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Are Settlements Public Record?
Everything You Need to Know

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As an experienced personal injury lawyer, I have many of my clients ask whether their personal injury or car accident settlements will become public records. 

In this article, I will provide the answer to that question and give valuable insight into everything you must consider when facing a settlement.

Quick Summary

  • For car accident trials, every detail related to the case goes on public record if they go to trial. 
  • If you were injured due to someone else's negligence, their insurance company should be liable for your resulting expenses.
  • Personal injury settlements go on public record if the case goes to court and both parties cannot come to a fair agreement.

What Does It Mean If a Settlement is Public Record?

Writing on a settlement document If a settlement is a public record, it means anyone can easily access their personal information through public databases. Anyone who wishes to search can access details ranging from birth, death, and marriage certificates to criminal history [1].

Both the courts and government agencies file documents in public databases, so if your personal injury case or car accident case goes to trial, all information related to the case will become publicly available.

Details about the car accident settlement or personal injury settlement amount, transcripts of arguments and testimonies, and private details about your injuries would be preserved forever and could be accessed by anyone. 

So naturally, people want to know whether this sensitive information will remain confidential and not on public record.

If a case is settled outside of court, the details of the car accident claim or personal injury claim usually do not become public records. 

Many personal injury claims, such as car accident injury claims, are resolved by both parties and their lawyers outside of court. Private matters like your identity and the amount you receive in compensation will remain confidential if your case settles.

In car accidents, it is typical for personal injury claimants to agree on a fair settlement figure without needing to take the matter to court. 

When Are Personal Injury Settlements Public Record?

Personal injury settlements are public records when a case does go to court. If the parties cannot settle on a fair settlement, they go to court. This legal action makes the case available to the public because a judge or jury will decide upon it.

Once a ruling is made, all information submitted to the jury or court that contributed to the decision becomes public. This includes testimonies, injury details, arguments used by both parties involved in the case, and finally, the amount of money won in damages.

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Is It Better to Settle a Case Outside of Court, so It Doesn’t Go On Your Record?

Settling a case with a lawyer Yes, settling a case outside of court is better so it doesn't go on your record. Unlike public trials, settlements are private and do not require a judge or jury.

While this gives you more control over the case, the defendant is under no obligation to admit guilt or negligence.

Experienced lawyers know when to agree on personal injury cases instead of taking the matter to court. If they can come to an understanding, the money is given to the person who filed the suit, and nothing is made public.

Reasons You Might Consider Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim in Court

There are reasons why you should take your personal injury case to court, despite knowing that the details will be on public record.

Some of the reasons include the following:

  • A settlement does not reflect your damages.
  • You are seeking additional damages.
  • Ability to pursue legal action

"Many factors determine whether taking your personal injury claim to court is necessary. Most claims are settled outside of court because both parties can accept the agreed-upon settlement figure."
- Scott Distasio, Personal Injury Lawyer

Reasons You Settle Personal Injury Claims Outside of Court

Gavel close up image with personal injury law book

Several elements will determine whether you need to file a personal injury claim in court or reach an agreement outside of court. Most car accident claims, for example, are usually resolved without trial because both parties agree on the settlement amount.

People often choose to settle a personal injury claim outside of court when they cannot agree on the amount for a settlement.

Some reasons why people might decide to pursue their case outside of court include the following:

  • Resolving a case without going to trial is often quicker.
  • Guaranteed compensation.
  • Less cost.
  • Accident victims and their details won't go on public record.

What Information After a Trial Is on Public Record?

A document and a gavel inside an office

The information that is made public after a trial is all the information related to the case, such as the court rulings, the sum of money, and more.

In car accidents, a personal injury trial is conducted similarly to any other court trial, where attorneys from both sides present evidence and call witnesses.

Most personal injury claims rely on public records that document all the private information of the case, such as:

  • Car accident victim name, addresses, birthdates, and other personal information about both parties.
  • Detailed accounts and police records of the incident.
  • Detailed descriptions of the plaintiff's personal injuries and medical treatment.
  • Documented testimonies.
  • Court transcripts of the arguments used by both sides.
  • The verdict or court ruling.
  • The compensation amount awarded to the plaintiff.

Related Article: Car Accident Lawsuits

FAQs

Are Car Accident Settlements Public Record?

Car accident settlements are public records if your lawsuit goes to trial. The court will make all documents related to the case public and easily accessible through various databases.

Are Personal Injury Settlements Public Records?

Some personal injury settlements are public records. Most personal injury cases are settled out of court because the parties involved can reach a fair agreement without involving the judiciary system. 

If You Sue a Company, Does It Stay On Your Record?

No, it does not stay on your record if you sue a company. Your employer will not find a civil lawsuit during a criminal background check. It's worth asking yourself if you want to work for an employer that would take the time to research whether or not you sued a previous employer.

How to Find Lawsuit Settlement Amounts?

To find lawsuit settlement amounts, you can go to the courthouse where the trial was held and ask for copies of the court documents. You can also look online for websites that keep public records of lawsuits. 

Get a Free Consultation With an Attorney

If you're concerned about whether or not your case will be settled in private or go to court, contact Schmidt & Clark to speak to one of our personal injury attorneys in a free consultation. 

Our goal is to help car accident victims and others understand what led to your injury and work with you to create a tailor-made plan that meets your specific objectives. 

If another person's carelessness caused your injury, their insurance company should be held responsible for covering your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Contact us today to further discuss how we can assist you and pursue compensation.


References:

  1.  https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/public_record

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