Often, when I consult with prospective clients about their personal injury case, they worry most about having all the right documents and sufficient evidence. If they don’t have that important piece of evidence-photographs, witness testimony, documents-they assume they don’t have a case.
Certainly, police reports, medical evaluations, witnesses, and photographs all improve the odds of success with a personal injury case. But if you don’t have accident photos, or you don’t have any witnesses, you can still prevail in your personal injury claim.
Why? Because nearly every plaintiff has the most valuable piece of evidence between their two ears-testimony.
Your oral and/or written recollection of how the accident happened, the extent of your injuries, how much pain and suffering you endured, and the money you lost from time off work and/or property damage is the best evidence you’ve got to prove your claim.
“Testimony” doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to testify in court. Most personal injury cases settle out of court. It does mean you’ll need to provide your lawyer with the most complete and accurate information you can, beginning as soon as possible after an accident.
To make sure you have as much information as possible, take notes early and often on anything that may affect your claim. Here are a few note-taking tips to keep in mind:
• The Accident. As soon as you are able, write down everything you can remember about how the accident happened. Note the day, time, and weather, as well as who you were with and where you were going. Write down the details of what you saw and heard and what you felt during and after the accident. If you, the other driver, or any witnesses said or did anything during or after the accident, write that down too.
• Injuries. As soon as possible after the accident, write a list of your injuries and any aches, pains, or discomfort. Keep an ongoing journal for this, as some symptoms don’t manifest until days, even weeks, after an accident. Note if you suddenly have trouble sleeping, if your mood changes, or if you experience heightened anxiety. This information will not only help your lawyer, but it will help the doctor properly diagnose you. And by telling the doctor about all your injuries, you create a medical record that your lawyer can use as evidence.
• Your time. Make note of any days missed from work and the time spent driving to and from doctor’s appointments. Record your mileage. Also record any missed meetings, classes, family and social gatherings…anything you missed because of injuries caused by the accident. Your lawyer may be able to argue for more money to compensate time missed from work and other activities. This record will also come in handy when negotiating pain and suffering damages.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, no matter how much evidence you think you have. A reputable lawyer will offer a free consultation to evaluate your claim, so you have nothing to lose by asking for advice.
Don’t worry if you didn’t think to record an auto accident with your phone. (Who would?) A good memory of what happened is the best evidence you can provide.