1) Keep a diary
We cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of maintaining a diary regarding your injuries and damages. This is nothing fancy and may simply be a notebook or notepad. It does not have to be kept every day, or every week, but it is important that you keep it in an attempt to document your specific complaints. Remember, you and I may have to convince a jury (composed of eight strangers) that you were injured in this accident, your injuries caused you pain and suffering, and your pain and suffering entitles you to compensation. This is best accomplished by providing specific examples and, where necessary, witnesses that can support your testimony. All pain, discomfort, and injuries should be documented no matter how minor they may seem at the time. Injuries have a way of progressing. If you have a bruise from banging your knee and later you develop functional knee pain, it is vital to have some proof of your injury at the time of the accident in order to relate the damages.
Your diary should briefly describe how you felt, in general, prior to the accident. You should then write how you felt immediately after the accident, telling in the greatest detail possible what happened to you and the pain and suffering you endured immediately thereafter. As you keep the diary, note the date, describe the effect that the injuries are having on you, and the pain and suffering that you have experienced. Describe both the symptoms you are having and the activities that you could not do or cannot do as well as you could before your accident and/or injury. You should record your anguish such as worries you have on your mind about your ability to get well or the effects of your injury on your everyday living and your ability to provide for your family.
Try to use picture words. For example, I was in a lot of pain today is not nearly as helpful as I was in so much pain today when I reached down to pick up the sweeper I let out a groan and realized that I could not pick it up because of the pain in my right shoulder. This is what we mean by picture words. If somebody witnessed your pain or limitations, be sure to write their name. For example, Today I had to ask my friend to reach up in the cupboard and pull out the saucepan because I was unable to extend my arm upward above my head. My friend’s name is John Smith. His address is 22 West Main Street in Cleveland and his phone number is (216) 222-4422. Use as many picture words as you can to describe your injuries and pain that you are suffering. At the conclusion of your treatment, we ask that you forward to us a copy of your diary to assist in making a demand on your behalf.
2) Document your damages
Photographs are very important and cannot be overemphasized. We will assist you in taking photographs if you cannot do them yourselves, but we do need photographs of your injuries and damages. If you were injured in an automobile accident or by a defective condition on someone’s property or a defective product, it is imperative that we obtain photographs before repairs are made. In a motor vehicle case, you should have at least 4 or 5 photographs of your vehicle. If there is not much damage to the exterior of your vehicle, there may be damage visible inside the car or underneath the vehicle. It is very important that you take photographs of those hidden damages in these cases. If you need help obtaining photographs, contact us before repairs are started. If you have injuries that show up on photographs (scars, bruises, swelling, cuts, stitches, etc.), be sure to take photographs of those areas as well. If the visible injuries take more than a few days to heal, document them with a photograph every week and use a camera that places a date stamp on the photograph. Our ability to reconstruct injuries by photographs is very important. There is truth to the saying that “pictures are worth a thousand words.” So take plenty of pictures.
Keep track of any expenses such as childcare, housekeeping, and traveling for medical treatment. All expenses should be noted and if you are in doubt, you should make a record and let us assist you in determining the appropriate ones. Remember that your inability to do certain activities may be compensable. But also remember that it is very important to have independent documentation of this impairment. For example, if you cannot run the sweeper or do the laundry, write down the name of somebody who has seen that you are unable to do these things. If you are unable to play golf, bowling, tennis, or other sports, write down the name and address of that person who, from his or her observations, can document the fact that you have not been doing or cannot appear to do those activities.
3) Documenting wage loss
If you are expected to miss any time from work as a result of the injuries caused by your accident, it is important that you have documentation from your physician indicating that you will be unable to work for a specific period of time. If your doctor does not provide this for you, we suggest that you contact your treating physician and/or family physician to request this documentation (i.e., a doctor’s note). Insurance adjusters often will not consider wage loss submitted without a doctor’s recommendation that you stay off work.
4) Follow the doctor’s advice
You should visit your physician as often as is required. If you are hurt, see your physician. If you are not hurt, do not visit your physician as this may cause confusion and unnecessary expense. When you decide to visit your physician, describe all of the pain and suffering and difficulties that you are having to the best of your ability. Remember that whatever you tell your physician in the course of your treatment will end up in your medical records and may be admissible as evidence later in court. You should be careful and honest as to what you tell your medical providers. If you had prior injuries or prior difficulties, tell your physician about them. If this incident has aggravated your prior injuries, tell your doctor immediately. If your injuries are affecting your employment, be sure to tell your doctor and your employer about them. If your injuries are affecting your ability to do recreational activities or the functions of your daily life, be sure that you tell your doctor about them as well. Above all follow your doctor’s advice. If he or she recommends a consultation with another doctor or a follow-up visit, follow through with that advice. Also remember that any injuries to any body parts, no matter how minor they may seem, must be documented with your physician as soon as possible after an accident. By doing so you will protect yourself in the event that these seemingly minor injuries worsen weeks or even months after the accident.
Occasionally people become dissatisfied with certain physicians or their decisions regarding treatment and/or diagnosis. Different physicians often have different opinions. If you ever desire our help with obtaining a second opinion or advice about selecting a physician, please contact us.