Take Notes After an Accident or Injury

Writing down your experiences in the hours, days, and weeks after an accident is more accurate than relying on your memory.

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

After any kind of accident that could lead to a personal injury claim, it's crucial to do everything you can to position that potential case for success. One of the best things to do is keep ongoing notes (digital or otherwise) of everything related to the accident and your resulting injuries, including:

  • the underlying incident and how it happened
  • the nature and extent of your injuries, and their impact on your daily life
  • any time missed at work and other financial losses, and
  • anything else that helps establish how you've been affected by the accident.

Let's take a closer look at the why's and how's of keeping detailed notes as part of an injury claim.

How Does Keeping Notes Help a Personal Injury Claim?

The notes you keep in the hours, days, and weeks after an accident or injury can be very useful months down the line, when you:

Having notes to remind you of the details of what happened, and of 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 case, and carry that habit on through the entire personal injury claim process. Whenever you remember something you hadn't thought of before (just before you fall asleep, as you're biting into a pastry, or at any other time) write it down and put it with your other notes—whether on paper, on your phone, or in the cloud.

Let's take a closer look about what these notes might cover, and what to keep in mind.

Describe How the Accident Happened

As soon as your head is clear enough, jot down everything you can remember about how the accident happened, including:

  • what you were doing and where you were going
  • the people you were with
  • the time and weather
  • 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, and
  • anything you remember hearing anyone—a person involved in the accident or a witness—say about the accident.

Describe Your Injuries and Their Effects on You

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 the effects of your injuries immediately, you might not remember exactly what to include in your demand for settlement weeks or months later.

Taking notes will also 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 crink in the neck may not seem worth mentioning, but it might help both the doctor and the insurance adjuster understand why your 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. Get tips on what to do when your accident injuries don't show up right away.

Describe Your Economic Losses and Other Effects of the Accident

You may be entitled to compensation for economic loss, for missed special events, as well as for pain and suffering. But you'll 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 and classes
  • events like 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.

Summarize Conversations With Insurers, Witnesses, and Others

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.

Next Steps After an Accident

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. Get more tips on preserving evidence to help your personal injury claim.

Keeping the kinds of notes we've described here will help any injury claim you make, whether you decide to handle the claim on your own, or get a lawyer's help. But especially when your injuries are serious, or things are getting contentious between you and the insurance company, it might make sense to discuss your situation with an experienced legal professional.

Learn more about when you need a lawyer for a personal injury claim, and get tips on finding the right injury lawyer.

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