How To Receive Full Financial Compensation for Your Injuries
Consider all the things you have to write down to remember. Daily appointments. Grocery store lists. Social media passwords. Birthdays. You may even have a list of lists you have to make! We all have information we need that if we don’t write down, we eventually will forget.
Consider also the many ways we record information to monitor progress or to compare facts over time. For example—notations in a diary, tracking weight loss during a diet, the growth of a newborn, or money saved in a bank account. Regularly recording data over time is a helpful way to assess our progress (or digression) in a specific area.
One piece of information that most people never record with any purpose, however, is their daily pain level or physical condition after an injury. Instead, what do we do? If we are injured, we see a doctor, take whatever medication is prescribed, and then wait to feel better. During this time, however, we keep no record of how we feel from one day to the next, what circumstances may have increased or decreased our pain, or what physical limitations we suffered during our recovery.
For someone with a common cold or a superficial injury, there may be no need to record our medical journey over a long period of time—we literally see improvement from day to day and we anticipate a full recovery. But for someone who is seriously injured in an accident, recording information in a post-accident journal is an essential step in preparing a legal claim to be compensated for your injuries and to account for your pain and suffering during your recovery.
This article explains the importance of keeping a post-accident journal to record relevant information about your accident and your injuries. Your post-accident journal will help your attorney prepare the best case for you to receive full financial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
What is a Post-Accident Journal?
A post-accident journal is like a personal diary in which you record the details of your accident and all of your medical treatment and expenses after the accident.
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, your legal claim for damages against the person at fault may consist of the following things:
- Physical damage to your property
- Compensation for your injuries
- The cost of medical treatment and expenses
- The cost of your prescriptions
- Rehabilitation or ongoing physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Lost income potential
- Pain and suffering
Your attorney will offer evidence of all these damages to support a fair settlement for your injuries. But it is not enough simply to assert that the accident “cost you money” or “caused you pain for several months.” To be able to put a value on these damages, your attorney must be able to demonstrate to an insurance company or a court:
- To what extent your property was damaged
- What injuries you actually suffered
- The actual cost of your medical treatment
- What medicines you had to take, how often you took them, and how much they cost
- What physical rehabilitation you needed and whether it helped your condition
- Why you needed counseling
- To what extent you experienced limitations at work
- How much pain your injuries caused you and the value of your pain
Why Should I Keep a Post-Accident Journal?
Serious injuries resulting from an accident, slip-and-fall, dog bite, or any other trauma that results from the negligence of someone else can be complicated. Even minor injuries can be difficult to diagnose, expensive to treat, and slow to heal. Often, full recovery from an injury can take weeks, months, or even years, and may require ongoing treatment over a long period of time. You could even be out of work while you heal from your injuries.
An essential part of receiving compensation for all of the injuries and expenses you suffer as a result of someone else’s negligence is maintaining an accurate record of all the medical treatment and expenses you incur in a post-accident journal. If your injuries are serious, a post-accident journal can serve several important functions, including:
Recording your memory.
When you are involved in a traumatic event like an assault, animal attack, or unexpected accident, it is often difficult to recall exactly what happened, even immediately after the event. Accidents usually take us by surprise. Especially if you are disoriented, scared, or seriously injured in the accident, you may not have the capacity to recall important details about the accident as time passes. Although we may remember that a traumatic event occurred, we may not remember the details of the event after we put the unpleasant experience behind us and focus on healing.
Additionally, memories simply fade over time. Facts become fuzzy. The more time that passes after an event, the harder it is to recall the details of the event. And when trying to show who was at fault in an accident, remembering the details about the accident can make or break your case.
Writing down the details of your accident as soon as you are able is the best way to record your memory of the event, as this is when the event is freshest in your mind. Several weeks or months from now, you may not recall the condition of the road where your accident occurred or which way the car that hit you was facing just before the accident. But these are details that may be fresher in your mind immediately after the accident. You should write down in your post-accident journal as many details as you can remember immediately after the accident. This will “memorialize” your recollection of the event. This is evidence that an experienced attorney will be able to use to support your claim for damages, even if you cannot remember the details of the accident later because so much time has passed. Even if you cannot physically write down details of the accident while at the scene, a police officer responding to the scene will be able to record your recollection of the accident in a police report. You should always call the police after an accident and obtain a copy of the police report to include in your post-accident journal.
Facilitating detailed descriptions.
