Are Car Accident Settlements Public Record?

Are Car Accident Settlements Public Record?

Car accident settlements are not usually part of the public record. However, there are certain exceptions. These rare exceptions may occur when public safety is at stake.  

While the lack of public access is true of settlements, it is not true of cases decided by a judge or jury. Court verdicts are a matter of public record.  

The Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Ellis Injury Law will negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company so you may receive the maximum compensation for your injuries. Our dedicated attorneys have recovered more than $350 million for our clients in settlements and verdicts.  

Car accident settlements 

The terms of a car accident settlement are private. No one needs to know how much you received. No one needs to know any of the details of the crash, including the nature of your injuries. Many people would rather not have others know the severity of their suffering. With a settlement, you can maintain your privacy. 

Your lawyer can negotiate a confidentiality clause in a settlement, which prevents either side from publicly discussing the details of the case. Either side may include this clause in the settlement agreement.  

Unsealing the private record  

A judge may unseal a car accident settlement when there are serious public safety concerns, but this is not a common occurrence. As an example, if the settlement involved a ridesharing company, that is the sort of information possibly deemed in the greater public interest.  

Settlements vs. Verdicts  

The overwhelming majority of car accident cases are settled. Taking a case to court is an expensive proposition for the insurance carrier.  

Even though settlement amounts are confidential, experienced car accident lawyers know a reasonable settlement amount for the type of injuries and losses their client suffered. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement offer, the case may proceed to trial. 

When a personal injury case is filed, the public may access many of the details in the electronic court record. There are exceptions to the type of records the public may access, but these generally do not involve personal injury lawsuits. Instead, records deemed confidential usually concern juveniles, divorces, and custody cases.  

If your case goes to trial and you receive an award, the amount is made public. So is all other information about the case, including: 

  • Evidence 
  • Witness testimony 
  • Injury details  
  • Plaintiff and defendant arguments. 

Keep in mind that even if a case goes to trial, it is possible to settle it at any time before it heads to the jury. There are times when it makes more sense to go to court than settle, but a settlement is always a possibility.

Time elements 

Litigation can take a long time. Cases may drag out for years. There is no guarantee of any financial compensation. The jury may award the plaintiff a great deal of money, or they may decide not to pay the plaintiff a dime.  

Settlements are generally concluded within several months, and sometimes sooner. The injured person knows the amount of money they should receive, and their attorney protects their interests. A person badly injured in a car accident will need that money to pay the bills run up while they were unable to work.  

Once the settlement process is completed, it is final. There is no going back for more money or changing the terms. The defendant can appeal court judgment, and appeals can take a long time. Awards are often lowered or reversed on appeal.  

Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer  

If you or a loved one were seriously injured in an auto accident due to another driver’s recklessness or negligence, contact an experienced car accident attorney at Ellis Injury Law. By calling or texting 24/7, you can arrange a free consultation and case evaluation. You may also submit our online form. 

After reviewing your case, we will determine whether you have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Since our work is done on a contingency basis, there is no fee unless you receive compensation. As per California’s statute of limitations, plaintiffs must file personal injury lawsuits within two years of the accident date.