Are Personal Injury Settlements Public Record?

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Are Personal Injury Settlements Public Record?

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Posted By DAM Firm | August 15 2019 | Personal Injury

Achieving a personal injury settlement after a serious accident in California could give you and your family immense financial relief. You may finally have the money to pay off medical debts, repair damaged property and get back on your feet. Protecting your privacy and preventing strangers from knowing you received a sizable settlement, however, can be important. Find out which types of personal injury cases may become part of public record to help you successfully navigate your claim in California.

Settlements vs. Injury Trials

A settlement is an agreement two or more parties make without interference from a judge or jury. A personal injury settlement typically takes place between an insurance company and the claimant or claimant’s attorney. Settlements may involve insurance negotiations over the phone or in-person meetings with mediators in California. An injury trial, on the other hand, is a case involving a judge and/or jury. A trial will involve both sides of a case presenting their arguments and a judge or jury determining the outcome, rather than the parties settling the case alone.

A settlement will not become part of public record. A personal injury trial, on the other hand, is a public affair. Trials take place in public courthouses in California. Anyone – including strangers – can attend public hearings and trials. Courtroom journalists can publish articles about the personal injury case, along with details such as the exact amount of the jury verdict or judgment award won. The plaintiff does not have the option of keeping an injury trial or court-awarded compensation private or secret.

For this reason (among others), most plaintiffs prefer personal injury settlements to going to trial. Although a court case may result in greater compensation than an insurance settlement, it also comes with cons such as higher legal fees and a lengthier legal process. If protecting your privacy is a priority for you, a confidential insurance settlement may be preferable to a full-blown injury trial. You may be more willing to accept a settlement from an insurance company if keeping your earnings from the case private is important to you.

Who Can Access Public Court Records?

Anyone can access the information listed as part of public record. Cities make public records available for anyone and everyone to view to increase information transparency. Land deeds are part of public record, for example, so that sellers and buyers have all the information they need to make informed real estate decisions. Court cases must go on public record. It is not within either party’s control what goes on record during an injury trial. The public will have open access to many details of the case.

  • The names of the plaintiff and defendant
  • The facts of the case
  • Statements and testimonies from witnesses
  • Evidence presented
  • Details of the personal injuries
  • Personal information about a family
  • The arguments both sides used
  • The verdict of the case
  • The amount of the final award given, if any

Your ex-spouse, boss, coworkers, children, criminals and strangers can access the details of your personal injury case if it goes to trial in California. If you accept a private settlement, however, the details of your case will not go on record. The public may hear about the settlement, but they will not know the amount you received unless you choose to make this information public. Alternative dispute resolution could be the best route for you if you prioritize privacy.

Most Personal Injury Claims Settle

Most personal injury plaintiffs achieve successful settlements with defendants or insurance companies without having to go to court – especially with help from attorneys. Hiring a personal injury attorney could help you settle with the defendant without a trial. An attorney has the negotiation skills to force an insurance company to offer a fair amount based on the facts of the case and details of the injury. If you wish to settle your case privately, out of court, consider hiring a lawyer. A lawyer can handle negotiations for you to improve your odds of avoiding a trial. A lawyer can help you understand the type of dispute resolution that works best for your case. 

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