Be Careful About Signing A Confidentiality Agreement In Your Trucking Accident Settlement

Posted on: 23 September 2015

Truck accident settlements are as unique as the people involved in them. However, there is one component most of them have in common: confidentiality agreements. Many trucking companies want to prevent accident victims from discussing potentially damaging information with others and often require plaintiffs to sign nondisclosure contracts as a condition of the settlement. Here's why you should think twice about signing on the dotted line.

The Problem with Confidentiality Agreements

Confidentially agreements provide few, if any, benefits to plaintiffs. Typically, the terms of the settlement and the money awarded is kept secret. Plaintiffs who may be concerned about the exposure of personal details or who don't want others knowing how much money they received may appreciate the nondisclosure clause.

The request for confidentiality may also provide some leverage to increase the settlement amount. The company may be willing to pay more than it normally would to keep things quiet.

In general, though, these contracts may victimize plaintiffs a second time. First, confidentiality agreements limit what can be said about the incident to unprivileged parties, which means you can't warn others about the company's negligent behavior. This can make it difficult to hold the company accountable for its mistakes or effect change in public policy to prevent other people from getting hurt by the same negligent practices.

Another issue is that nondisclosure agreements often contain penalties for breaking the agreement that could cost the plaintiff the entire settlement. For instance, a teen caused her father to lose an $80K settlement when she posted on Facebook that he had won the lawsuit. The nondisclosure agreement prohibited the man and his wife from speaking about the lawsuit to anyone outside of their attorney and other privileged parties, which did not include the daughter or her 1,200 Facebook followers. The school rescinded the settlement after learning about the breach, and the Court of Appeals upheld the school's decision.

In addition to losing the settlement money, you may be held responsible for any damages that result from the contract breach depending on the wording of the nondisclosure agreement and the laws in your state.

Lastly, confidentiality agreements hurt other victims of trucking accidents because it can make it difficult to accurately evaluate how much a person can get for his or her accident case. Among other resources, lawyers research similar cases to determine how much to ask for in court or during negotiation. If the amounts are hidden by nondisclosure agreements, people may end up getting less than they are due.

Negotiating Non-Disclosure Agreements

While you'll probably want to avoid signing a confidentiality agreement as part of your settlement, sometimes that's not possible. Therefore, if your settlement with the trucking company requires you to sign one, work with your attorney to negotiate the terms so they have as minimal of an impact on your life as possible.

For instance, it's important to limit the breadth of the confidentiality agreement as well as the length of time it remains in effect. Some companies try to prevent plaintiffs from talking about any aspect of the case for all eternity. However, this is unrealistic and likely unenforceable. Additionally, too much restriction on the discussion of the case may inhibit your attorney's ability to advise you or other clients on similar issues in the future.

You'll also want to negotiate the penalties for breaching the contract so they are not just one-sided in the company's favor, especially if you're equally concerned about keeping the terms of the settlement or other aspects of the case from becoming public.

As noted previously, confidentiality agreements are a staple of settlements these days. Talk to your truck accident attorney about all the aspects of the contract before signing it. You can also click here for more information on working with an experienced attorney.