Glossary of Key Negligence Legal Terminology

The law and the terms used can be complicated to those who are unfamiliar with legal jargon. This A-Z guide of common legal terms and phrases provides definitions of key legal terms that solicitors and their clients will come across in litigation in England and Wales.

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Ab initio – the start of something (Latin phrase).

Adjourn -the postponement of a court hearing.

Administrator – An Insolvency Practitioner (IP) appointed by the court under an administration order or by a floating charge holder or by the company or its directors filing the requisite notice at court.

Advocate – a lawyer who speaks in court on behalf of their client.

Affidavit  a sworn statement of truth.

Agent  someone who acts on behalf of another.

Agreement  where a consensus is reached between parties.

Appeal  requesting a court to overturn a lower court’s decision

Arbitration   a form of alternative dispute resolution whereby an independent referee can make a legally binding decision without the need of a court. This award can be challenged at court.

Arbitrator – an independent referee who can settle a dispute through alternative dispute resolution, without the need of a court.

Assets – used to define things which have some value which are owned by an individual or corporate personality. In insolvency, assets are anything that belongs to a debtor that may be used to pay his/her/its debts.


Barrister – a lawyer specialising in court room advocacy and litigation who will be regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

Beneficiary – a person or entity which derives profit or advantage from a legal instrument such as a trust, life insurance policy or will.

Bequest – a gift of money or personal property made in a will, other than land or real property.

Bill of costs – an invoice given by a solicitor to their client which outlines disbursements, fees and any expenses paid.

Bona fide – sincere, genuine or good faith (Latin phrase).


Caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware” a principle whereby the buyer assumes the risk that whatever they are purchasing may be defective and therefore places onus on them to perform due diligence first.

Charge – Security interest taken over property by a creditor to protect against non-payment of a debt (such as a mortgage).

Compensation – money paid to make up for loss, damage, injury or suffering. 

Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) – Also known as a “no win no fee” agreement, is a contract between a client and legal representative which provides that all or past of the legal representative’s legal fees and/or disbursements is to be paid by the client only in specific circumstances – usually only if the client is successful in the case. A success fee will ordinarily also be agreed at the outset of any instruction.

Connected persons – Directors or shadow directors and their associates (including family members), and associates of the company. Connected persons has various definitions according to the particular act; for example, section 252 Companies Act 2006 defines connected persons in reference to their connection with a director of a company.

Contract – an agreement between two or more parties which creates legal obligations for both to perform specific acts.

Conveyancing – the legal process of transferring legal title in property from one person to another.

Costs Law – the law regarding legal costs cases.

Costs Lawyers – a lawyer regulated by the Association of Costs Lawyers.

Counsel – another term which is used to describe a barrister.

Creditor – Someone owed money by an individual or company.


Damages – monetary compensation to be paid to a claimant for loss caused by the wrongful act of another. Recovery of damages is the primary objective of most civil litigation in the UK.

Damages Based Agreement – an agreement between a firm and their client whereby the agreed fee is contingent upon the outcome of the case. In the instance of success, the fee is determined as a percentage of the compensation received by the client.

Defendant – person to whom the claim is being made against. May also be referred to as the respondent.

Disbursement – fees that are paid to someone else (other than your solicitor) for fees that are connected with your legal matter e.g. counsel’s fees, court fees, photocopying and other administrative charges.

Disclosure – this relates to the making available of relevant documents which you believe to be in the possession of the other party.


Embezzlement – the crime of stealing funds or property of an employer, company or Government.

Employment – the hiring of a person for compensation.      

Encroachment – building a structure which is in partially or wholly on a neighbour’s property.

Encumbrance – general term for a claim of real property 

Endorsement – the act of the payee or owner signing his/her name to a negotiable instrument i.e. a bill or check. 

Entity – term for any institution, company, partnership, government agency or any organisation that is distinguished from other individuals. 

Entry of judgment – the placement of judgement in on the official roll of judgments.

Exhibit – a document or object that may be used as evidence during a trial, this evidence is subject to objections by an opposing attorney. 

Expert Witness – a person who is a specialist in a subject and may give their expert opinion on the matter without being a witness to any occurrence in the actual lawsuit. The judge has the discretion on whether to qualify whether he/she is an expert or not. 


Face amount – the original amount due prior to adding the calculation of interest. 

Fair market value – the value at which a property would sell at if it were put on the open market, real estate appraisers will use.

Fraud – lying or deceiving to either make a profit or gain an advantage, or cause someone else to suffer a disadvantage. 

Fraudulent conveyance – the transfer of land ownership with the intention of defrauding someone

Fraudulent preference – someone who is insolvent paying one of their creditors whilst being aware they do not have enough money to pay other creditors.

