A-Z Glossary of Motor Vehicle Accident Terminology

glossary of car accident terms sitting on a tableIf you have been involved in a car accident, you may find yourself quickly sinking in a sea of auto insurance lingo and personal injury terms. It can all become overwhelming when you add this to the exhaustive claims process, making it difficult to determine what benefits you are entitled to and if you are being treated fairly. Our team at Valent Legal put a list of commonly used car accident terms to help guide you through the process of a personal injury claim.

Auto Insurance Terminology

Before you dive into the glossary of insurance and legal terms for car accidents, let’s start with a car accident definition. Also referred to as a traffic or motor vehicle collision, a car accident occurs when a vehicle collides with another car, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or another stationary object. Following a car accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible or within 30 days from the date the accident occurred.

Accident Report – A formal document with details of the incident prepared by a first responder at the scene that is often a police officer or emergency medical technician.

Assignment of Benefits – An agreement signed by the policyholder to transfer the benefits provided by an insurance policy to a third-party so that they can get paid directly. For example, the insured assigning their medical benefits to a treatment provider.

Accident Benefits – Section B of Nova Scotia’s standard form auto policy that outlines benefits paid to you regardless of who is at fault for the accident. These benefits include medical expenses, lost wages, housekeeping, and funeral costs. These benefits are commonly referred to as No-Fault Benefits.

Agent – An individual authorized by an insurance company to identify risk management strategies, handle policy renewals, and track claims. Often referred to as an Insurance Sales Agent, this role sells insurance policies to consumers for a commission.

Appraiser – The person responsible for estimating the value of property or damage, reporting this information to the insurance company’s claims adjuster.

Claim – A formal request by a policyholder made to their insurance company to provide coverage or compensation for damage or injury covered in the terms of the policy.

Claims Adjuster – The insurance company representative responsible for investigating a claim. The investigation typically includes interviewing the person making a claim, witnesses, examining police and medical records, and assessing property damage to determine the insurance company’s liability.

Coverage – The extent of protection to which an insurance policyholder is entitled to.

  • Collision – Provides compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged vehicle.
  • Comprehensive – Coverage for damages to your car that are not caused by a collision, such as weather-related incidents or physical objects.
  • Direct – Covers damage to a vehicle or its contents if another driver is at fault for the accident. It is called direct coverage because the policyholder collects directly from their insurance provider instead of the provider for the driver who caused the collision.
  • Family – Family Protection is standard in Canadian car insurance policies (excluding Quebec), extending coverage to family members.
  • Property Damage – Section C of Nova Scotia’s standard form auto policy outlining how much money your insurance company will pay to repair the damages to your vehicle.
  • Third-Party Liability – Section A of Nova Scotia’s standard form auto policy protecting you from being held personally responsible if you are found to be at-fault for causing damages to the other driver or their property.
  • Uninsured – Section D of Nova Scotia’s standard form auto policy providing coverage for repairs, injuries, or death caused by an uninsured driver.

Deductible – The amount of a claim you’re responsible for paying up-front before your insurance company will pay any expenses.

Exhaustion of Benefits – Insurance policies have maximum coverage limits, typically applied to Accident Benefits for medical expenses. When these limits are reached, the benefits are exhausted, and the insurance company will no longer provide financial assistance.

Fault – Your insurance provider will determine the degree of fault to be assigned to each driver based on the rules set out by the Automobile Insurance Fault Determination Regulations. Fault is assigned between 0% and 100%.

Independent Medical Examination – A second medical opinion often requested by the insurance company to provide an unbiased record of the injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident.

Insurance The contract between a policyholder and an insurance company providing financial protection to the insured in case of a car accident.

  • Insurer – The company that provides coverage through an insurance policy.
  • Insured – The individual protected under the insurance policy.
  • Named Insured – Any individual whose name is listed on the policy.

Indemnity – The insurance company’s agreement to compensate the policyholder for losses, damages, or liability incurred from a car accident.

Limitation of Risk – The maximum amount an insurer can be obligated to pay in any one loss event.

Policy Limits – The maximum amount a car insurance policy will pay for a covered accident. Once that limit is reached, the policyholder is responsible for paying the cost of remaining expenses.

Stacking Coverages – Combining the coverage of two or more policies to a single claim. This typically applies when your vehicle’s damage exceeds the policy limits for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Standard Form Auto Policy – The standard form auto insurance policy in Nova Scotia is outlined in the Nova Scotia Insurance Act to regulate automobile accident insurance benefits.

