People may file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit if they experience an injury or loss due to an accident. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits seek damages for the plaintiff to cover incident-related expenses, such as lost income and medical bills. Depending on the state and the nature of the incident, plaintiffs may also seek punitive damages.
Some plaintiffs may receive a judgment if their case goes to trial, but only 5% to 6% of personal injury cases go to trial. The state where victims file, the type of cases, and whether victims opt for trials leading to judgments or agree to settlements out of court determines whether the outcome of their cases will be public record.
What is the difference between a settlement and a judgment?
A settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff and defendant(s). Settling before trial enables parties to avoid arguing their cases before a judge and jury. Accepting a settlement enables plaintiffs to expedite the process and receive money faster. They’ll also incur lower legal fees because it takes less time to resolve their case.
When a case goes to trial and a judge or jury awards damages, the plaintiff receives a judgment. These cases sometimes make headlines. Juries have awarded plaintiffs millions for personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death suits. For example, a woman received $27.5 million after losing her leg in a pedestrian accident. In another high-profile case, O.J. Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the victims’ families after being found guilty of wrongful death.
Are settlements public record?
As noted, many personal injury and wrongful death judgments make headlines. Since settlements don’t go to trial, you may wonder if it will be part of the public record if you accept a judgment. Let’s look at how the state of Florida handles settlements for different case types.
Are personal injury settlements public record in Florida?
Most personal injury settlements are typically confidential. A confidentiality agreement is often part of the settlement terms if the case involves a lawsuit against a company. Unless someone successfully petitions for the court to unseal the settlement, its terms are confidential.
Are wrongful death settlements public record in Florida?
Wrongful death settlements are one type of personal injury case. The rules for personal injury settlements apply to wrongful death settlements, and the terms are not made public.
Are workers comp settlements public record in Florida?
Although workers’ compensation settlements may fall under the umbrella of a personal injury case, they are public record. The courts protect some of the victim’s personal information, such as their social security number and medical information.
Are insurance settlements public record in Florida?
In addition to paying claims to clients, insurance companies may also pay settlements if their client is liable for an accident causing injuries or wrongful death. Insurance settlements aren’t public record and remain confidential.
Are divorce settlements public record in Florida?
Although settlements are commonly associated with personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, the parties involved in a divorce can also settle. These settlements are public record in Florida.
Why is confidentiality important?
Confidentiality may be essential to a defendant if a known judgment could impede their ability to maintain their business or earn income. For example, suppose a company sells automotive parts. One of their parts fails, causing an accident that results in someone’s death. The victim’s family files a wrongful death lawsuit. The company may offer a settlement to prevent the case from going to court because a trial could harm its reputation and hurt the business.
There are also reasons plaintiffs don’t want settlement amounts made public. Suppose a plaintiff recently got divorced. They may be concerned that their former spouse will ask the court to increase their child support or alimony payments.
Why is confidentiality problematic?
There are valid cases when a judge may unseal a settlement. For example, when he sued The Cosmopolitan, O.J. Simpson owed millions to victims’ families. When they settled the case, the courts assigned the judgment to one of the victim’s family members. In cases where individuals owe large sums and receive a settlement, they can attempt to use confidentiality as a shield to avoid paying their creditors.
How can you know if you should accept a settlement or pursue a judgment?
Legal matters are stressful, and pursuing damages for a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit can be time-consuming. Many motor vehicle accident lawsuits take up to 12 months to resolve, while some take longer. Consequently, accepting a settlement may be enticing because the victim can resolve their case quickly.
One of the drawbacks of agreements to auto accident settlements is that settlement amounts are usually much lower than those awarded by juries. Many car accident settlements involve payments of $20,000 or less.
However, there’s no guarantee you’ll win your case at trial, and if you lose your case, you won’t receive any damages.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Case
Personal injury attorneys have in-depth legal knowledge about all personal injury cases, including car accidents, medical malpractice, boat accident, and wrongful death lawsuits. When you hire one of our experienced attorneys, you’ll receive expert insights every step of the way.
Our legal team will investigate your case and ensure we use all available evidence to prove your claims. We’ll help you figure out how much money you should seek and fight for a fair settlement.
Johnson, J. (2022). Personal Injury Settlement Amounts Examples (2023 Guide).
Lee, C. (2023). Auto Accident Settlement and Lawsuit Timeline.
Maina, M. (2021). The Biggest Personal Injury Compensations in History.
Robbins, L. (2009). Woman Run Over by Bus Is Awarded $27.5 Million.