Unless you’re a lawyer or another professional in the justice system, legal jargon might sound like a foreign language to you. However, it’s important to be able to understand the procedures of the law and what certain terms mean, especially if you are a personal injury victim and are seeking legal action. In this two-part blog series, we’ll define some common terms (courtesy of the State of Nebraska Judicial Branch), mostly related specifically to civil law, that are frequently tossed around in the legal sector to help further your understanding of your case.

Abstract of Judgment

A summary of the final decision of a court. This abstract is often used by court-related agencies in the course of their business. An abstract is issued and recorded at a county recorder creating a lien against real property located within the county.


A pleading by which defendant endeavors to resist the plaintiff’s allegation of facts.

Bench trial

Trial held before judge sitting without a jury; jury waived trial.

Civil action

A lawsuit between or among private parties for declaration, enforcement or protection or a right, or for redress or prevention of a wrong.

Civil law

All law that is not criminal law.


A document submitted by the plaintiff, usually prepared by an attorney, which lists and describes 1) alleged offenses committed by the defendant; 2) the ramifications; and 3) the desired conditions for correction of such offenses.

Comparative negligence

The doctrine by which acts of the opposing parties in a civil action are compared in the degrees of “slight,” “ordinary,” and “gross” negligence.


An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit; ordinarily does not include attorney’s fees.


A claim presented by a defendant against the plaintiff in a civil action.


The failure of a party to respond in a timely manner to a pleading; a failure to appear for trial.


A person sued or accused.

Due process

Law in its regular course of administration through the courts of justice. The constitutional guarantee of due process requires that every individual have the protection of a fair trial.

Eminent domain

The lawful power to take private property for public use by the process of condemnation.

Grand jury

A body of persons sworn to inquire into crime and bring an accusation (indictment) against the suspected criminal if warranted; grand juries are uncommon in Nebraska.

Guardian ad litem

Person appointed by a court to look after the interest of a minor involved in litigation.


The legal power to hear and decide cases; the territorial range of such power.


Person or group engaged in a lawsuit.

Though the lawyers at Friedman Law are well versed, it’s beneficial to get familiar with these terms in the early stages of any legal case. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we’ll finish up our list!