When you physically write notations in your post-accident journal, you will be more inclined to express details about your accident or injuries and be more specific and descriptive about how you may be feeling on that particular day. For example, if you were injured in an accident six months ago and someone asked you, “How did you feel a week after the accident occurred?”, you might respond by saying “I recall that I was still in a great deal of pain after the first week” or “I still could not walk at that time.” But if, seven days after your accident, you had written in your journal to describe your condition and pain threshold at that time, your notation about your condition is likely to be much more descriptive and include more specific details. For example, you might write: “Day 7: My right ankle is still swollen and discolored. I continue to experience sharp pain shooting from my heel to my knee and have to take pain medication every three hours for minimal pain relief. I cannot put any weight on my right leg.” These are the kind of details that you should write in your journal on a daily basis because you are not likely to recall such detail later.
Receipts and invoices showing the cost of your medical care and other expenses, especially during a long-term recovery that requires numerous doctor visits or prescriptions, is the best way to collect and preserve the evidence you will need to support your claim for damages. Not only is it insufficient to estimate the total cost that you incurred as a result of your accident, but you are unlikely to remember all the individual expenses you incurred over a long period of time. Regular doctor visits become a blur and receipts get misplaced or forgotten. If you get in the habit of recording every day any and all expenses you incurred as part of your recovery, it will be much easier to present weighty evidence of your damages many months from now.
We all know what it is like at “tax time” when we scour our drawers and bank account statements for evidence of any receipts or expenses we can submit as a tax deduction. Supporting a claim for personal injuries is no different. In fact, gathering relevant evidence may be even more difficult if your recovery is long-term.
Keeping a post-accident journal on a regular basis is the easiest and most effective way to collect all the evidence you need in one manageable place that is organized and presentable when you need it.
Assisting your attorney.
Organizing your expenses and recording specific details of your injuries and ongoing physical condition is one of the most useful tools that your attorney can use to prepare an effective case for your financial recovery. A post-accident journal assists your legal team by collecting relevant evidence over a long period of time and organizing it in a way that helps your attorney negotiate with the insurance company and make sure your medical bills are paid. It also serves to help your attorney, the insurance company, and perhaps the court, to understand the full scope of your damages resulting from your accident. Not only does it save time and money in the long run, but it is the most effective way to maximize your compensation for your injuries.
No matter how good of a memory you may have, specific details of any accident naturally become hazy over time. A post-accident journal is critical for recording and keeping track of what is happening with your recovery on a daily basis. When it becomes difficult to remember specific details about pain levels, the duration of symptoms, or reactions to pain management medications, a post-accident journal is the best way to keep track of those details.
What Information Should I Record in My Post-Accident Journal?
Although it is important to get in the habit of recording notations in your post-accident journal on a regular basis, a post-accident journal is different than simply keeping a diary. There is only certain information that is relevant to your personal injury claim that you should record in your post-accident journal. This includes information relevant to the following:
The first thing you should write in your journal is everything you can remember about the accident. This should include details like:
- The date and time. The date and time of your accident denote the time from which you begin to demonstrate injuries and accumulate expenses for which you may be compensated.
- The circumstances prior to the accident. Try to record everything you remember about what was happening immediately before the accident. What other cars were in the area? Were there pedestrians near the scene? Was there construction going on? Was anyone talking on their phone while driving? Any details about what was happening right before your accident may be relevant to showing what caused the accident and who was at fault.
- Weather conditions. The presence of rain, ice, sunshine, or other conditions may be relevant to fault in your accident.
- Road conditions. Likewise, road conditions may help explain the cause of an accident.
- Traffic conditions. Traffic conditions and the existence of traffic signals or signs also may be relevant to identifying who was at fault in your accident.
- Resulting damage. It is important to note in your journal the condition of your vehicle before and after the accident. You should describe all the damage sustained by any vehicles involved in the accident. You should include pictures of the damage to the vehicles involved, if possible.
- Condition of other drivers or passengers. You should note the condition of other drivers during and after the accident. Were they distracted when the accident occurred? Were they emotional after the accident? Did they appear intoxicated?
Any of these conditions at the scene of the accident may be relevant to your case. It is important to document as much detail as you can as soon as possible after the accident. You might even draw your own diagram of the scene and how the cars were positioned at impact. Even if you cannot recall every detail, your information will provide your legal a place to begin their own investigation into the accident. Any information you provide may lead to additional evidence that is relevant to your case.
