One of the first things you should do after you are injured is write down everything you can about your accident, including details of your injuries and their effect on your daily life. These notes can be very useful two or six or ten months later, when you put together all the important facts into a final demand for compensation. Having notes to remind you of the details of what happened, and what you went through, is both easier and more reliable than counting on your memory.
Get into the habit of taking notes on anything you think might possibly affect your personal injury claim and carry it through the entire claims process. Whenever you remember something you had not thought of before -- while you're in the shower, just before you fall asleep, as you're biting into a pastry -- write it down and put it with your other notes. Here are some specific things about which you should make notes.
As soon as your head is clear enough, jot down everything you can remember about how the accident happened, beginning with what you were doing and where you were going, the people you were with, the time and weather. Include every detail of what you saw and heard and felt -- twists, blows, and shocks to your body immediately before, during, and right after the accident. Also include anything you remember hearing anyone -- a person involved in the accident or a witness -- say about the accident.
In the first days following your accident, make daily notes of all pains and discomfort your injuries cause. You may suffer pain, discomfort, anxiety, loss of sleep, or other problems which are not as visible or serious as another injury but for which you should demand additional compensation. If you don't make specific note of them immediately, you may not remember exactly what to include in your demand for settlement weeks or months later. Also, taking notes will make it easier for you later to describe to an insurance company how much and what kind of pain and discomfort you were in. (Learn more about Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case.)
In addition, writing down your different injuries may help your doctor diagnose you. For example, a relatively small bump on the head or snap of the neck may not seem worth mentioning, but it might help both the doctor and the insurance company understand why a bad back pain developed several weeks after the accident. Also, by telling the doctor or other medical provider about all of your injuries, those injuries become part of your medical records that will provide evidence later that such injuries were caused by the accident.
Economic or Other Losses
You may be entitled to compensation for economic loss and for family, social, educational, or other losses, as well as for pain and suffering. But you will need good documentation. Begin making notes immediately after the accident about anything you have lost because of the accident and your injuries: work hours, job opportunities, meetings, classes, events, family or social gatherings, vacation, or anything else which would have benefited you or which you would have enjoyed but were unable to do because of the accident.
Make written notes of the date, time, people involved, and content of every conversation you have about your accident or your claim. In-person or telephone conversations worth noting may include those with any witness, adjuster, or other insurance representative, or with medical personnel.
You may want to return to the scene of the accident to take notes or pictures or locate and talk to witnesses who may help your case. For more information on what to do, see the article Personal Injury Accidents: Preserve Evidence.
For More Information
For a reference that shows you how to handle almost every accident situation and guides you through the insurance claim process, get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).