Documentation is Key to Your Personal Injury Suit
May 4, 2023
Here’s what you need for a successful case
By Aitken Aitken Cohn
Getting hurt in an accident can be life-altering. In addition to your pain and suffering, a severe injury can mean months or years of medical treatment, hefty bills, missed work, lost wages, and reduced quality of life. The financial and emotional burden can feel overwhelming as you try to heal physically.
If your accident occurred due to someone else’s carelessness, negligence, or reckless behavior, you have the right to sue for damages.
It’s important to know that documentation will be a crucial factor in the success of your personal injury suit. Keeping proper and thorough records of the incident, injury, and aftermath—right from the start—is vital to recovering the compensation you need and deserve.
Here are five main types of documentation you need for a successful personal injury claim:
- Police, Paramedic, and Incident Reports. Official reports (in case of a motor vehicle accident, for example, are required under California law) will be critical to your case. Law enforcement officers collect evidence and witness testimony at the scene. For detail, accuracy, and thoroughness, it’s essential to have witness statements taken immediately following an accident. An EMS report provides a written record of the patient’s assessment at the scene and in the ambulance. If you are injured at work, you must file an incident report, and you will receive a copy.
- Photographs. In the shock and confusion of the moments right after an accident, it can be challenging to remember to take photographs. Still, taking photos of the location, conditions, any vehicles or equipment involved, and damage sustained, is important. It’s also helpful to take pictures of your injuries at the time of the accident and as you recover.
- Medical Records, Bills, Insurance Statements, and accident-related expenses. Collect and keep records from all healthcare providers that treat you for injuries resulting from the accident. (In some cases, you may also need to provide previous medical records to prove that an injury is directly accident-related, not the result of a pre-existing condition). It can take a long time for requests for medical records to be fulfilled; your attorney can help collect and expedite these records, but it is advantageous for you to begin gathering them immediately. The clock is ticking! In California, the statute of limitations for most personal injury suits is two years from the date of injury, but exceptions do apply depending on the nature of the injury, such as medical malpractice, or if a governmental entity is involved.
You will also need copies of all relevant insurance policies and statements. In addition, you may have various expenses stemming from your injury, such as hotel/trip receipts if you’ve had to travel for treatment, necessary medical equipment, wages paid to a caregiver, etc. Collect all of these.
- Record of Lost Wages. If the injury from your accident prevents you from returning to work due to physical, mental, or psychological limitations, keep track of the days/hours you miss and the pay forfeited. You can also ask your employer for a lost wages report.
- Personal Journal. If you stopped keeping a diary as a teen, now is the time to start again. Write everything down with as much detail as possible, beginning with the accident and injury. Keep a journal of your treatment, appointments, and progress; your pain and limitations and how they impact daily activities and overall quality of life; and how you feel and heal. Keep track of the medications you’re taking and what therapy you’re doing; document how you’re following the advice of your doctors and other healthcare providers.
Although, legally, you can file a personal injury lawsuit on your own, the reality is that you’ll be up against powerful insurance companies with skilled defense attorneys and professional claim adjusters. You’re at a serious disadvantage without an attorney. The California personal injury lawyers at Aitken*Aitken*Cohn have six decades of landmark results. We can help you make your strongest case and win the compensation you need to get on with your recovery and life.