Your post-accident journal should include a medical description and explanation of all your injuries. This should be documented in your journal with medical records when possible. You also should keep a daily description of how your injuries are healing (or not healing) and how your injuries affect your daily routine. Be specific by describing each body part that is injured and how that body part feels each day.
You should maintain a running log of all medical procedures, surgeries, or treatment that you receive. This includes the dates and times of all medical appointments, even if you do not receive specific treatment at every visit. Explain what was discussed at each visit or what procedures or evaluations were performed.
Pain and suffering.
Important information to record in your post-accident journal is a detailed description of the pain you experience on a daily basis. How would you describe your pain? How would you rate your pain numerically (on a scale from 1 to 10)? Is your pain greater or less than the pain you experienced yesterday? Is your pain level responding to pain management medication?
In addition, you should also describe your mental state each day and how your pain and resulting limitations are affecting your mental condition. Just like our memories, our pain gradually fades over time. It is important to record your pain on a daily basis when you are able to explain the amount of pain you are in. If your pain level changes throughout the course of the day, make multiple entries in your journal to record these changes.
In addition to describing the symptoms you experience as a result of your injuries, such as pain in your neck or swelling in your foot, you also should make note of any secondary symptoms you may experience on a daily basis. For example, your medication may make you nauseous or drowsy, which may prevent you from driving your car or leaving home. Wearing a cast or using crutches may limit your ability to function, cause you to become frustrated with others, or prevent you from sleeping at night. Describe how these secondary symptoms affect you on a daily basis.
If you undergo rehabilitation for your injuries, what is your rehabilitation plan? How often do you have rehabilitation sessions? How do you feel during your sessions? Are your sessions helpful? How do you feel after each one? Has your condition or pain level improved?
Certainly, you should keep track of any and all expenses you incur as a result of the accident. Keep receipts and invoices for all medical bills, travel expenses, and miscellaneous expenses that arise as part of your continued medical care. Keep account of any work you miss and any income, bonuses, or promotions you forego while you recover from your injuries.
Limitations on your daily routine.
Part of your pain and suffering can be evidenced by how much you are unable to return to your daily routine and activities. Don’t just write that you are “in pain” or “cannot do the things I usually do.” Instead, record how your injuries have prevented you from driving, cleaning your house, playing with your children, or properly engaging in the daily activities of living, such as grooming, dressing, and moving around the house safely. Describe how your accident has continued to impact your life. Recording every time your injuries prevent you from participating in activities with your family or friends helps to demonstrate your loss of enjoyment in life.
Also explain how your ongoing injuries have made you dependent on others in specific ways. Do you have to rely on friends or relatives to cook meals, clean the house, help you dress, or drive you to medical appointments? Has your dependence on others as a result of your injuries cost you financially by having to pay for a daily caretaker?
It is always important to document any conversations you have with your doctors. Always write down the opinions your doctors expressed during visits. You don’t have to use fancy medical terms that you don’t understand. Simply describe your understanding of what you discussed with your doctor.
You might also engage in conversations with other people, like an insurance agent or a witness to your accident, who are not directly involved with your medical condition but still may be relevant to your case. If you are not sure what information or conversations are relevant to your case, record them anyway. Your attorney will sort out what is relevant and what isn’t.
Maintaining a comprehensive post-accident journal may seem like a lot of work, especially if you are seriously injured. Although your daily input and personal description of your condition each day is important, there is some information that can be stored very easily. For example, simply taking pictures of your medications on your phone and saving digital images of your invoices and receipts is an easy and effective way to record this evidence in a digital journal. Digital information can be equally effective and just as important as any other evidence in your case.
What Information Should I NOT Write in My Post-Accident Journal?
Although writing in your post-accident journal is like keeping a diary, it is not exactly like writing in the diary you kept in middle school. Your car accident journal is not the place to complain about neighbors, make shopping lists, or draw doodles. Instead, it is a document that may be used as evidence in your car accident case and may be shared with your attorney, other parties to your accident, and the court. Try to be as descriptive as you can about how you feel, physically and emotionally, on a daily basis, but restrict your descriptions to things relevant to your accident, your injuries, and your recovery.
Also, you do not have to be an expert or try to use medical terms that you don’t understand. Use your own words to describe how you feel and what you are able (and not able) to do every day. Don’t try to speculate about details of the accident that you don’t remember or ponder what medical treatments you think might be appropriate. Record only what you remember and what your doctors prescribe for your recovery.
Is My Post-Accident Journal Private?
