Civil rights legislation that guarantees equal opportunities for people with disabilities in all areas of public life by prohibiting discrimination against them. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. 


An official proceeding in which higher level courts are petitioned by a litigant seeking to change the ruling of a lower court. In the appeals process, the party seeking to change a lower court’s decision is referred to as the “Appellant”and the opposing party is referred to as the “Appellee.” There is no jury in an appellate proceeding. Rather, a panel of judges decides whether to reverse or affirm a lower court’s ruling after hearing arguments from both sides.


An alternative method to resolving legal disputes without court intervention. Rather than have a legal issue decided by a judge or a jury, a neutral third-party (called an arbitrator) will decide the outcome of the case after reviewing evidence and listening to testimony from the parties in a private hearing. Although arbitration can be shorter and less costly than litigation, an arbitrator’s decision is binding and cannot be appealed or overturned except in limited circumstances.


A privilege belonging to the client that preserves the confidentiality of all communications with their attorney. With very limited exceptions, an attorney who has received a client’s confidences may not reveal them to anyone outside their legal team without the client’s consent. Generally, the attorney-client privilege applies when an actual or potential client communicates with a lawyer regarding legal advice.


The legal process through which citizens protect, enforce and redress infringements on their civil rights. Civil rights are personal rights guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution, federal laws enacted by Congress, as well as state and local laws. Civil rights ensure equal protection under the law of peoples’ physical and mental integrity of life, as well as their safety and protection from discrimination.


The legal process for prosecuting individuals who have committed crimes against society as a whole. In a criminal action, the government files charges against an accused defendant for conduct that violates criminal statutes. The prosecution must prove their charges in court before the government can punish the defendant by depriving them of their life, liberty or property.


A common carrier is generally any entity providing transportation services to the public. If the entity is being compensated for their services, the law requires they exercise utmost care and diligence for passengers’ safe carriage, provide everything necessary for that purpose and exercise a reasonable degree of skill. A heightened duty of care is imposed on common carriers because the law views their work as a privilege that necessarily entails great responsibility.


In a California civil lawsuit, defendants can reduce a plaintiff’s recovery through the partial defense of comparative fault. Recovery is reduced to the extent it is shown that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his/her own harm. For example, if a judge assigns 70% fault to the defendant and 30% fault to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may only be able to recover 70% of the damages, rather than the full 100%.


Also known as “constructive discharge,” this cause of action arises when an employee quits a job because working conditions become so intolerable that a reasonable person in the same situation would quit. Under these circumstances, a resignation may be treated as a termination, making the aggrieved employee eligible to receive unemployment benefits and to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.


Attorneys who charge contingency fees do not get paid for their work unless they secure recovery for their client. The attorney’s fee is deducted from the gross recovery along with the costs of the lawsuit; which are typically advanced by the attorney. Contingency fee arrangements create access to legal representation by not requiring clients to pay large sums of money or retainers up front or during the litigation process.


The party against whom relief or recovery is sought in a civil lawsuit, or the accused in a criminal case. Defendants can be individuals, businesses, institutions and even public entities. The procedural requirements for suing certain defendants can vary depending on what form they take. It is critical to identify all defendants potentially responsible for a plaintiff’s harm and to determine the correct forum and process for pursuing claims against each particular defendant.


A formal proceeding between an attorney and a witness whereby the attorney asks questions and the witness provides sworn out-of-court testimony that is transcribed in real-time by a court reporter and is often videotaped. Depositions are an incredibly useful tool for gathering information needed to successfully litigate a case or prepare for trial. The witness in a deposition is referred to as the “deponent.”


The meaning of the legal term “disability” varies depending on the applicable body of law. Typically, legally recognized “disabilities‘’ include physical and mental disabilities. The most common disability in the workplace is a physical disability, which is most often defined as a bodily condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that affects one or more of the body’s major systems and limits a major life activity; such as working.