Total Loss – Also known as a write-off, when the damages to a vehicle caused by a collision cannot be repaired, or the repair cost would exceed the value of the car. In this situation, the insurance company will offer the actual cash value of the vehicle.

Car Accident Litigation Terms

If liability for the car accident is in dispute or if there is a disagreement on the amount of compensation you may be entitled to, it may be necessary to take your claim to court. The process of taking legal action and/or filing a lawsuit is known as litigation.

Appeal – When one party does not agree with the decision in a trial court, they can submit a request to a higher court to reverse the decision.

Arbitration – One alternative way to settle a personal injury lawsuit when both parties are unable to reach an agreement. This method of settling a dispute is often considered a more efficient, faster, and cheaper route than litigation.

Assessment – Much like an independent medical examination, a medical assessment is requested by the insurance provider to determine the extent of the policyholder’s injuries and treatment plans.

Assumption of Risk – When a person participates in an activity despite the knowledge of danger associated with the action. If the individual is insured, an assumption of risk could make it difficult to recover compensation for damages from an insurance company.

Any Occupation Test When you are eligible for long-term disability benefits, typically after two years of receiving income replacement benefits. You must be unable to return to any position you are suited for based on your education, training, and previous work experience.

Bad Faith Claim – Filed by the policyholder against their insurance provider for denying a claim, delaying benefits, or refusing to pay for reasonable coverage without cause.

Burden of Proof – The responsibility of the plaintiff (policyholder) to prove that the defendant’s (insurance company or other driver) actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Contingency Fee – The client is not charged any legal fees until receiving a settlement or winning a judgment in court.

Damages – Payment for the losses the insured has suffered as a result of another person’s negligence.

  • General Damages – Compensation for non-monetary losses, such as pain and suffering, future impairment, and reduced life expectancy.
  • Punitive Damages – Intended to punish or deter the defendant and others from participating in negligent conduct.
  • Special Damages – Monetary damages caused by the injury, such as medical bills, loss of income, and homecare assistance.

Defendant – The person or insurance company being sued as the party responsible for causing the plaintiff’s injuries.

Deposition – A question and answer session documented by a court reporter that takes place outside of the courtroom that serves as an official account of the incident.

Discovery – The legal process of both parties exchanging relevant documents about the case, such as interviews, depositions, medical records, and witness statements.

Duty of Care – The standard of care an individual is expected to have for another person. Failing to meet these standards can be considered negligence.

Excess Judgement – The amount an insurance company is required to pay in additional damages beyond the policy limits, often as a result of acting in bad faith when settling a claim.

Expert Witness – A person who is qualified to speak with authority on scientific, technical, or professional matters based on their education, training, certification, skills, or experience.

Good Faith – Your own insurance company has what’s called a “duty of good faith” towards you. This means they are required by contract to act in your best interests.

Liability – Legal responsibility for one’s actions. Failure to meet this responsibility can result in a lawsuit for any resulting damages to another party or property.

Limitation Period – The time limit in which a person can file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. A limitation period typically begins on the date you have been injured, often referred to as “at the time of loss”.

Loss – The monetary value of damage or injury, including pain and suffering, lost wages, past and future medical bills, and homecare assistance.

Plaintiff – The person who files the lawsuit to seek damages or compensation for the losses caused by the car accident.

Quality of Life – The type of existence a person was living before or after the accident and resulting injuries, typically assessed using a variety of factors, including mobility and organization, social relationships and ability to interact, general life satisfaction, and future prospects.

Negligence – The failure to act with reasonable care.

Contributory Negligence – The percentage of liability is split between both parties.

Negotiation – To settle a legal dispute through a mutual agreement. Usually, the first stage of an injury claim will involve negotiating a settlement directly with an insurance company.

Settlement – A monetary payment offered outside of the court that does not require a judge’s approval. There are two types of settlements: a lump sum and a structured settlement. Structured settlements provide for future periodic payments instead of a one-time cash payment.

Valent Legal is Here to Help

Our team of compassionate personal injury and disability lawyers at Valent Legal understands that the claims process can be overwhelming. We are here to protect you from the stress of dealing with insurance companies and the courts, so you can focus on recovering. Contact Valent Legal for a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. We will review your claim and explain your legal rights and options to recover the compensation you are entitled to.