free to use. Recommendations made by ombudsmen are not binding on the person making the complaint (complainant). They can still go to court even if the ombudsman decided against them

Particulars of claim
This document contains details of the claimant’s claim which must be contained in the claim form or served shortly after the claim form has been served. The particulars should be a concise statement of the facts of the claim

Party / parties
People involved in court proceedings either as the defendant(s) or claimant(s)

A person who is deemed incapable of handling his/her own affairs by reason of mental incapacity and who is under the jurisdiction of the Court of Protection

Personal injury claim
A civil claim, which relates to physical or mental harm suffered by a claimant, due to the defendant’s alleged negligence


Preliminary hearing
A hearing in which the Judge ensures that the parties understand what they must do to comply with any directions and offers guidance on such matters as the use of an expert witness. This hearing is before the final hearing

Public trustee
A person (usually a barrister or solicitor) appointed by the Lord Chancellor as
i) trustee for trusts managed by the Public trust Office;
ii) Accountant General for Court Funds;
iii) Receiver (of last resort) for Court of Protection patients

In a damages claim, for example, a personal injury claim, the amount to be determined by the court

Person appointed by the Court of Protection to act on behalf of a patient

Small Claims Track
The path to which defended claims of no more than £5,000 (and personal injury and housing disrepair claims of no more than £1,000) are allocated.

Ward of Court
The title given to a minor who is the subject of a wardship order. The order ensures that custody of the minor is held by the Court with day to day care of the minor being carried out by an individual(s) or local authority. As long as the minor remains a ward of Court, all decisions regarding the minors upbringing must be approved by the Court, e.g. transfer to a different school, medical treatment etc.

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