If you care about your privacy or your business’ reputation, filing a personal injury lawsuit against an insurer or the at-fault party might have some privacy implications that are hard to stomach. That’s why most personal injury claimants and insurance companies would rather settle claims out of court.
Additionally, there are other benefits of reaching a private settlement you might want to consider beyond your personal affairs not making it to the public record.
Are Personal Injury Lawsuits Public Record?
Just like any other civil court lawsuit, personal injury lawsuits are open to the public. This means that all the details of a personal injury case including names of the witnesses, severity of injuries, and fault are public record.
But not all personal injury cases are public record. If the injured party decides not to take the case to court, his or her case will remain private. For instance, if you were injured in a swimming pool accident with no fault of your own but you agree to settle with the pool owner or their insurer and get monetary compensation, that settlement won’t be made public.
However, if you fail to reach a settlement with the at-fault party and decide to sue the ones responsible for your injuries, that lawsuit will make it to the public record. That might mean a devastating blow to a business’ reputation, so expect commercial swimming pool operators to be willing to return to the negotiating table just to avoid a PR disaster.
If the parties fail to settle on their own, the case can move to a court where a judge and jury will make the important decisions. You can settle in court with the person or entity responsible for your injuries, as well, but that personal injury settlement will also make it to the public record, just like the lawsuit.
When a personal injury lawsuit is made public everything that you submitted to the court will be available for everyone in the public to see, including details regarding your injuries and loss, critical info about the accident and people involved, the amount received as compensation, witness testimonies, and more.
This lack of privacy may not be on everyone’s liking as both individuals and businesses might not like some details of the case to be open to the public. For instance, if a defendant admits to fault in a personal injury lawsuit, it may be bad for business if this detail reaches public record or the press.
Some individuals might not like to let everyone peer into their personal injury settlement and the amount of money settled on because of personal or financial reasons.
Why Settling Out of Court Is Important?
Beside the privacy issues mentioned above, settling a personal injury case out of court may be the best course of action for both the injured person, the person or entity responsible for the accident, and insurance companies.
There are multiple reasons why settling things in private will benefit both parties in a personal injury case:
- A personal injury lawsuit is lengthier than a private settlement. For instance, you can settle a personal injury claim and receive compensation in less than a year. A lawsuit can drag out for years if parties fail to reach a settlement together. A court’s ruling can be appealed, which means that the case can take additional years to complete.
- Litigation is costlier. A personal injury lawsuit is more expensive than just settling things out of court because it involves lawyers, expert witnesses, investigations, securing of evidence, witness testimonies, and more.
- Parties have greater control over the final settlement when settling out a personal injury claim outside court. During a lawsuit, a judge or jury call the shots which may not be on everyone’s liking.
- If you lose the case, you risk getting no compensation despite wasting years and thousands of dollars in the dispute. When you settle the case in private, there are fewer risks for both parties.
Should I Settle My Claim Privately?
Only an experienced personal injury attorney can tell whether you would be better off settling your claim in private or taking it to a court. That decision largely depends on the types of personal injury claims available in your case, overall value of your claims, insurance companies’ willingness or reluctance to reach a fair settlement out of court, and privacy considerations.
If privacy is very important to you or your business, and you would rather not allow some details about your case be open to the public, filing a personal injury lawsuit might not be the best course of action. Instead, try arbitration or mediation, two alternative ways of resolving a personal injury case without making the final settlement public.