Documentation. Documentation. Documentation.

There’s a reason why the importance of documentation is drilled into every law, medical, and chiropractic student’s head.

Because in the legal/medical world, if it’s not written down (legibly), it didn’t happen. Pretty scary actually. Anyone can forget to write down a critical bit of information.

We expect our healthcare providers and lawyers to meticulously document our information, yet we don’t think about our own responsibility to document in certain legal/medical circumstances, particularly after a car accident or other injuries caused by someone else’s negligence.

Now that we’re thinking about it, the accident victim’s own documentation, whether he or she was involved in a car accident, a dog bite, a slip and fall injury, or medical malpractice, makes so much sense.

After all, your conscientious documentation could prove to be the tipping point to victory over the deep-pocketed insurance company, resulting in more compensation for you for injuries and damages. You just never know.

Do the potential benefits of writing in a diary every day outweigh the expended time, energy, and discipline it takes to keep it up?

Decide for yourself.

A daily diary:

  1. Tracks your day-to-day symptoms.
  2. Tracks your progress, plateaus, flare-ups, and regression.
  3. Tracks each treatment and effectiveness of the treatment.
  4. Tracks your visits to and/or conversations with your personal injury lawyer, doctors, therapists, and insurance adjusters.
  5. Tracks your mileage to doctors’ appointments for possible reimbursement.
  6. Provides strong defense against misinformation, lost information, forgotten information, and conscious distortion and deception (yes that happens) by other people, including insurance adjusters and well-intended doctors.
  7. Helps you accurately recall and report specific details of your case and your injury, no matter how much time has passed, to your personal injury lawyer, an arbitration judge, or a jury in a court of law.

Diary Do’s:

  • Make an entry every day. It’s easy to forget how you felt even the day before.
  • Think before you write.
  • Be honest.
  • Be accurate.
  • Be brief.
  • Write clearly (better yet, print or type).
  • Date and sign each entry.
  • Write at the same time each day so it becomes a daily habit not forgotten.
  • Record all phone and in-person conversations with doctors, attorneys, insurance adjusters, police officers, and anyone else involved in your car accident, like a passenger or witness.
  • Date and save all written communication: letters, e-mails, and texts from your personal injury attorney and insurance companies, medical reports, police report, and bills and documentation from your healthcare providers.
  • **VERY IMPORTANT:** Meticulously record any and all specific physical limitations caused by your auto accident that interfere with your daily life at work, at home, or while engaging in any of your regular activities.Examples: you can’t bend down, lift, and rise up to stock shelves at work, you can’t lift over 20 pounds, you can’t sit at a computer for more than 30 minutes at a time, you can’t run a vacuum cleaner, you can’t lift your child or grandchild, your gym work outs are limited.
  • Ask your personal injury attorney to look over your diary and offer his or her expert advice on improving your diary entries.

Diary Don’ts:

  • Don’t exaggerate.
  • Don’t distort.
  • Don’t embellish.
  • Don’t lie.
  • Don’t be too wordy.
  • Don’t write “same as yesterday” in an entry. Use specific descriptive words to describe how you feel each day, e.g. what kind of pain (sharp like a knife, mild, achy, burning, sore, pins and needles), where do you have pain, how often (constant,  during certain activities, every morning, 5x a week, etc., and how much pain (severe, moderate, mild).
  • Don’t repeat the exact same entry day after day.
  • Don’t use general words. Again, be specific. Example: Instead of writing “I feel better today,” say, “Pain in my neck is less in the right side than it was yesterday. More pain and stiffness in low back this morning than yesterday morning.”
  • Don’t hurry. Take a moment and think before you write.

If you’re diligent and accurate about your daily entries, your diary could prove absolutely invaluable to your personal injury attorney as he or she builds and strengthens your case. A strong, solid case could result in more money in your pocket for damages and losses.

If you and your lawyer choose not to disclose your diary to anyone else, it’s still invaluable to you, to him or her, and your case.