How to prove your personal injury case
To prove your personal injury case, you need to “prove” your damages. But how do you do that? Contact Morton Grove personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.
In a word – “Document” it!
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve represented personal injury clients and there simply isn’t any evidence to support their claim. There is evidence that the collision occurred, that they were taken to the emergency room and treated, and that they underwent physical therapy afterwards. But there isn’t any evidence that documents:
- The severity of the impact
- The injuries they suffered
- Their pain and suffering
- Their expenses such as prescriptions and mileage
How to prove your personal injury case? Read further.
Severity of Impact
Severity of impact is one of the factors an insurance company looks at to determine, at least preliminarily, how significant your injuries are. It makes a little sense (but that’s it). Sure, the severity of impact could be an indicator of how severe your injuries are. However, it is not always accurate.
We have handed countless cases where there was a minor impact but resulted in a significant injury. To avoid this issue, take photographs of the damage to your vehicle. If you can demonstrate “significant damage” through photographs (and other evidence like repair estimates) you can end this issue quickly.
Despite nearly every cellphone having a camera, we have handled many cases where our clients did not take photographs of the damage to their vehicle. Don’t make that mistake. Begin your efforts to document your case with your property damage.
Photographs are also necessary if you are going to recover for damage to your personal property as well, such as cell phones, your GPS, your clothing, or any other property that may have been damaged.
Document Your Injuries
Most people think that their injuries “speak for themselves.” That an insurance adjuster will review your medical records and make you an offer that is fair based on your injuries, among other things.
It doesn’t work that way. Not the part about an insurance company making a fair offer – that doesn’t happen either. But specifically, the presumption that your injuries are apparent to the insurance adjuster. They are not. It is critical to document your injuries during your recovery so that the significance of your injuries is apparent.
If it’s not in the medical records, it doesn’t exist!
It would seem reasonable that you would suffer headaches if you were rear-ended and suffered a concussion. But how do you prove it to the insurance company? Through documentation.
- Tell your nurse/doctor/physician’s assistant about all the significant pain or discomfort you are suffering from after the collision. She/He will hopefully enter it in the medical records. And, she/he will hopefully identify it with the appropriate codes that medical providers use to get paid by health insurance companies. These codes, called ICD 10 codes are important to getting you compensated for your injuries.
If there is no documentation to support your claim that you suffered headaches after your accident, it will be very difficult to recover for your pain and suffering they caused, no matter how real they are to you.
We have represented countless accident victims who swear they suffered injuries (headaches or shoulder pain etc.) after a collision but there was no documentation of it in the medical records. Absent direct testimony during a deposition or at trial, it is very difficult for an attorney to obtain compensation for your injuries if they are not in the medical records.
- Take photographs! A picture really does tell a thousand words. There is no better way to demonstrate the significance of your injuries to an adjuster or a jury than through photographs. You cannot take a photograph of a headache of course. But if you are in a splint or cast, take a photo of it. If you are walking on crutches, get a photo of it. If you have bruising, lacerations and abrasions, or end up with any scarring as a result of your injuries, take photographs of them.
We represented a client recently who suffered a simple ankle fracture. For many reasons the insurance company disputed many of our client’s claims for damages. In our demand package we sent over photographs of our client. However, for some reason, the insurance adjuster did not see them. During our negotiations with the adjuster, she attempted to diminish the significance of the fracture. We argued that our client couldn’t even walk after the collision and we had the photographs to prove it. We re-sent the adjuster a photograph of our client in a wheelchair (a photo that we took ourselves). The adjuster immediately offered an extra $5,000.00 to our client and that was enough to settle the case.
We had another case just recently where we had an excellent photo of a large scar that resulted from road rash to our client’s leg. That scar was in a highly visible place on our client’s body. It was visible and apparent to everyone our client came into contact with. And as a result, we were able to obtain the policy limits of $100,000 for our client.
Pain and Suffering
Like documenting your injuries above, you can document your pain and suffering by telling your doctor what you’re going through. However, it may also be helpful to your case to keep a daily journal or log. Your journal should document your:
- Symptoms: “I feel an aching and throbbing pain in my left shoulder every time I move it.” It’s also stiff and I can’t rotate my shoulder at all.
- Pain levels: “The pain is an 8 on a scale of one to ten.”
- Activities effected: “Today I was unable to go to the gym” or “drive my kid to dance/baseball practice.” “I couldn’t ride my bicycle/motorcycle.” “I had to get a ride to work.”
- Doctor’s visits: “11/18/2017 visit with orthopedist Dr. Smith”
- Impact on your ability to sleep: “I woke up 2x last night in pain. Had to take Aleve and ended up sleeping on the Lazy boy.”
- Anything else you’re going through
Be careful what your write. This journal could end up as evidence and if so, the insurance company or defense lawyer could use it against you. Keep your journal brief and to the point. Do not rant. Simply document what you are going through.
We had a case where our client hand-wrote thirty pages documenting his pain and suffering, his anger at the defendant, at the insurance company and at the system. This was not helpful.
For an example of a journal, check out this article on Enjuris.
It seems obvious, but our clients often don’t keep their receipts for items they purchased to treat themselves after a collision. This could include prescription medicine, splints, an Ace bandage, or gauze. Keep receipts of everything you purchased. You can recover for these expenses.
Also, keep a “mileage log” of all the trips you took to your doctor’s office or to physical therapy. You can recover for this as well.
Our client’s often send us documentation of their co-pays. This is not necessary. While it is helpful to document what medical providers you are seeing, we will not recover specifically for your co-pays. However, you will be reimbursed for them and more. Your co-pay is a small percentage of the actual cost of seeing your doctor/physical therapist etc. Your attorney will try to recover for the entire cost of your medical visit – not just the co-pay.
In sum, if you want to know how to prove your personal injury case, in a word – “document” it! For additional information on how to document your case, contact Morton Grove personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.