3 Common Legal Terms And Their Meaning

common legals terms meaning law terminology defined

Understanding legal terminology can be a truly daunting process for those without professional training in it. This is largely because much of it was written fairly long ago, and as such a lot of legal language is full of archaic and difficult to understand terms. 

However, this is also partly because law is a highly specialised subject, so much of their terminology therefore refers to complex and niche concepts and ideas. It can thus be advantageous to familiarise yourself with the most common legal terms and their meanings, so you are not confused when you encounter them. Here are a few of the most common legal terms and their definitions. 

Mens Rea 

Two of the most common and fundamental concepts in law are the principles of Mens Rea and Actus Reus. Essentially, these are two criteria which an accused party must fulfil to be convicted as guilty of a crime. Unsurprisingly, any prosecutor must prove the defendant demonstrated actus reus, in other words, they actually committed the crime in question. Secondly, they must also show that the defendant exhibited mens rea. Translated from the Latin for “guilty mind”, mens rea refers to whether the defendant knowingly did the crime they are accused of. It is because of mens rea that diminished responsibility may be used as a valid form of criminal defence. However, this does not preclude circumstances where, for example, a defendant has acted recklessly, and the crime that occurred could have been reasonably predicted to occur as a result of their behaviour. 


Tort, taken from the French meaning “wrong”, refers to any wrongdoing under civil law, which resulted in a legal liability for the party responsible for the wrongdoing. Naturally, since the definition is so broad, tort cases make up a substantial proportion of civil cases. These can include automotive accidents, assaults, batteries, defamations, and copyright infringements. Successful tort cases generally result in monetary restitutions being paid to the claimant by the responsible party. It is possible, however, for tort cases to be prosecuted civilly and criminally, such as with assault cases. Civil cases generally require a weaker burden of proof than criminal ones, as civil tort only requires the claimant to prove their argument is more likely true than not, as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) 

If you have ever looked into getting compensation after being in a car accident before, you may have encountered the PIP abbreviation in the past. This refers to Personal Injury Protection, a type of insurance which covers any lost earnings or medical bills associated with your accident. This is most commonly included in insurance plans in areas like New Jersey, which operate a “no-fault” policy towards car accidents. This means that regardless of the party responsible for causing a car accident, the payment for any costs incurred as a result of the accident taking place are the responsibility of the sufferer’s insurance carrier. It is thus very important to take this out if you are moving to an area with this law in place.

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