• By: Hank Stout
  • Published: January 2017

Are-Personal-Injury-Settlements-Public-Record When a personal injury claim is settled out of court, the settlement amount and details of the case are not public record. Most personal injury claims are settled out of court and generally, the ones that do reach the courtroom only go to court because the parties involved could not reach a fair settlement without involving the court.

If you were injured in a car accident and you are considering seeking compensation for your injuries through a personal injury claim, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer about all the possible paths your claim can take. The process will start with you making a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance provider, but it might not end there.

You might need to take your claim to court to reach a resolution, which is why you should work with a lawyer who has personal injury litigation experience.

Settlements Made Out of Court Are Private,
Rulings Made in Court Are Not

If you settle your claim privately, its results will not be published publicly. If you file a lawsuit and your case has to be decided by a judge and jury, its results will be public record.

When a court ruling is made public, everything submitted to the court or the jury in reaching that ruling is public. This includes all witness testimonies, the details of the victim’s injury, the arguments used by both sides, and the verdict amount for the case.

Issues to Consider when Deciding Whether to Go to Court

Whether your settlement amount is public record or not can be a factor to consider if you are deciding whether to file a lawsuit or settle your claim out of court. Typically, insurance providers and claimants prefer to settle personal injury claims out of court, sometimes through a form of alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration or mediation, instead of going to court because it allows for greater flexibility and is less expensive and less stressful than the courtroom experience. You might also not want your name and the details of your case publicized.

Hulk Hogan, 2006

Hulk Hogan, 2006

Settling out of court means retaining greater control over all aspects of the case. It also means that the defendant is not required to admit its negligence or its liability, which can be important for some individuals or companies. For personal injury cases that actually go to trial, the reason that they go to trial is because one side is being unreasonable or one side wants to make a public statement about what occurred. The recent Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gwaker is a good example of where a person wanted to make an example out of a defendant.

Another issue to consider about having the court rule on your case is that litigation can take years. After a judge makes a ruling, either party can appeal the decision, which brings the case to another courtroom and requires another hearing. The appeals process can take years to complete because each appeal hearing must determine whether the law was misapplied or another error was made on the part of the court in the previous trial.

If your case results in a ruling against you, you might feel like you wasted years of your life and thousands of dollars pursuing compensation that you never actually got to receive. In contrast to this, reaching a settlement with an insurance provider often takes less than ten months and can save money for all parties involved in the claim.

Your lawyer can help you decide if filing a lawsuit is the best course of action for your case. If you value keeping the details of your case and settlement confidential, going to court might not be the right choice for you. Your lawyer can also use his or her previous experience litigating personal injury cases to determine whether it is likely that your case will reach a favorable ruling in court. Although a lawyer cannot guarantee any specific result for a case – and if yours does, you should not work with him or her – a lawyer can make informed guesses using the available evidence.

About the Author

Hank Stout is a founding partner at Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. Hank earned his doctor of jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law in 2004. He was recognized by SuperLawyers as a Rising Star from 2012-2014. He has earned a Superb rating by Avvo, and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To learn more, read Hank's full bio here.

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