Why document all the details?
Memories fade after time and seeking treatment for personal injuries can take days, weeks, months and even years. No one can possibly remember the details of every doctor appointment, or every medication prescribed that was taken over an extended amount of time. If the details about your personal injury accident is not well documented, it may reduce your personal injury settlement amount, it can also delay the settlement of your personal injury case. Remember, it is a fight for every dollar deserved in your personal injury settlement. A well-documented story is a huge weapon when fighting with the insurance company to maximize a personal injury settlement
Here’s a common story: My client gets into a car wreck and says it is the other driver’s fault because the other driver ran a red light. There are witnesses, my client has personal injuries, cars are damaged, and the police arrive at the accident. The police question my client, the other driver, collect insurance information and speak to any other witnesses who are still at the car wreck. The police take notes, call an ambulance if necessary and call a tow truck if needed. Police also call to have the scene cleaned up if there is broken glass, spilled fluids or car parts in the road from the car wreck. Then the police hand my client their business card and tell them to call the station in a few days to get a copy of the police report that has all the details about the car wreck. All sounds good, right? Sounds like the police took care of the all the details and everything is documented in a nice little report that my client can get. Nothing for my client to do or worry about.
Wrong!! Here’s why.
The police officer may speak to witnesses since he/she didn’t actually see the car wreck to find out what happened, but most of the time the police officer does not get witness contact information. The police seldom, if ever, take pictures or retrieve video recordings from surrounding businesses. Without witness names or phone numbers, pictures or video, the car wreck and who is at fault can and does become an issue. Remember, the police officer did not see the car wreck, meaning the police officer cannot testify to any details about the car wreck or who is at fault, the police officer is just a “hearsay witness” and is unable to testify what he/she heard someone else say about the car wreck. This means the police officer is not a witness to your car wreck AND he/she failed to get contact information for witnesses that actually saw the wreck or get video surveillance that may have been available.
Here’s where the problem begins. My client doesn’t really know what the other driver told the police officer or what any witnesses told the police officer when being interviewed. So, when my client finally gets the police report, there is no witness contact information in the report, and the other driver said the same thing my client said, that my client ran the red light. If the police officer is unsure what happened, he may state both drivers are at fault, or even worse, state my client is at fault! At this point, my client is unable to track down any witnesses and really has no real evidence to prove the other driver ran the light. Unfortunately, by the time my client finds all of this out, it is too late to track down any video from traffic lights or businesses because the recordings have already been recorded over or deleted. My client could make attempts on social media to look for witnesses, but those witnesses may not be on social media or may be from out of town or out of state and never see the social media posts about the car wreck.
Another story I see is when a client comes to my office because the other person’s insurance company has denied their claim. Why? Because my client was in a car wreck with another person and it was just a small fender bender, so no one called the police to make a report. Both drivers exchanged information and leave the scene of the car wreck. My client calls the other driver’s insurance to make a claim only to learn the other driver was using his deceased brother’s driver’s license, or the insurance information was fake, or the phone number for the other driver was fake, or the insurance policy was cancelled months ago, or the other driver already reported the car accident to their insurance but gave a statement it was my client’s fault. All of these things mean my client’s insurance claim gets denied.
My client has no police report, no witnesses and no real information about the other driver. It becomes a case where both drivers are blaming each other, and the other driver’s insurance will side with their customer because they don’t want to pay my client’s claim! And if my client only has liability insurance, their insurance company will not help them defend their claim. If my client has full coverage insurance, his/her insurance company may make my client 50% at fault for the car wreck and only pay half of my client’s claim.
Just do two things to maximize your personal injury settlement.
- Take pictures and video of everything!! Document everything!!
What everyone should always do as soon as they are in any kind of accident and are injured?
- If you’re in a car accident, or any other accident involving any other kind of vehicle, do not move the vehicles until you have taken pictures and recorded everything! This should be easy because everyone has a cell phone. Get your phone out and start taking pictures or video before any vehicles are moved. Talk to the other driver and record the conversation. You can absolutely do this; you don’t have to rely or wait on the police to do this. Take pictures or video of the other driver, their passengers, their driver’s license, insurance card, license plate, all vehicles involved in the car wreck. Take pictures up close and far-away of the car wreck. Just start snapping pictures or taking video. Take pictures of your personal injuries, the other person’s personal injuries and personal injuries of all passengers in all vehicles involved. Talk to witnesses immediately, don’t wait for the police, get their contact information before they leave the scene and record their statement about the car wreck.
Pictures and video are absolutely invaluable in proving your personal injury law claim later. Look around the scene to see if there are cameras in the area that may have recorded the car wreck. Have a personal injury law attorney assist you with sending letters to make sure those videos are saved and request a copy. Now you have documented all the details of the car wreck and personal injuries to make sure you receive all the money you deserve. You have also made sure that that the truth about the car wreck is well documented by getting all witness information and available video.
- If you’re in an accident by falling at a business, attacked by a dog or any other kind of accident, you should still take pictures and video. Take pictures close up and far-away of what made you fall, or pictures of the dog that attacked you, the location you were injured. Talk to witnesses and/or neighbors and/or the employees of the business and get their contact information, take their picture and try to record their statements. Also get witness contact information and take their picture and record their statements. Make a report with the business, get corporate office information regarding your injury, call animal control if necessary and take pictures of your personal injuries. Take pictures and make videos or audio recording of everything at the scene. Look for security cameras!
- Start a journal. Keep all your medical records and medical bills!
- Immediately start a folder where you keep all of your medical information. I always have all my clients do this because medical treatment can go on for several months and people forget about a doctor bill or forget the date or details of their visit or it sometimes it takes weeks or even months to get medical records and medical bills. Also, medical providers are now charging attorneys to produce medical bills if you lose the originals.
Medical bills vs. Medical records
Medical bills are different from medical records. Medical bills only contain the billing information for medical treatment, basically the dollar amount charged for medical treatment. Medical records contain the doctor’s or nurse’s notes about your injury, for example you have broken arm, or sprained back, info about tests or x-rays. These records also contain details about your treatment, recommendations for future treatment and medications recommended or prescribed.
If you are treated at the hospital or by any doctor, ask for your medical records and copies of all your bills during your medical visit. Keep a journal that lists the places you were treated and the dates. This will be a big help when putting together the timeline of medical treatment you received. It will also ensure you don’t settle your case and then get a huge doctor bill later that you forgot to turn in. Once your personal injury law case is settled and you sign a release, the insurance company will not pay any claims you forgot to submit.