Keep a Car Accident Diary to Protect Your Claim

Keeping a steady stream of notes about your car accident and your injuries can strengthen your claim to ensure a fair settlement.

Updated by , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

One of the most important things you can do after a car accident is keep a diary about the crash and its effects on you, including:

  • how the car accident happened
  • how you felt physically and mentally in the immediate aftermath, and
  • the impact the accident (and your resulting injuries) continues to have on your daily life in the days and weeks afterward.

The most thorough approach—and one of the best ways to strengthen your car accident claim—is to begin keeping notes (or even diary or journal-type entries) immediately after the accident, and continue making them until you recover from your car accident injuries and any claim you make is resolved. Read on for tips on what to include, how often to write, and more.

What to Include In Your Car Accident Diary

Begin the diary with a detailed description of your car accident. Include everything you can think of—a factor that doesn't seem all that significant at first can turn out to be crucial to a personal injury claim.

Be sure the narrative of your car accident includes:

  • how, when, and where the crash happened
  • a description of weather and road conditions
  • the names and contact information of drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • anything that was said at the car accident scene
  • the most precise times and distances you can establish
  • the badge number and affiliation of any law enforcement officer who came to the scene (especially if a police report was made in connection with the crash)
  • what you felt when the accident happened, and immediately afterward, and
  • medical treatment you received in the hours after the crash.

Can I Keep Car Accident Notes on My Phone?

You can keep your car accident notes/diary/journal in any format you're comfortable using. Write things down on paper, keep a file on your laptop or tablet, or just use your phone if you can keep things organized. But, one way or another, keep the diary.

How Often Should I Make an Entry In My Car Accident Claim Journal?

After you've covered the initial details of the accident, your job isn't done. The key to keeping a car accident diary or claim journal is to periodically add notes about your experience in the days, weeks, and months after the accident. Basically, you want your entries to provide detailed answers to the question: "How has this accident affected my life?"

Simply put, you should make an entry in your car accident diary as often as you have something to report. Initially, your entries will probably be more frequent (close to daily), as you:

  • document your visits to health care providers
  • track your pain, discomfort, trouble sleeping, and other effects of your injuries, and
  • detail your time missed at work, activities you're prevented from doing, and other negative effects of the accident.

Later, as you start to recover from your car accident injuries and the crash has less of an impact on your day-to-day life, you'll probably find yourself making fewer entries. But try to record at least one entry per week until your car insurance claim or car accident lawsuit is resolved.

Making Sure Your Car Accident Diary Helps Your Case

Mainly, you're keeping your diary to collect and preserve information you'll need when making an injury claim. But there's one other important use for your diary: to tell your doctor what you're experiencing. You can use your notes to report your symptoms and limitations because of your car accident injuries. You can even give your doctor (or physical therapist, or any other health care provider who's treating you for your crash injuries) a copy of your diary (hopefully a concise version) to be included in your medical records.

This is important because insurance adjusters tend to give very little weight to what you tell them, in favor of the information that's documented in your medical records. So it makes sense to give your doctor any information that can help paint a complete picture of what you're going through as a result of your car accident.

Record the Details of Your Post-Accident Experience

You'll use your car accident journal to:

  • remind yourself of all that you've experienced in the wake of your car accident, and
  • convey the complete story of your experiences to the insurance company when you make your claim.

The idea here is that, with your car accident diary to help, you don't have to state generalities—such as "I saw my doctor quite a few times over several months." Instead, you can look back at the notes in your diary and state, "I had 8 office visits with my doctor, received 18 physical therapy treatments and had the following diagnostic tests..."

With this type of information, any car accident demand letter you send will be specific, precise, and powerful. And it will convey to the insurance company that you know what you're doing, increasing the chance that they'll be motivated to settle your car accident claim for a fair amount. Of course, if you hire a lawyer, they'll know how to best utilize your diary to strengthen your case.

Supplement Your Car Accident Journal With Photos

In addition to notes, be sure to include pictures of anything that's better documented by an image. Take photos of visible injuries like cuts and bruises, which will heal and fade as your claim progresses. If a laceration leaves a scar, photograph it at different points in the healing process. Also photograph slings, braces, casts or anything else that will help illustrate the "pain and suffering" component of your accident-related losses ("damages" in the language of the law).

Your Car Accident Diary Might Not Stay Private

Here's an important caution about keeping a diary: If your car accident case ends up in court, a diary you made on your own is likely "discoverable." That means the other driver's attorney can probably make you turn over a copy of your diary.

So, when you're deciding how to express your thoughts and experiences, remember that your entries may be read someday by an adversary, or even by a jury in the rare event that your car accident case goes to trial. Best to keep things accurate and business-like.

Using Your Car Accident Journal With a Lawyer's Help

One key distinction to keep in mind when it comes to privacy and your diary: A diary you make "on your own" probably needs to be disclosed to your adversaries if you file a car accident lawsuit. However, if you make the diary at the request of your lawyer, it'll probably be protected by the "attorney-client privilege," which means you likely won't be required to share it with the other side if you go to court (unless you and your lawyer decide to use the journal as evidence).

This is one of many reasons why it's often a good idea to consider getting a lawyer's help with a car accident claim, especially when your injuries are significant and the other driver's insurance company doesn't seem to be taking your claim seriously. Learn more about:

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