Personal Injury Lawsuits Are Public Matters — What Does That Mean?

If you’ve been injured due to another person’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions — for example, in a car accident with a defendant-driver who was speeding and driving in a distracted manner at the time of the accident — then Arizona law may entitle you to sue and potentially recover damages as compensation.  Though lawsuits are an excellent way to ensure that defendants are held accountable for their damaging actions, there are many limitations that people are unaware of (chiefly, the issue of privacy).

Simply put, litigating a claim opens up the details to members of the public.  Upon first impression, this may not seem like a “big deal.”  After all, you might find it strange that someone in your community is scouring public databases for court records and will thereafter reveal your personal issues to the world at-large.  In reality, however, many disclosures in litigation are made known to the public through various media outlets.

For example, if you are suing a local transportation company for an accident that occurred on the highway, then the local news outlets may report on litigation as it proceeds.

Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent the privacy concerns associated with litigation, so if your privacy is particularly important to you, then you may still make an attempt to negotiate and resolve your dispute with the defendant without disclosing certain information to the public.

Trial Details Are Matters of Public Record

Again, it’s important to reiterate that the details of litigation are matters of public record.  For example, media persons are entitled to report on your trial as it unfolds.  They may write about how you reacted during litigation, and they may discuss certain embarrassing details that were presented during an evidentiary hearing.  Even your medical history and psychological history may be made public.

Depending on the circumstances, that litigation is a matter of public record can have far-reaching effects on one’s life.

Suppose that you have sued a defendant for injuries caused in a car accident.  Evidence relating to your psychiatric health and history is presented at trial, as it’s relevant to the case (you have made an argument for damages on the basis of emotional distress).

Now, imagine that media reports on the case, and that it is revealed to your employer that you have a history of psychological illness.  Your employer may begin to view you as a serious risk to his business, and may reduce your hours, fire you, pass you over for promotion, or otherwise interfere with your career.

How to Maintain Privacy While Resolving a Dispute

If you wish to maintain privacy, then you can do so by engaging in various forms of alternative dispute resolution.  Private, out-of-court dispute resolution does not qualify as a matter of public record.  Dispute resolution includes, but is not limited, to:

  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Internal Administrative Processes

Not only is alternative dispute resolution typically faster, less costly, and more informal than traditional litigation, but it’s private — you won’t risk the details of the dispute being revealed to the public.

Alternative dispute resolution is an excellent tool, but in some cases, the defendant is hostile or is simply unwilling to negotiate a fair settlement.  Alternatively, you may receive a poor result in arbitration or pursuant to the administrative process.  At that point, it may be worth it to move forward with litigation and risk public disclosure of the details.

Contact an Experienced Phoenix Injury Lawyer Today

Here at Hirsch & Lyon, our attorneys have several decades of experience representing thousands of injured clients — particularly those in motor vehicle accidents — sue and obtain compensation for their injuries.

We are a truly client-oriented law firm, and this is expressed in a variety of ways.  We are available 24/7 to both prospective and existing clients, and we are willing to meet at any of our offices in the state, or at a location of your choosing.  Throughout the litigation process, we work closely with clients, evaluating their claims, advising them on next steps, and negotiating on their behalf.  At Hirsch & Lyon, we understand that litigation against a defendant can be challenging and emotionally exhausting.  We believe that you should keep more of what you win, because you deserve it.  We therefore charge a lower contingency fee than most other firms — 25%.

Interested in speaking with an experienced Phoenix injury lawyer here at Hirsch & Lyon?  Call (602) 535-1900 today to schedule a free consultation.