Car accident settlements are not public record, as they are agreements made between parties out of court to conclude a case. If no agreement can be reached, then the injured party may take a personal injury lawsuit to court with the help of a car accident lawyer. Information from that trial and the resulting verdict is public record.
Car Accident Settlements vs. Court Verdicts
If you were injured in a car accident, your first step in recovering compensation will likely be through insurance. According to Georgia’s negligence laws, if you were less than 50 percent at fault for an accident, you can recover damages from the other party (O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33). This is typically done by filing a claim through their insurance.
Insurance adjusters then review your claim and determine what compensation you should receive. This can involve a back-and-forth negotiation, often aided by attorneys. If all parties can agree on terms for compensation, they reach a settlement.
However, sometimes it doesn’t go like that. If the parties can’t agree, your next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. Reasons for filing include disagreements over:
- Who was responsible
- How much your injuries are worth
- A claim denial
- The insurance company’s practices
- Policy terms
Once a lawsuit is filed, the case may still be settled out of court. In fact, many cases are. Not only do parties want to avoid making information public through a trial but settling also allows everyone to have more control over the end result.
If there is still no agreement, then the lawsuit proceeds to trial. At this point, your information will become a matter of public record that anyone can request; the Georgia Office of the Attorney General has information on records requests.
What Is Public Record in a Trial
Most of what happens in court proceedings is public record, including car accident cases. You can typically assume that anyone can find out:
- The identities of all parties involved
- Details about the accident
- Witness testimonies and other evidence
- Medical information about injuries
- Points and arguments made by both sides
- Verdicts and awards
For many reasons, you may want to avoid this information becoming public. Your medical, financial, and personal details can all be on display. Some cases may also involve minors, and parents may want to keep their family private.
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Reaching a Car Accident Settlement Out of Court
Car settlements are not public record, but there are additional benefits to settling out of court beyond just protecting your privacy. Coming to an agreement without involving the court can mean:
- Collaboration on agreement terms
- Control over the amount of damages
- Less formal proceedings
- Fewer expenses, like court fees
- Less time before a case is concluded
The first two points are often what bring parties to the table to negotiate. Once a case goes to trial, the ultimate decision is out of your hands, including how much you receive. That can mean you receive less than you had hoped. By negotiating, you have a say in the outcome.
Taking a case to trial is also expensive and time-consuming. In addition to fees, you will need to wait for court dates as well as navigate official paperwork and court proceedings. This can be especially draining if you are still dealing with the long-term consequences of the accident.
Nonetheless, sometimes a trial seems like the best option to obtain appropriate compensation. Ultimately, accident victims like you must decide for themselves, but our injury lawyers can work alongside you to help you weigh your choices.
Attorneys Help You Determine Which Path To Take
Each car accident case is unique, so we can’t say which option is better—settlement or court. However, we can offer options throughout the process to potentially make your choices more informed, including:
- Determining the value of your case
- Identifying all possible liable parties
- Compiling evidence to support your case
- Handling communication and paperwork
- Reviewing settlement offers
- Kickstarting negotiations to hopefully settle
- Crafting a court strategy if necessary
We can even explore other forms of case resolution, such as arbitration. This involves a neutral third party who can decide the verdict of the case. Less formal than court but more official than regular negotiations, arbitration is one option for parties who can’t agree but don’t want to take the big step of a lawsuit.
Regardless of the path you take, we promise not to charge a cent until your case is resolved. Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, not charging clients unless we reach a settlement or verdict. You don’t even need to worry about court fees or other expenses. We handle it all for you.
Learn More About Privacy and Car Accident Cases Today
At Bader Scott Injury Lawyers, your concerns are our concerns. While you can rest assured that car accident settlements are not public record, we know that issue is likely the beginning of your questions about pursuing a case. Get a free evaluation today to learn about your options for settling or going to court.