Can I Sue Anonymously for a Personal Injury?

If you suffer a personal injury in a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or other incident and it’s someone else’s fault, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Those who don’t want anyone to know they are involved in a lawsuit or if they receive a settlement might wonder “Can I sue anonymously?” 

The court system in the United States makes it challenging to file a claim anonymously, but in some circumstances, it can be done. If the parties settle out of court, for example, everything can be kept confidential. If the matter goes to court, however, it is ultimately a judge who will decide if a plaintiff’s wish for privacy outweighs the public’s right to know.

Victims must decide: What is more important, remaining anonymous or getting full and fair compensation?

Why a Victim May Want to Sue Anonymously

There are a lot of reasons why someone might not want to draw attention to themselves after an accident. Wanting to keep the details of a lawsuit from the general public, acquaintances, co-workers, and even friends and family is not unusual. There may even be times when a victim might not want the defendant to know their identity—if they don’t already. Among the most common things we hear are:

  • I don’t want to seem litigious or greedy. While frivolous lawsuits exist, there is nothing wrong with fighting for fair compensation for injuries.
  • My accident includes embarrassing details. Unfortunately, where a victim was, what they were doing, who they were with, or the types of injuries they sustained in an accident may all come out if a case goes to trial. This possibility must be weighed against the chance to get justice.
  • I was partially at fault too. Even accidents with shared liability can be worth a significant amount in damages. An experienced personal injury attorney can help determine how much fault to assign to each party.
  • I don’t want people to know about my personal affairs or finances. This is a common concern, but most cases are not high-profile enough to end up in the media. While lawsuit details can be found in public records and databases, people would need to take the trouble to go find the information.  
  • I know the person I’m suing and don’t want to ruin our good relationship. A victim may not want their neighbor to know their dog bit them, or make their landlord or local shop owner feel bad after slipping on the sidewalk. While it’s impossible to predict if someone will be upset about the situation, most claims do not ask for more than what is fair—reimbursement for the costs of recovering. Few cases involve punitive damages or excessive amounts for pain and suffering. 
  • It might harm my personal or professional reputation. Some might even ask “Can I get in trouble if I sue?” Those who worry they could be fired for bringing a lawsuit should not be concerned. There is never a penalty for filing a valid claim for a personal injury. (Although workers’ compensation claims follow different procedures than normal cases.) As the victim of an accident, it is highly unlikely that you will suffer any consequences for coming forward to pursue damages that you deserve for a personal injury. 

These may seem like valid reasons to sue anonymously. But the fact is, defendants have the fundamental right to confront their accusers in a court of law. Unless the circumstances are extraordinary, a judge is unlikely to keep things confidential simply so the parties can avoid public exposure or embarrassment.

Some victims may feel that if they can’t remain anonymous, they shouldn’t pursue the case at all. Before making that decision, it is important to look objectively at the accident and its aftermath. If the other person’s negligence caused injuries, there are medical bills and possibly lost wages that deserve compensation. 

It’s also important to note that the majority of personal injury cases never make it to trial. And out-of-court settlements are rarely made public.

Settlements vs. Lawsuit in Terms of Privacy

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois states that more than 95% of civil cases settle out of court and never go to trial. That means that nearly all claims end up being paid by the insurance company or the at-fault driver, likely after negotiations between both party’s lawyers. 

Out-of-court settlements typically include a confidentiality agreement. This stops either party from making the terms or dollar amount of the settlement public. Although the victim may not be completely anonymous, the amount of money they receive and many details of the case will stay confidential.

A lawsuit is only necessary when the parties and their insurance companies can not agree on a settlement. Since they go through the court system, lawsuit details are part of the public record. Details of the case, all parties’ names and addresses, and the outcome of the case are available for anyone who is willing to look for the information.  

For someone whose privacy is a major concern, accepting a settlement is preferable to having their case tried in court. However, victims should be wary of quick settlements. It is always best to have a personal injury attorney review the case to make sure they are getting everything they deserve. 

anonymous person suing
Image by kanchanachitkhamma by Canva.com

Reasons a Judge May Grant Anonymity

Wanting to remain unidentified in a personal injury case is not a good enough reason for a judge to allow someone to sue anonymously. Anonymity is reserved for exceptional cases where privacy is crucial. 

This could include cases involving:

  • Minors
  • Extremely sensitive subject matter
  • A credible danger of reprisal

If the case meets any of these conditions, the judge may decide to seal the records or allow the parties to be known only by their initials or a pseudonym. This is much more common in criminal trials, however than in personal injury cases where divulging the information is unlikely to cause additional harm.

Don’t Let Privacy Matters Jeopardize Your Recovery

When faced with personal injuries that are no fault of your own, it may be tempting to try to file a claim anonymously. But asserting your rights to fair compensation is nothing to be ashamed of or feared. You deserve to recover, and it is not frivolous or hostile to expect the person who was responsible to pay for the harm they caused. Contact Hipskind & McAninch to discuss your accident. We can discuss your privacy concerns and negotiate a fair settlement for your injuries.

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Personal Injury

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