No. Not necessarily. Although any confidential information you share with your attorney is private, it is possible that you may have to share your journal with someone other than your attorney. If your journal is to be used as evidence in your case, the opposing party may include it in a discovery request, to be shared with the other party’s insurance company or attorney. When writing in your journal, it is best to assume the journal will be discoverable and shared with others. Therefore, always be professional and honest when making entries in your journal. Use your own voice, but treat the journal as if it were a professional work product that you have to submit to your boss or a teacher. This can be difficult when you are in pain and frustrated or angry about your injuries. But always try to be honest and accurate. Don’t use derogatory language or make accusations about the other party. Limit your entries to information relevant to your accident, injuries, treatment, recovery, and expenses.
How Often Should I Write in My Post-Accident Journal?
There is no “rule” for how often you should write in your post-accident journal. The simple answer is—write in your journal any time you have something to say about your accident or your injuries.
Normally, this means your first entry in your journal should be immediately after the accident, if possible. Ideally, this will include all the details you recall about the accident. But even if you are seriously injured and are not able to begin your journal at the scene, at the very least, your first entry should include the police report about the accident and any witness statements and all contact information for each witness.
After the accident, you should write in your journal any time you receive medical treatment or advice, confer with a doctor, or receive medical records. This should include when you:
- First go to the hospital or visit a doctor
- Stay in the hospital
- Have any surgery or medical procedure
- Make a follow-up doctor visit
- Participate in a treatment plan
- Use any medical devices for treatment
- Attend any rehabilitation sessions
- Receive counseling
- Pay anything out-of-pocket as a result of your accident
These experiences may not occur every day, but you should write in your journal every time you do any of these things. Describe each experience in detail.
What is likely to occur every day is some change in your condition or your pain level. Because of this, you usually will write in your post-accident journal every day. This means that if your condition or pain level changes throughout the day, you might make multiple entries in the same day. If your condition or pain level truly is stable, you may not need to make daily entries. But if you experience any changes in your condition, pain, or medication, you should include an entry when any change occurs. As your condition improves and you begin to return to your normal daily activities, you may find that you make less frequent entries in your journal.
Are There Any Online Apps That May Help Me Track My Pain?
Recording so much information by writing your journal by hand, perhaps multiple times a day, may be a time-consuming and tedious burden. Although it is perfectly acceptable to maintain a hand-written journal, a digital journal typed on a computer, laptop, or iPhone is equally acceptable. Digital journals are usually easier to create and maintain, but the format of your journal is not particularly important. You should keep your journal in whatever format is most accessible to you and conducive to maintaining consistent and accurate entries.
Often, the most difficult part of keeping a post-accident journal is not the writing or the typing but rather, figuring out how to explain your pain in a way that others will understand. Rating your pain on a scale from 1 to 10, with “1” representing very minimal pain and “10” representing the most pain you have ever experienced, is a common method for medical staff to rate your level of pain at any given time. But accurately describing your pain and how it changes over time can be a challenge.
When describing your pain in your journal, you don’t have to use technical language or medical terms to express your pain. But be descriptive. Use adjectives that most people use when something hurts. Instead of simply writing that “My back still hurt” or “my ankle was sore,” describe your pain with accurate qualifiers like:
All of these terms help to tell the story of what you were experiencing that day and how it might have affected your ability to perform your normal tasks. When you explain your condition more descriptively every day, the insurance company or the jury deciding your case will have a clearer picture of the pain and suffering you experienced throughout your recovery and will be more likely to offer fair compensation for your damages.
In today’s digital world, there are several online applications designed to help you monitor and track your pain in a way that is not only helpful to you in managing your pain, but also may be useful to your doctor in treating your pain and helpful to your attorney in proving damages and negotiating fair compensation for your injuries.
There are countless apps and online services that offer pain tracking and pain management tools. A simple online search or query in your Google App Store will produce seemingly endless operating systems that assist in managing pain and chronic symptoms. You should take time to visit different apps to determine which system is most user friendly and conducive to your individual needs and preferences. However, here are seven popular apps that are available to help track and manage your pain and symptoms:
- My Pain Diary. The My Pain Diary app uses individual folders or “trackers” that allow you to track specific conditions separately. For example, you can create one tracker for “back pain” and a separate tracker for “wrist pain.” For each condition, you can customize specific metrics, such as:
- Pain intensity
- Pain duration
- Pain scales
The app also tracks important events that are not directly related to pain management, such as:
- Medical treatments
- Rehabilitation or therapy sessions
- Medication logs
- Weather-related triggers
The app offers a variety of other tools, such as color-coded calendars and interactive graphs for plotting patterns and trends over time. It also provides reports that can be saved as PDFs that you can share with your doctors.