The process of exchanging information between the parties regarding the witnesses and evidence they intend to rely upon at trial. Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may and may not be presented. It’s designed to prevent “trial by ambush,” where one side doesn’t learn of the other side’s evidence or witnesses until the trial, when there’s no time to obtain answering evidence. The discovery process begins once a lawsuit has been filed and is responded to.


A cause of action that arises when an employment practice that appears neutral has a discriminatory effect on individuals of a protected class. Under California law, protected classifications for a disparate impact claim include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age (40+), and sexual orientation.


Damages that are readily quantifiable such as past and future medical expenses, future lost wages, household services, vocational rehabilitation, property damages, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost earning capacity. Medical bills, paystubs, expert testimony and other tangible evidence are used to calculate the value of economic damages, which cannot be changed by a jury. In most states, there is no cap on a Plaintiff’s economic damages.


A form of liability insurance covering businesses for wrongful acts committed through the employment process. Although they are typically rare, EPLI policies will often cover a defendant’s cost of paying settlements or judgments for claims involving discrimination, wrongful termination, breach of employment contract, negligent evaluation, failure to employ or promote, wrongful discipline, deprivation of career opportunity, wrongful infliction of emotional distress and mismanagement of employee benefit plans.


Information that is used to prove or disprove the truth of a claim. There are four categories of evidence: real, demonstrative, documentary and testimonial. Real evidence consists of physical objects that can be held and inspected. Demonstrative evidence can be charts, diagrams, photographs and even our own bodies. Documentary evidence is presented in the form of letters, contracts, diaries, newspapers, etc. Testimonial evidence is when a witness takes the stand in a courtroom or in a deposition and relates information under oath.


A person with specialized skills, knowledge, experience or training whose opinion can help a jury understand the factual evidence of a case. Generally, non-expert witnesses are limited to testifying to opinions that are “rationally based on their perceptions.” Expert witnesses, however, may apply their specialized knowledge and rely on outside literature to form opinions on key issues like the causation of an accident or the extent of a plaintiff’s damages. Whether an expert is retained as a testifying witness or merely as a consultant can impact the confidentiality of their opinions leading up to trial.


The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is responsible for enforcing state laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee on the basis of a protected class. Employees can bring claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to enforce their right to be free from illegal discrimination by employers based on their race/color, ancestry/national origin, religion/creed, age, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, medical condition, genetic information, marital status and military or veteran status. FEHA applies to public and private employers, labor organizations and employment agencies.


A court-appointed individual responsible for assuming the role of a litigant on behalf of their ward, who is usually a minor or incapacitated person. Guardians ad litem have a duty to investigate a case on behalf of a minor, attend to their emotional and legal needs and shield them from the often stressful experience of a lawsuit. Guardians ad litem are usually the mother or father of an injured child; in some cases, it is another close family member or friend. Under California law, anyone over the age of 18 can be nominated and approved by the court as a guardian ad litem.


A cause of action that arises when an employee is subjected to severe or pervasive harassment because of a protected characteristic.  Actionable harassment must be both subjectively and objectively harassing. It must be motivated by someone’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age (40+), disability, or genetic information. The harassment must create a hostile, oppressive or abusive work environment that alters the conditions and terms of a person’s employment. Harassment can take many forms, including slurs, touching, unwanted advances, intimidation, etc. Harassment can be sexual or non-sexual and is an available claim to both employees who are directly subjected to harassment and employees who are harmed from witnessing the harassment of co-workers. 


In addition to covering property damage, standard homeowners insurance may also provide liability coverage for third party claims brought against the homeowners. Liability coverage is provided for injuries that arise from the homeowner’s use or condition of the property (i.e. slip and falls, collapsing structures, dog bites). There are typically three forms of coverage that apply to these third party claims, each with their own exceptions: (1) Medical payments to others; (2) Workers’ compensation and employers’ liability coverage for “residential employees” and (3) Comprehensive liability insurance.


Protects people from the financial harm of a catastrophe, including harm resulting from the negligence of others. Insurance is a highly complex industry and different policies vary greatly in their scope of coverage, limitations and exemptions. Generally, when someone is harmed by another’s negligence, the injured party must demonstrate that the negligent party is liable for their injuries. In most cases, the existence of harm alone will not entitle an injured party to coverage.


