Are Car Accident Settlements Public Record?
With over 15 million cars and more than 6 million other vehicles currently on the State’s roads, it’s no surprise that a trip behind the wheel is part and parcel of the average Floridian’s day. Unfortunately though, not all trips deliver passengers and drivers safely from A to B.
Last year alone, over 400,000 car accidents resulted in nearly 170,000 injuries to drivers, passengers and pedestrians. While many are minor, some cause lasting damage, distress and/or pain to those involved. When these injuries occur through the negligence of another party, and no fault of the victim, a personal injury claim for injuries sustained in the accident may be the best course of action.
If you’ve been the victim of a car accident, in spite of your injuries impeding your quality of life though, like many victims, you may hesitate before you seek the compensation you deserve, fearing the details of your case will become public record. But is that always the case? Will the intimate details of your claim be revealed?
One of the most common questions heard by attorneys when filing a personal injury claim is, “Are car accident settlement claims public record?”. The short answer is, that depends!
What it Means if a Settlement is Public Record
Many people may be surprised to learn that a wealth of personal information about them can be easily accessed through public record databases. Details ranging from birth, death and marriage certificates to details of criminal history can be accessed by anyone who so wishes to search.
Both the courts and government agencies file all documents in public record databases, so should your personal injury case go to court, all information pertaining to the case would be made public record. Monetary details of the settlement figure, transcripts of arguments and testimonies, and intimate details about the nature of your injuries are immortalized and accessible by all. So, it’s no surprise that people want to know whether this information will be public or not.
So, the question you should really ask is, “Will my case go to court?”
If Your Claim is Settled Outside of Court
Generally speaking, if a case is settled outside of court, the details of the claim do not become public record.
Typically, most personal injury claims, including car accident injury claims, are able to be settled by each party and their attorneys, so do not make it to court. As a result, intimate personal details about you and the compensation you receive are not revealed publicly.
It is most common in personal injury claims that both parties will amicably agree on a settlement figure, making the process of completing a claim a relatively smooth one. With the right attorneys involved, brokering a deal without the need for the courts to intervene is largely a relatively quick process.
If Your Claim Goes to Court
If your claim goes to court, then the details pertaining to the case, the nature of your injuries, compensation figure and any other case details will be made public record.
It is less common for a personal injury claim to go to court since most are amicably settled without the need for court intervention, but on the occasion that they do, it is generally because a fair settlement cannot be reached.
Due to the need for a judge and in some cases, jury, any claims which seek the involvement of the courts will usually become public record.
Should You Settle Outside of Court?
The factors in considering whether it’s necessary to take your personal injury claim to court are numerous. Typically, most claims are settled outside of court because both parties are happy with the agreed upon settlement figure, but on the occasion where both parties do not agree that the settlement figure is fair, the question remains, should you go to court or cut your losses?
On the rare occasion that the victim is not happy with the proposed settlement terms, considering whether the consequences of going to court are worth the shortfall in settling outside of court is the next course of action. Sometimes, the implications of taking a claim to court far outweigh the potential benefits, leading previously unsatisfied claimants to settle outside of court in spite of their initial hesitation.
So, what are the benefits of settling outside of court?
Your Personal Details Remain Personal
When you settle outside of court, you benefit from keeping your personal information private. With no documented testimonies, arguments or in-court settlements, there are no details of your case that would be made public record. To some, keeping their personal information out of the public eye is of the utmost importance. To others, it may seem insignificant. The weight of this consequence is really down to the claimant’s personal preference.
You’ll Likely Get Quicker Results
Ordinarily, when personal injury claims, or any claim for that matter, are settled out of court, a settlement will be reached much quicker. From waiting for court dates to lengthy trials, it may be months, or even years, before a case which goes through the courts is settled, consequently delaying receiving the compensation you’re owed.
No Additional Fees
Taking a case to court can be costly, and in some cases, court and attorney fees can surpass the potential settlement figure, making a court case a nonviable option.
But here’s where caution must be exercised! Before the thought of settling because the consequences of court intervention seem daunting, you must consider whether settling outside of court is the best course of action for you.
While it is true that it is more common for personal injury claims to be settled outside of court, there are arguments for taking a claim to court in spite of the threat of them becoming public record and other associated implications.
Reasons To Take A Personal Injury Claim To Court
The Settlement Offer Does Not Reflect The Damages
In some cases, claimants may have sustained injuries far greater than the defendant is offering compensation for. This is particularly the case when claimants have sustained lasting damage which will severely impede on their life, and the offered settlement does not reflect this.
Despite admitting fault, the defendant can refuse to negotiate when the claimant feels the settlement offer is much lower than what is deserved, potentially paving the way for the best course of action being a lawsuit.
Additional Damages Are Sought
After serious car accidents, claimants may have a case to seek additional damages further to medical bills or loss of earnings. In cases where car accidents have seriously affected you both physically and emotionally, your attorney may be able to help you fight for the compensation you truly deserve.
Seek Advice From an Attorney Experienced In Personal Injury Claims
Vehicular travel is part of our day-to-day, but accidents shouldn’t be. So many victims who have suffered due to the negligence of others never lay claim to the financial support they deserve, considering their case too minor to worry about.
If you’ve been the victim of a car accident and sustained injuries, serious or minor, through no fault of your own, your first course of action should always be to visit an experienced attorney who can help you understand your unique case. Car accidents can have life-altering and lasting consequences; having an attorney on your side makes obtaining the compensation you deserve simple and smooth.