The My Pain Diary app costs $4.99 and is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
- PainScale. The PainScale app is free and allows users to track different factors associated with their chronic pain, including:
- Pain triggers
- Changes in mood
- Sleep patterns
- Treatment effectiveness
A primary feature of the PainScale app is the educational material it provides to help users understand their symptoms and more effectively manage their pain. It includes a library of informative articles related to things like
- Health tips
- Useful exercises
- Treatment options
- Alternative treatment programs
The app allows for customization and integrates with numerous other platforms like:
- Apple HealthKit
- Samsung Health
- Google Fit
- Manage My Pain. This app is free and simple to use. It employs sliders and checkboxes that you can use to rate your pain levels and record other metrics, like pain severity or medication effectiveness. It offers a drug database for users to learn about the prescriptions they take and track their prescription history. The app provides basic reports that are free and accessible to share with doctors. More comprehensive reports can be obtained for a small fee.
- GeoPain. The GeoPain app focuses on helping the user to better communicate their pain. It provides videos and advanced visuals that help the user to understand their pain and uses QuickFill options for easy data entries. The app tracks standard metrics like pain levels, triggers, and activities, as well as mood, daily functioning, and sleep patterns. The app is free.
- My Pain Log. The My Pain Log app uses a simplistic rating system to record the users:
- Pain description
- Pain location
It provides primarily simple numerical reports. The app is free but offers “in-app purchases” for exporting data or removing adds.
- Chronic Pain Tracker. The Chronic Pain Tracker app comes in two versions—Pro and Lite. Both versions offer pain description and reporting tools and track data across 19 different health modules. Both versions also offer a variety of reports and analytic capabilities, including:
- Diary history
- Summary reports
The primary difference between the Pro and Lite versions is that the Pro version has an unlimited capacity for diary entries, compared to the Lite version, which is limited to 20 diary entries. A user of the Lite version can expand to an unlimited capacity and essentially upgrade to the Pro version with an in-app purchase.
- Pain Tracker & Diary. This app focuses on helping the user to explain and demonstrate their pain by creating pictures of each of the distinct types of pain they may experience. The app uses pictures to “track, map, and monitor the intensity, pattern, and extent-of-spread of at least 12 different types of pain on your mobile device.” It also features a tracking system for numbness. Other tools provided include:
- Summary charts
- Calendar icons
- PDF exporting
- Interactive summaries and animation
The Pain Tracker & Diary app costs $3.99 to enroll and offers other in-app purchases.
These are just a small sampling of pain tracking apps that are available to help you record and preserve how you feel every day. There are many more apps to choose from. You also can perform a simple search online for sample post-accident journals or other pain diary logs that you can compare or even download as a PDF, print, and use.
Record and Preserve the Details of Your Accident, Injuries, and Recovery in a Post-Accident Journal
Recovering from serious injuries after an accident can be a long and difficult process. If someone else was at fault, you should be fully compensated for your damages. However, this requires you to prove the nature and extent of your injuries and how your injuries negatively affected your life. The best way to remember and preserve the evidence you will need to be fairly and fully compensated for your injuries is to record the details of your medical and financial journey in a post-accident journal.
We hope this eBook helps you to create and maintain a post-accident journal that includes and effectively presents the relevant evidence you will need to support your personal injury claim. We know it sounds simple but can be a burden to do every day. We hope this eBook makes it easier.
If you have questions about keeping a post-accident journal or how it may help your case, please do not hesitate to call the experienced car accident attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC. We are anxious to help you and provide any information or guidance you need.
Even if you create the most comprehensive diary of evidence, the best thing to do with your post-accident journal is to share it with an experienced car accident attorney who knows how to use your journal to your advantage when proving fault, demonstrating injuries, negotiating with insurance companies, and presenting evidence in court. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, have the knowledge and experience not only to help you create a relevant and descriptive post-accident journal, but to use it effectively on your behalf so that you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering.
As your body heals over time, your memory of the accident and your pain and suffering fades. That is natural. But we can help. If you have been in an accident and want to prepare the best evidence to support your case, let Foster Wallace, LLC, help you from the start to effectively record and preserve relevant evidence in a post-accident journal.