Documentation can make or break your personal injury case. Even though you may not able to work while you recover from your injuries, you may find that you are devoting a significant portion of your time to ensuring that the proper documentation is in place for your personal injury claim. In most cases, you can even maximize your compensation in your personal injury case by paying attention to some often-ignored ideas.
It’s because the success of your case depends on how well your physicians (and you) document your injuries and your recovery process that we decided to put together this list to guide you through the process.
Remember: A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when gathering information for your case is “if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen!”
1-Evidence, Evidence, Evidence — Keep It All
Whether your case is going to court or not, you need evidence. That’s what will make or break your case.
In court, a jury will look at the evidence to decide whether you’re truly the victim. If your case is going to be settled, the other part will look at the evidence to determine how much it will offer. So before you do anything, save all the documentation related to your accident.
Take photos of the scene of the accident, take photos of your injuries if possible. Gather names of potential witnesses. Save police reports and make copies of it. Record audio or video if possible, and especially if the other party is being dismissive of your injuries or damage.
BONUS: 3 Tips for Documenting Your Losses
One of the most important aspects of your documentation comes from your physician. It is crucial that your physician thoroughly documents the length of your total disability and partial disability, and thoroughly lists your physical restrictions during specific timeframes.
Even if you received vacation or disability pay during this time, you are still eligible for reimbursement through your settlement. During your period of total disability, you can claim 100% of your expected gross (not net) earnings, and up to 50% during your period of partial disability.
In addition, you will need to obtain detailed information about your job description including the physical and mental requirements necessary to fulfill your job duties. This should include very specific information about any lifting requirements (listed by pounds required), and time required in a sitting or standing position, and any repetitive movements, such as twisting the body to operate a machine press or typing.
You should also include any tasks that require you to be 100% mentally alert, as pain medication and other prescription drugs may interfere with your ability to concentrate and make important decisions during working hours.
It is completely allowable to claim the amount of potential wages lost during your recovery period, as long as you have the documentation to back up your claims. Include a calendar of missed business meetings, rescheduled meetings with potential and returning clients, overtime hours lost, and vacation and sick pay you used to supplement your income while you were off work due to your injuries.
Include previous work schedules, meeting minutes, letters from clients, and pay stubs to back up your claims and include testimonies of supervisors, physicians, and therapists to help support your case. You can also claim an additional loss of income if you missed an opportunity to interview for a better paying job during your recovery period and if your injuries will permanently impact your ability to earn a wage in the future. Any lost or potential commissions that you missed out on during your recovery are also fair game in the settlement process.
Documenting your case is one of the most critical aspects of your personal injury claim and should receive a great deal of time and attention during your claim process. A personal injury attorney can help you sort through the confusion and obtain the required documentation. However, if you are representing yourself in your case, the burden of proof falls squarely upon you. Don’t be afraid to seek the advice of legal counsel at any time during the claim process to be sure you protect your rights under the law.
2-Seek Medical Attention IMMEDIATELY
Whether you think your injury isn’t as serious as it could be doesn’t matter. Go to the doctor as soon as possible. How much compensation you will get most often than not will depend on your injuries and how well documented they are.
Once you visit a clinic, a hospital, or a medical center, you will use all of the documentation related to your visit, treatment, medication, etc. to make your case.
If you feel depressed, anxious, or mentally unstable after an accident, also seek the attention of a psychologist if necessary.
If physical therapy was also necessary, make sure to follow through and add the documentation to your case file.
3-Talk To An Attorney About Different Types Of Damages
When you value your claim fully, you do not limit yourself to saying you have suffered just one or two types of damage. Injuries can have a variety of ramifications. Keep your options open, but talk to someone who’s a professional and who can help before you make your claim.
Victims can receive compensation for all types of damages, which may include loss of wages, body functions, and other physical problems. But they may also include issues associated with emotional damages.
4-Don’t Rush To File A Claim
When we’re hurt in an accident, it’s common to feel that you need to get the ball rolling immediately. The reality is that that’s not always the case.
When you rush through the entire process, you miss opportunities to ensure you’re getting the best compensation you can by ignoring potential damages. You also forget that insurance companies will give you other offers if you press them and know how to.
That’s why having an attorney at your side matters. Only an experienced personal injury attorney will know if you should wait or not for another offer.
5-Before Rejecting An Offer, Do Your Homework
When telling an insurance company or a third party that you do not think the offer they made is adequate, you must first know why.
You will be in the position of negotiator and that takes skill — and knowledge.
So that you can get the best compensation for your case, you first must have a strong case. Going over every piece of evidence and talking to an attorney about the potential damages related to your case will help.
6-And Before Accepting An Offer, Remember Future Damages
Injuries can bear consequences that will be felt throughout your life.
If you need long-term treatment or if you won’t be fully recovered by the end of your trial, keep those in mind when negotiating your settlement.
If your injury will keep you from receiving wages or will limit your ability to work, you need to take that into account.
7-Build A Strong Case That Can’t Be Refuted
After collecting all the evidence, putting together the details regarding your damages, present and future, you will be able to build a case that will be impossible to ignore. By this point, you will want to have already discussed all of this with an attorney so that he or she can also work with expert witnesses to make your case fool-proof.
With a strong case and a competent attorney to represent you, a fair settlement is a near guarantee. After all, insurance companies and other parties will fear going to court against a strong case because they know they will lose.
8-File Your Claim
Once you have a strong case built on a solid foundation of strong evidence and considerable damages, you’re ready to file.
But do not wait too long. After all, there are statute of limitations that may expire depending on your case. And that means that, eventually, you will lose the chance to recover what you deserve.
This is a critical detail in making sure justice is served. And that’s why consulting with an attorney will go a long way.
9-Avoid Speaking Publicly
After your case has been filed, make sure to protect your social media accounts and avoid talking about your case with anybody. Remember, everything you say can be used against you. This is an important detail that many of us completely ignore.
For instance, if you are claiming serious and long-lasting injuries but on Twitter or Facebook you show yourself as healthy, things could turn out ugly — for you.
10-Be Mindful Of How You Come Off To The Other Side
Remember: Making a good impression goes a long way.
The other party will make you an offer by literally judging you and your case. Having a good case alone won’t do the trick. You must be respectful, police, and try to look your best at all time.
Many victims who deserve a great settlement often are stuck with a poor deal because they were not respectful or mindful of their demeanor.