When you’re dealing with the law, there are a lot of terms that you need to know in order to understand what’s going on. Here are 10 of the most common legal terms and their definitions:

Contract: An agreement between two or more parties that creates mutual obligations that are enforceable by law.

When two or more parties enter into a contract, they agree to certain terms and conditions that will be binding upon them. If one party fails to meet its obligations under the contract, the other party may sue for breach of contract.

Contracts can be used in a variety of situations, such as when two businesses merge, when one party hires another to do work, or when a tenant rents property from a landlord. In each case, both parties have certain responsibilities that they must uphold in order for the contract to be valid.

Tort: A wrongful act committed that results in injury or damage to another party for which damages may be awarded.

There are a number of different torts, each with its own specific set of rules and penalties. Some of the more common torts include negligence, defamation, and product liability. In order to succeed in a tort claim, the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) must typically show that the defendant acted negligently or intentionally caused them harm.


Negligence: The failure to exercise a reasonable level of care, which results in harm to another party

In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care, breached that duty and that the breach resulted in damages. If the plaintiff can prove all of these elements, they may be able to recover compensation for their losses.

There are a few different types of negligence, including medical negligence, car accident negligence, and slip and fall negligence. Each one has its own specific set of rules and regulations. However, the basic elements remain the same.


Breach of contract: The breaking of one or more terms of a contract, without justification.

There are a few different ways that a breach of contract can occur. The first is if one party fails to perform its obligations under the contract. This can happen if they don’t complete the work that they agreed to do, or if they don’t deliver the goods or services that they promised. Another way a breach can occur is if one party makes a change to the terms of the contract without the agreement of the other party. 


Torts liability:  the legal responsibility for injuries or damages caused by wrongful actions.

This can include physical injuries, property damage, and financial losses. Torts liability can be incurred by individuals, businesses, or government entities. There are a number of factors that can impact whether or not someone is liable for a tort, including the nature of the injury or damage, the intent of the perpetrator, and whether or not they took reasonable steps to avoid causing harm.


Statute of limitations: A law that sets a time limit for bringing a civil or criminal action.

The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that criminal and civil cases are brought to trial within a reasonable time frame.

In most cases, the statute of limitations begins to run when a crime is committed. For example, the statute of limitations for murder is typically 20 years. This means that a person can be prosecuted for murder even if the crime was committed many years ago. For civil cases however, say a personal injury case for example, the statute of limitations is 2 years.

The statute of limitations may also be extended in certain circumstances, such as when the victim is a minor or when the crime is particularly heinous.


Res ipsa loquitur: “The thing speaks for itself” – a legal doctrine that allows for circumstantial evidence to be used in civil cases when the direct cause of an injury is not known.

An example of this would be the “classic” piano falling from a window and injuring a person casually walking on the sidewalk below.

This doctrine can be extremely helpful in cases where direct proof is lacking, but there is still strong reason to believe that someone was negligent. By using “res ipsa loquitur”, plaintiffs can often get closer to holding the responsible party accountable for their actions.


Contractual privity: The relationship between two or more parties involved in a contract.

This means that the parties are obligated to each other by the terms of the contract, and can sue or be sued for any breaches of that agreement.

Contractual privity is an important concept in contract law because it determines who can enforce the terms of a contract. Only the parties to a contract can sue each other for breaches, and third parties (such as witnesses or bystanders) cannot get involved in any disputes, except in limited circumstances.


Promissory estoppel: A legal principle that holds that one party can be prevented from going back on a promise, due to the reliance of another party.

This can be useful for preventing people from unfairly taking advantage of others who have placed their trust in them.

Promissory estoppel can help to ensure that people uphold their end of the bargain, even if it wasn’t explicitly written down or agreed to in advance. This principle can be invoked in a variety of situations, such as when someone has been promised a job but then is told the position has been filled, or when someone is promised a loan but then the lender changes the terms of the agreement.


Parens patriae: The legal principle by which the state acts as a parent to protect its citizens’ welfare, particularly when they are unable to do so themselves.

Parens patriae is a Latin term meaning “parent of the nation.” It allows the state to intervene on behalf of individuals who are unable to take care of themselves, such as minors or those with mental disabilities.