An intentional wrongful act that has caused harm to someone else. In some cases, one who has carried out an intentional act need not intend to inflict harm to have committed an intentional tort. The intention of carrying out the act itself is often enough to be held accountable under the law. Common intentional torts include battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, defamation, invasion of privacy, trespass and conversion.


When an employee’s work performance is limited by a disability, the employer has a duty to initiate and engage in a good faith interactive process with that employee to understand the extent of their limitations. The ultimate goal of the interactive process is to explore and determine whether reasonable accommodations can help the employee return to work or if the employee is completely unable to perform the essential functions of their job. 


A public officer authorized to hear and decide cases in a court of law. In jury trials, judges assume the role of a legal “referee” who instructs the jury on the law, oversees the admission or exclusion of evidence and maintains order and decorum throughout the litigation process. In a bench trial, judges have the additional role of deciding the outcome of the case, which is presented before them and not a jury. Judges have an ongoing duty to be impartial in their role as administrators of justice.


All drivers in California are required by law to carry auto liability insurance. For bodily injury, the minimum coverage required is $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident. For property damage, the minimum coverage required is $5,000. Liability insurance pays for medical bills, lost wages, car repair bills and other damages, up to the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy. If the damages from an accident exceed the coverage limits available, the party at fault can be held personally liable for the difference.


The process of resolving a dispute in a court of law by initiating a civil action. A Plaintiff commences a civil action by filing a complaint with the court and serving it on the defendant. Once the Defendant answers the complaint, the parties engage in discovery to exchange information and explore the prospect of settlement. Motions may be filed by either party at various stages of litigation but the ultimate destination of the litigation process is trial and, sometimes, an appeal. 95% of cases will settle before trial.


Loss of consortium refers to the fellowship and association between two married people that is harmed by an injury or other devastating life event. After an injury or death, a couple or widowed spouse may never again feel the love, affection and companionship of their significant other. The law compensates victims who have suffered loss of consortium, which includes but is not limited to claims for marital strains, loss of companionship, inability to engage in activities together, sexual constraints and the inability to bear children.


Medical payments coverage is part of an auto insurance policy. It is optional coverage that typically comes in $5,000 and/or $10,000 increments and helps pay your or your passengers’ medical expenses if you’re injured in a car accident, regardless of who caused the accident. Medical payments coverage pays for expenses like health-insurance deductibles and co-pays, doctor or hospital visits, surgery, X-Rays, prostheses, ambulance and emergency medical technician fees and professional nursing services.


Conduct that falls below the standard of care exercised by a reasonably prudent person acting under the same or similar circumstances. Whether conduct lacks reasonable care depends on the foreseeable likelihood that it will result in harm, the foreseeable severity of any harm that may ensue, and the burden of precautions to eliminate or reduce the risk of harm. Negligent conduct gives rise to various civil causes of action aimed at compensating victims of negligence for their damages.


After a catastrophic or traumatizing event, some of the greatest losses are non-economic. Non-economic damages may include pain, emotional anguish, humiliation, reputational damage, loss of enjoyment of activities, or worsening of prior injuries. Non-economic damages are, by nature, difficult to calculate with certainty because there is no direct economic loss and no hard evidence of bills or receipts on which to base the award. As such, non-economic damages can vary greatly from case-to-case, since different juries may reach different conclusions about the appropriate amount of non-economic damages.


PAGA authorizes an aggrieved employee to step into the shoes of the Attorney General and collect penalties from their employer for violating California’s wage and hour laws or the laws set forth by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Typically, an employee who has been wronged files a representative action on behalf of himself or herself and other aggrieved employees of that company. 25% of the penalties recovered through PAGA go to the employees and 75% of the penalties recovered go to the state of California. If a PAGA action is successful, attorney’s fees and court costs may also be awarded.


Injuries to a person’s mind, body and psyche that result from intentional or negligent conduct of individuals, businesses, or public entities.


