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Are Settlements Considered a Public Record?

According to a study by the U.S. Justice Department, only 3% of personal injury cases reach trial, with the vast majority settling. You will find similar statistics for business litigation and criminal prosecutions.

A settlement is a resolution that the parties agree upon. In a criminal case, a settlement is called a plea bargain. Regardless of what it is called, a settlement is a binding agreement between the parties that ends the case.

What Is Contained in a Settlement?

A settlement usually includes the settlement agreement and the motion to dismiss the case. The settlement agreement contains the terms of the settlement.

For example, a simple settlement in a personal injury case could include just three terms:

  • The at-fault party’s insurer pays $30,000 to the injured party
  • The injured party releases all claims against the at-fault party arising from the accident
  • The injured party dismisses the lawsuit against the at-fault party

Similarly, a simple plea agreement could include just two terms:

  • The defendant agrees to plead guilty to one charge
  • The prosecution agrees to drop the remaining charges

These terms often benefit both parties. The parties avoid the risk of losing the case and getting stuck with an even worse outcome. They also save money by resolving the case without a trial.

Is a Settlement a Public Record in Florida?

Yes, settlements are public records in Florida. But the parties can often determine what the public can view.

In a civil case, the only thing that needs to be public is the motion to dismiss and the judge’s order dismissing the case. As a result, a member of the public can see that the case was settled, but they cannot see the terms of the settlement if the parties choose to keep them confidential.

Plea bargains are handled differently. The terms of a plea bargain are generally public unless the judge seals the case. This is an unusual step. So in most cases, the public can access the terms of the plea bargain.

Keeping Your Settlement Private

Settlements can include details that embarrass you or even place you in legal jeopardy. To discuss settling your criminal or civil case without publicly disclosing the settlement terms, contact Shrader Mendez & O’Connell at (813) 360-1529 for a free consultation.

Posted in Lawsuit