Are Wrongful Death Settlements Public Record?
For the most part, wrongful death settlements are not a part of the public record. This is true not only for cases that never go to trial but also for cases that never result in a lawsuit. Even when a wrongful death case enters litigation, the possibility of a confidential settlement remains.
Confidentiality clauses are popular in wrongful death cases. Most plaintiffs are uncomfortable with the public known the amount of compensation they have recovered. Likewise, defendants do not want to set a public standard for a case is worth.
If you have concerns about your privacy rights in relation to a wrongful death settlement, it is best never to assume confidentiality is guaranteed. Before you agree to anything, be sure to seek the guidance of a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer.
The privacy of wrongful death settlements
There are a few reasons why your wrongful death lawsuit is not public record and willy typically remain confidential. First and foremost, there is no requirement that wrongful death settlements are disclosed. Unless a civil lawsuit ultimately requires a trial, the court system stays out of negotiations to resolve a wrongful death case.
Furthermore, most settlements in wrongful death lawsuits include some form of confidentiality statement. These contractual agreements bar both parties from disclosing the amount of compensation—if any—that changed hands in a wrongful death lawsuit. Your wrongful death lawyer can ensure the language in your settlement agreement includes terms on confidentiality for both parties.
Additionally, there is no central repository that stores or publishes wrongful death settlements. Even if a settlement was not governed by a confidentiality agreement, there is no mechanism that would make this record public knowledge.
There are exceptions to the general rule that wrongful death settlements are not a matter of public record. The primary exception involves deaths where a government entity is a defendant. Because of state and federal open-records laws, it is possible to obtain some of the details of these settlements.
There are a few situations where public entities are commonly involved in wrongful death claims. the most common examples include deaths that occur due to negligence in state-run hospitals or prisons. Because any settlement comes from state funds, open-records laws prevent the amount of the settlement from remaining confidential.
Despite these open-records laws, that does not mean every aspect of the case will be open to the public. Typically, only the financial terms and the documents related to the settlement itself can be obtained through these requests.
Outside of this narrow exception, wrongful death settlements are typically not a matter of public record. Your wrongful death attorney could advise you on whether this exception applies in your loved one’s case.
When wrongful death lawsuits go to trial
While settlements are typically not part of the public record, the outcome of your lawsuit could be. While a trial verdict is not a settlement, it does include a court order for the defendant to pay out a specific amount of money based on your wrongful death claim. Because it is an order of the court and has weight as a legal document, the terms of your trial verdict will be public. In some jurisdictions, the court will even track how much of the verdict has been paid.
Discuss your privacy rights with a wrongful death attorney
If you have experienced the tragic loss of a beloved family member, a violation of your privacy is likely the last thing you want. The good news is that it is possible to resolve a wrongful death case without the terms of the settlement entering the public record.
A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer from Ellis Injury Law can advise you on how to keep the terms of your settlement private. If you have questions about the best approach to resolving your case, schedule your free consultation with Ellis Injury Law as soon as possible.