Does Suing Someone Go On Your Record?
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Does Suing Someone Go On Your Record?

The written records of most civil lawsuits in California, including personal injury lawsuits for car accidents, are openly available for inspection by the public. In very rare instances a court will seal a record for confidentiality or other purposes. California residents that start a lawsuit against another party should, therefore, assume that anyone can see the purpose of the case, the monetary damages that are requested, and the facts that led up to the dispute.  

The personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law in Los Angeles are uniquely sensitive to the public nature of every lawsuit. When our attorneys file a lawsuit on behalf of an injured client, they verify that none of the statements or allegations in the written complaint divulge any confidential or personal information that the client would prefer not to disclose publicly. We also work to negotiate private settlements with no disclosure of the final dollar value of the settlement or judgment that a client might recover. 

What information is included in a public case record? 

The California Constitution and the State’s Public Records Act give the public access to information that is maintained by local and state government agencies, including court systems. Because of this, anyone can view the public records of a California personal injury lawsuit. Those records will include information on: 

  • the party that filed the case and the party that is being sued, including names and contact information 
  • the personal injury lawyers and defense attorney that represent the parties 
  • a detailed description of the facts that precipitated the lawsuit and the losses and injuries suffered by the party that started it 
  • the monetary damages that the injured party is seeking to recover from the party whose negligence allegedly caused an accident. 

Case records will also include different documents (which are called “pleadings”) that the parties’ attorneys file as the lawsuit gets closer to a trial date. Some of those pleadings might include more detailed information about a party’s injuries and arguments from the negligent party’s lawyer that the injured party’s own actions also caused the accident.  

Does California have an option to file a lawsuit anonymously? 

Under certain circumstances, California allows the party that initiates a lawsuit to use a pseudonym rather than directly identifying himself or herself. Those circumstances are limited to certain matters involving juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and some health care workers. Anonymous filings are generally not available to plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits. 

How can you keep information about a lawsuit settlement private? 

Many personal injury lawsuits are settled before they are tried, particularly when the defendant’s liability insurers are covering an injured party’s damages. When a lawsuit settles, the court will make a notation in the public records that the case was settled privately and the matter will be dismissed without any further information going into the public records. The full details of how the case was resolved will typically be included in a settlement agreement that obligates all parties not to disclose any information about it. If a party fails to adhere to its obligations in a settlement agreement, the other party can ask a court to enforce it, in which event the details of the settlement might be included in a public record.  

Will a lawsuit affect your credit score? 

The existence of a lawsuit is not reported to the three major public credit bureaus. If you file a lawsuit or you are named as a defendant in one, there will be no change to your credit score or report. Court judgments against you, however, might be reported to credit bureaus. You should raise the issue of your credit score with your attorney if you have concerns over any impact on your credit score. 

Call the Los Angeles office of Ellis Injury Law for more information on what is included in the records of personal injury lawsuits  

The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have represented clients in Southern California lawsuits for more than 25 years. We are sensitive to our clients’ concerns over the information that might be publicly disclosed in a lawsuit and we strive to minimize the impact of a lawsuit on a client’s private life. Please see our website or call our Los Angeles offices directly for a confidential and proprietary consultation over any privacy and public record concerns you may have regarding your lawsuit. 

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