Fraudulent Trading – Where a company has carried on business with intent to defraud creditors, or for any fraudulent purpose. It is a criminal offence and those involved can be made personally liable for the company’s liabilities.

Frustration – the stopping of a contract. A contract may not be carried out because something make’s the contract impossible this is called the frustration of a contract.


General damages – these are dames that a court will give compensation for without the need for specific proof that that damage was done to the claimant. 

Going concern – Basis on which insolvency practitioners prefer to sell a business. Effectively it means the business continues, jobs are saved, and a higher price is obtained.

Grant – proof that you are entitled to deal with a person’s estate who has dies. The grant is used by the probate registry. 

Grant of probate – a certificate that proves the executors of the will are entitled to deal with the estate. Forms as well as the death certificate and will, will be sent to the Probate Registry which will then in turn be examined by the registrar and once satisfied a grant of probate will be issued. 


Hearsay evidence – evidence that is given in court of something said to the witness by another person 

HM Customs and Excise – the government department that is responsible for administering value added tax, customs and excise duties

HM Land Registry – a registry in offices and towns in the UK that keeps record of registered land. 

Holding company – a company which controls another company usually due to owning more than half its shares.

Hostile witness – a witness who either refuses to testify in support of the people who called them; or testifies in a way that differs from their previous statement

House of Lords – the highest court in the UK


Indemnity – security against a loss.

Indemnity Insurance – also known as professional indemnity insurance this provides cover for the legal costs and expenses in defending a claim against you for inadequate advice.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) – A voluntary arrangement for an individual is a procedure whereby the person comes to an arrangement with his creditors in how their debt will be discharged. Such a scheme requires the approval of the court and is under the control of a supervisor.

Injunction – an order made by the court requiring someone to do something or not do something.

Insolvent – if a company has insufficient assets to discharge its debts and liabilities it is insolvent.

Inter Alia – a Latin term for among other things.

Interest – a legal claim, or right to use property.

Interim Injunction–  an injunction which is made prior to a civil case coming to trial

Interim Order – An individual who intends to propose a voluntary arrangement to his creditors may apply to the court for an interim order which, if granted, precludes bankruptcy and other legal proceedings whilst the order is in force.

Interim proceeding – any hearing which occurs between the first and final hearing would be considered interim.

Interlocutory Judgment – a provisional judgement.


Joint and several Liability – where two or more parties are equally liable for an agreed obligation. Their liability for breach of the obligation can be therefore enforced against them all or any one of them individually.  

Joint tenancy – a tenancy which is equally divided between two or more parties.

Joint and several Liability – where two or more parties are equally liable for an agreed obligation. Their liability for breach of the obligation can be therefore enforced against them all or any one of them individually.  

Joint tenancy – a tenancy which is equally divided between two or more parties.

Joint venture – a commercial undertaking between parties which retain their individual identities.

Joint will – a will which comprises of two or more individuals estates.

Judge – the individual who presides over court proceedings and adjudicate them.

Judgment – Is the decision given by a court at the conclusion of a trial.

Judgment creditor ­– the individual who is owed money after obtaining a judgment at court in their favour.

Judgment debtor – the individual who owes money as per the judgment of the court.

Judgment in default – a judgment made by the court without trial, where the defendant has failed to either file an acknowledgement of service or file a defence by a certain date.

Junior barrister ­– any barrister that is not part of the Queen’s Counsel.

Jurisdiction ­– the territorial limits which a court has power to make an order.


Knowhow – the expertise and technical information in an organisation which is often protected by a patent.


Law Society – the professional body for solicitors in England and Wales.

Lawyer – a professional who is authorised to carry on legal activities by the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Leasehold – property which is held exclusively by a tenant for a given period of time in return for rent.

Legal ombudsman or LeO – an independent body that deals with complaints regarding poor legal services of lawyers and law firms in England and Wales.

Liability – responsibility such as financial responsibility to pay taxes, debts or loans; or legal responsibility, such as the blame for causing harm to someone else.

Lien – Right to retain possession of assets or documents until settlement of a debt.

Limitation Period  – as dictated by the Limitation Act 1980 these are the statutory rules which limit the period in which a civil claim may be commenced.

Limited Liability Partnership – this is a partnership where all or some of the partners have limited liability.  

Litigant – the individual who is party to a court action.

Litigant in person – an individual who represents themselves during the course of court proceedings.

Litigation – the commencement of legal action through the courts.


Malfeasance – an unlawful act.

Mediation – a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent third party assists the parties to resolve their dispute without going to court.

Member (of a company) – A person who has agreed to be, and is registered as, a member, such as a shareholder of a limited company.

Middle Temple – dating back to the 14th Century it is one of the four Inns of Court.

Misconduct – the breach of a relevant principle by a profession in their field.

Misfeasance – Breach of duty in relation to the funds or property of a company by its directors or managers.

