Suddenly coming into a lot of money, such as from winning a lawsuit, will sometimes make people you haven't seen for decades suddenly appear on your doorstep for a visit—usually to see if you're being generous with your money. Maintaining your privacy when facing the possibility of being awarded a large sum of money from a lawsuit can be challenging, but it's a good idea to make an effort to hide your winnings for the sake of your safety and sanity. Here are two ideas for keeping large financial awards private.
File the Lawsuit Anonymously
In general, courtrooms are open to the public, meaning anyone can sit in and observe the proceedings. Additionally, court cases are publicly accessible and can be read by anyone with the knowledge about how and motivation to obtain the records. If the case is notable in some way (e.g. involves a celebrity), it may also be reported by the media.
If you know at the outset you're likely to receive a large amount of money, you can file a motion to make the proceedings private and keep your name out of the court papers. If this motion is granted, the courtroom will be closed to observers, and you'll only be referred to as John or Jane Doe in any legal paperwork.
The court will take many factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to approve your request. This includes the following:
- The motivation for seeking anonymity (e.g. to protect sensitive information)
- The age of the plaintiff
- Whether the plaintiff would suffer retaliation from the defendant
- Whether disclosing the plaintiff's name would compromise the person's safety
For instance, if you're suing the defendant on behalf of a minor, the court may be willing to close the court proceedings to protect the child.
Be aware, though, that the defendant can object to a motion to privatize the court proceedings. If the defendant's reasoning is more compelling than yours or your reason doesn't trump the public's right to information, then the court will deny your request.
Anonymize Yourself As Much As Possible
Another option is to do what you can to anonymize yourself as much as possible after you receive the court award. You can have the money placed into a blind trust and use the trust to make purchases that require personally identifying information. For instance, you can use the trust to purchase a home. The title of the home would be in the name of the trust, which will prevent people from using public real estate records to locate you.
Avoid talking to the media, and request that they don't use your name if they do report on the story. Many reputable publications will honor the request.
For more information on how to protect your privacy after receiving a court award, contact a car accident attorney.