If you or a loved one has been injured, on the job, in a car accident, while at a shopping mall, or any number of other ways, you may be entitled to compensation. In order to accurately determine how much compensation you might be entitled to, different methods are used. For example, medical expenses can easily be determined by reviewing medical bills. Pain and suffering, on the other hand, may be more difficult to quantify. Universally, however, the best way to make sure you are fully compensated is to keep an injury diary – even for expenses you think may be easily provable.
What Does an Injury Diary Include?
The short answer to this question is “everything.” Recall, your personal injury claim will take some time to resolve. It could be months, perhaps even years, before a resolution occurs. An injury diary will be of immense assistance in determining the true value of your claim. While not every topic discussed below will be applicable in every case, the following is a list of things that should be considered when making entries into your injury diary.
Even for things that you might think would be obvious, it is important to document economic damages. You should document every visit to each doctor, specialist, therapist, (physical therapist or the kind of therapist that does counseling for mental health), chiropractor, or other health care provider. In addition to keeping track of visits so you can be compensated for the cost of those visits, you should also keep in mind that you are entitled to be compensated for the cost of traveling to and from those visits. This will include mileage if you drive, bus fare if you use public transportation, or cab fare. If your visit requires you to spend the night, based on the distance from your home, or other, medical reason, you are entitled to compensation for your hotel room and meals. Particularly if you see a healthcare professional who has more than one office location, documenting the location of the office you were seen in is critical to recovering transportation costs.
You should document the cost of medical equipment and medical supplies that you may need. This will include the rental of a wheelchair, or hospital bed, as well as smaller items, such as bandages, splints, shoulder slings, etc.
If your injury requires you to hire domestic help to assist you with caring for your home or your children, you will need to document this in your injury diary. This expense is compensable. However, you must be able to prove this expense. Consequently, each time you pay your housekeeper, you should document the services performed so as to clearly document that it was “injury related.”
If you have to take some time off of work for a visit to your doctor or therapist, you should document this. Simply providing a list of sick time taken, as provided by your employer, will not be sufficient. This will not document whether the sick time was injury related, or simply the standard use of sick time for other, unrelated sickness.
Because noneconomic damages are more difficult to quantify, a well documented injury diary will be an enormous help. Almost everyone will agree that if you are injured in an accident, there will be pain, suffering, and inconvenience. But imagine for a moment that you are a juror, considering an award of damages to two different injured parties. One injured person testifies that “it hurt a lot, for a long time. And it was really, really inconvenient.” The other person testifies, “I couldn’t get out of bed for the first week because the pain was so bad. During the second and third weeks, I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs. By the fourth week, I could put some weight on my right foot, but after standing at my job for 45 minutes, the pain was so great I had to sit down. I wasn’t able to stand for an entire shift until October 16, 2015, which was seven months after the accident.”
When asked about how it was inconvenient, the second person testifies, “Because I was in a wheelchair the first three weeks, I had difficulty at my office. While the front door of the building is equipped with an automatic door, the doors within the office space can only be manipulated manually, which is difficult to do in a wheelchair. Additionally, I travel for my job. Traveling with a wheelchair requires additional planning, and I needed someone to accompany me into the airport to help me with my suitcase and carry on. When I am not in a wheelchair I can handle these things myself.”
Given this testimony, who are you inclined to give more money to? An injury diary provides documentation of specific instances of pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
You should also document what’s called “loss of society and companionship.” This, practically speaking, means “how did your injury impact your social life?” If you regularly go hunting with your brothers on the season opener, and you are not able to do so because of your injury, this could be a loss of society and companionship. You should document each loss as it is happening to assure yourself and your lawyer that you won’t overlook the incident later. If you are not sure if an incident qualifies, write it down. Your lawyer will make a determination of what is and isn’t compensable.
Compliance With Doctor’s Orders
South Carolina’s laws include something called “contributory negligence.” This means, if you contributed to your injury, or your conduct delayed your recovery, you could recover less than the full amount you are entitled to. One way lawyers attempt to prove contributory negligence is to point to your self-care. If you do not follow your doctor’s orders to the letter, you may be “contributorily negligent.” Consequently, it is critical both to document your doctor’s orders, and your compliance with those orders. This could mean something as simple as documenting each day that you performed your physical therapy exercises that day.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Injured?
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you should contact the skilled personal injury attorneys in Lugoff, South Carolina of Connell Law Firm for a free consultation. We provide after hours appointments when necessary, and can travel to your home for your case review.