Misrepresentation – an untrue statement made by one party to the other which induces them into a contract.

Money Laundering – the practice of concealing the source of funds obtained illegally.

Mortgage – A transfer of an interest in land or other property by way of security, redeemable upon performing the condition of paying a given sum of money.


Nominee – An IP who carries out the preparatory work for a voluntary arrangement, before its implementation.


Obiter – a non-essential opinion which forms part of a Judge’s written judgement and does not become legal precedent.

Obligation – the requirement, usually by contract, to perform a particular action.

Offer – a promise or willingness to do something or refrain from doing something. Once accepted this becomes legally binding contract.  

Offeree – the individual who is the recipient of the legally binding offer.

Offeror – the individual who makes the legally binding offer.

Officer (of a company) – A director, manager or secretary of a company.

Out-of-court settlement – an agreement between parties which is made privately prior to the court’s decision.

Overriding Objective –the Civil Procedure Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost.  


Pari passu – the Latin phrase for equal footing.

Passing Off – a misrepresentation that goods or services offered are those supplied by another.

Prima facie – a Latin phrase for on the face of it.


Quantum – the value of the claim.

Quantum meruit – the equitable remedy in a claim to recover a reasonable sum in respect of services or goods supplied to the defendant equivalent to the amount he deserves or has earned

Quash – to invalidate or set aside a conviction


Ratio decidendi -the reasons or principles of law on which the court reaches its decision

Remedy/redress– when a court or other applicable body grants protection, recovery or enforcement of rights or recovery of damages.

Reply a statement of case filed and served in response to the Defence.

Request for further information – a written request under Part 18 of the Civil Procedure Rules seeking clarification or further information in relation to matter in dispute in the claim.

Requisition– an application to the Land Registry or a local authority for a certificate of official search to reveal whether or not land is affected by encumbrances

Rescission – the setting aside of a voidable contract which is treated as if it never existed

Restitution -the return of property to the owner or person entitled to possession, particularly where an individual or entity has been unjustly enriched and unjustifiably received the property where the goods have been transferred under duress, mistake, fraud or illegality.


Service – key documents in litigation such as the Claim Form, Statements of Case are required to be served on the opponent in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules. 

Set aside – a court order voiding or cancelling another order or judgment

Settlement – where the parties agree between themselves or with the use of a mediator, to resolve the claim prior to commencing litigation or without going to trial.

Shadow Director – A person who, without being formally appointed, gives instructions on which the directors of a company are accustomed to act.

Statement of Affairs – A document sworn under oath, completed by a bankrupt, company officer or director(s), stating the assets and giving details of debts and creditors.

Statement of Case – documents filed and served in litigation which set out the ambit of the claim which include the Particulars of Claim, the Defence (and Counterclaim), Reply and witness statements. 

Statement of Truth – the CPR requires that some documents are verified by a statement of truth such as the claim form.  This means that the person must sign it stating that they believe the contents to be true.

Statutory Demand – A formal notice requiring payment of a debt exceeding £750 within 21 days, in default of which bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings may be commenced without further notice.

Statutory declaration – a formal statement in a prescribed form affirming that something is true to the best knowledge of the person making the declaration.

Stay of execution – an order suspending the execution of an order of the court or judgment

Stay of proceedings – an order pausing civil legal proceedings


Tort – a wrongful act or omission, other than a breach of contract, for which damages can be awarded in a civil court by the person who has been wronged.

Transaction at an Undervalue – A transaction at an undervalue can describe either a gift or a transaction in which the consideration received is significantly less than that given. In certain circumstances such a transaction can be challenged by an administrator, a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy.


Unsecured Creditor – A creditor who does not hold security (such as a mortgage) for money owed. Some unsecured creditors may also be preferential creditors.


Voluntary disclosure– Is a tax program where a delinquent taxpayer discloses information voluntarily to avoid any liabilities or prosecution prior non-disclosure.

Voluntary Liquidation – A method of liquidation not involving the courts or the Official Receiver. There are 2 types of voluntary liquidation – members’ voluntary liquidation for solvent companies and creditors’ voluntary liquidation for insolvent companies.


Will – a legal document declaring a person’s wishes about the way their estate should be distributed upon their death.

Winding-up – (Or liquidation) – the procedure whereby the assets of a company (or partnership) are gathered in and realised, the liabilities met and the surplus, if any, distributed to members.

Winding-up Petition – A winding-up petition is a petition presented to the court seeking an order that a company be put into compulsory liquidation.

Winding-up Order – Order of a court, usually based on a creditor’s petition, for the compulsory winding up or liquidation of a company or partnership.

Without prejudice – when this is written on the document it can not be used as evidence. 

Witness – someone who watches a document being signed to verify the authenticity of the document; or testifies regarding an event that they know information about. 

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