When Tracy Morgan hosts Saturday Night Live on October 17 in a long-awaited return after his tractor trailer crash, his gift of gab will be on full display. But there’s one thing he won’t be talking about: his settlement with Walmart, who owned the truck.  Morgan reached a confidential settlement with Walmart over the 18-wheeler crash that severely injured him last year. 

South Carolina law overwhelmingly favors personal injury lawsuit settlements remaining public.  But the law doesn’t forbid confidential settlements in most cases, either, so they’re usually legal. Confidential settlements must be done the right way.  How they’re done depends on the type of agreement as defined by court rules – private or court approved.  First, let’s look at why parties might want a confidential settlement.

Why Do A Confidential Settlement?

There are many reasons for a confidential settlement.  These are the primary ones from both sides, in my opinion:

  • The victim’s standpoint. Some folks adhere to the old saying that goes, “If you put your business in the street, everyone will walk up and take a look.” They just don’t want anyone to know about the amount of their compensation, especially when it’s a large amount.  While it seems like a prize to some, the amount pales in comparison to their suffering and loss. And many times they need the money, so they don’t want to have to deal with relatives or friends coming out of the woodworks for “favors”, meaning no-interest loans.

The wrongdoer’s standpoint. Wrongdoers don’t want the public knowing they pay big for big mistakes causing life-changing injuries.

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Here’s how these settlements work:

Private Settlements

Under South Carolina law, “private settlement” means cases where no lawsuit is filed or settlements not requiring court involvement.  The parties can simply agree to keep the settlement confidential. 

A personal injury lawsuit settlement requires court involvement if it involves a child, involves a death, or is announced when the case is called for trial. 

Confidential Settlements Requiring Court Approval

These settlements cannot be conditioned on being confidential.  The party wishing to make the settlement confidential can make a motion to do so. The motion requires following a complex procedure where the judge considers numerous factors in deciding whether to make the settlement confidential.  Factors the court considers include:

  • Perceived harm to the parties from disclosure.
  • Why confidentiality best serves the public interest, including health and safety.

A court can never approve a confidential settlement involving a public body or institution, like the government, or even a state – supported hospital in a medical malpractice case. 

First Things First – Maximize Your Chances Of Settlement

Before even considering whether a confidential settlement works for you, you need to get the settlement first.  Before you can do that, you need to know your rights and the full value of your claim. Don’t sell yourself short- an experienced personal injury lawyer will best clear your path to the highest value and best protection of your rights.  If you’ve been seriously hurt and wonder how you can get your personal injury case settled, call us at (888) 230-1841 or start a live chat right where you are.  If you’re too hurt to come to us, we’ll come to you.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.