The party to a lawsuit who is seeking recovery for harm caused by the conduct of the defendant. In personal injury cases, the recovery sought is for harm to the plaintiff’s mind, body and psyche. In employment cases, the recovery sought is closely tied to the plaintiff’s future wages lost due to discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination or other violations of the labor code.


The litigation process officially begins upon the filing of a civil complaint with the court. The period of time that precedes the filing of a complaint is called the pre-litigation stage. Pre-litigation is a time when the parties can exchange information informally, discuss their respective positions, and seriously explore the potential for early resolution of a conflict before it becomes a costly endeavor to litigate in court.


With certain exceptions, Proposition 213 limits the recovery of pain and suffering damages (noneconomic losses) by fleeing felons, drunk drivers, and uninsured motorists in the event of an auto accident. 


Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for particularly cruel, outrageous or malicious conduct. The policy interests behind punitive damages is to deter others from engaging in the same or similar conduct. Punitive damages are not available in lawsuits brought against public entities.


A cause of action that arises when an adverse employment action is taken against an employee because they engaged in a protected activity. What qualifies as a “protected activity” largely depends on the circumstances at issue, but it often includes opposing unlawful practices by an employer, filing a complaint or requesting accommodations for a disability, regardless of whether the request was granted.


A compromise between parties to a lawsuit whereby claims are voluntarily dismissed in exchange for money or injunctive relief. Settlement agreements mark the end of a lawsuit and are the most common avenue of resolution as it saves the parties from having to expend significant resources on litigating a case through trial and possibly an appeal.


The “deadline” to file a lawsuit which varies greatly on the jurisdictional law and particular cause(s) of action. Statutes of limitation are strictly enforced by courts, so it is critical that potential Plaintiffs seek legal counsel immediately after an incident if they believe they have a viable claim. 


When an injured person succumbs to their injuries and passes away, the law preserves any causes of action for or against the decedent by passing them on to their successors in interest in the form of survival actions. Successors in interest may pursue survival actions to recover damages for losses the decedent incurred before death. Although recoverable damages in survival actions include economic losses and punitive damages, they generally do not include damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement the decedent experienced before death. 


Insurance coverage for towing and auto repair costs associated with an accident. If this type of coverage is not offered by your insurer or the other driver’s insurer, the costs can be added to your damages in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit. 


The designated proceeding used to resolve legal claims. At trial, parties to a lawsuit each present their case to a jury or a judge who decides how the claims shall be adjudicated. Depending on the complexity of a case, trial can last for weeks or more. The trial process is broken down into the following stages: jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments, jury instruction, jury deliberation and the announcement of the verdict.


Because most people carry the minimum coverage requirements or no auto insurance at all, there is often insufficient coverage to fully compensate an injured party to an accident. For this reason, underinsured motorist coverage is offered with standard policies to pay for medical bills, pain and suffering if you get into an accident with someone who has no insurance or less policy limits than you do. 


When someone is precluded from working due to an injury, death, or termination, the law entitles that individual or their successors in interest to recover damages for past wages lost and wages the working individual could reasonably have expected to earn in the future. 


A social insurance program intended to compensate workers who become injured while working in the course and scope of their employment. Workers’ compensation is based on a no-fault system, meaning that an injured employee does not need to prove that the injury or illness was someone else’s fault to be eligible to collect benefits. There are five basic types of workers’ compensation benefits: medical care, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and death benefits.  Injured workers may be entitled to one or more of these benefits.


A cause of action that arises when someone is killed by the intentional or negligent conduct of others. Generally, a wrongful death action is brought by the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, their children, and children of their deceased children. Recoverable damages in a wrongful death action include the loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace or moral support and, between partners/spouses, loss of consortium. 


A cause of action that arises when an employee is terminated for reasons stemming from discrimination, harassment, retaliation, whistleblowing, breach of contract and violations of public policy. An employee who has been terminated unlawfully may be entitled to lost wages and benefits, compensation for emotional distress, harm to reputation and physical pain, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.