If you’ve been injured in a car accident and are recovering from your injuries, you may notice that your symptoms are worse some days, and better others. This is typical for most people, and with any luck you won’t have to get involved in a lawsuit in order to get a fair settlement for your car crash case. However, even in pre-litigation (when your attorney is negotiating on your behalf with the insurance company of the at-fault driver), insurance companies’ default position is that you’re only as injured or hurt as the paperwork says you are. That means that if it isn’t documented over time, you are not really injured.
What is a Pain Journal?
Your documentation of the pain you experience as a result of your car crash does not need to be anything fancy. In fact, writing notes in a simple notebook is enough. The most important thing is that you document regularly how you feel, and the affect it has on your life. For example, if you have a particularly difficult day, and have to cancel a social event, or forego a planned activity, this should be documented. Many pain journals are simple hand-written entries on a couple sheets of paper. In California, there are so many car crashes and subsequent injury claims, that you need to show the at-fault driver's insurance company that your injuries are real, affect your daily life, and did not simply disappear overnight.
How Frequently Should You Update It?
Because your pain journal is an informal document, there is no rule of thumb to follow as far as how often you should update it. However, the more often you can write down specific instances of pain, and how it affects your lifestyle, work, or ability to parent, these things should be written down. If you are seeking medical treatment for an injury, you should be updating your pain journal at least a couple times a week. As time goes on, your pain journal will show how your symptoms are improving, if they are improving. This can also help show that you were compliant in following doctors' recommendations and orders. As the cost of your medical treatment rises, the insurance company will be looking for reasons to deny paying your medical bills. When a plaintiff has a thorough journal showing how the injury has affected his or her life, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other party's attorneys to say you weren't hurt and they shouldn't have to pay for your medical expenses.
Why Does it Help?
Your case is one of tens of thousands that insurance adjusters will review. If necessary, your attorney may have to file a lawsuit on your behalf, and will have to prove that you were injured by someone else, and that your injuries have affected your lifestyle. As part of the process of determining the value of your case, or in other words, how much money you are likely to be paid as a settlement, your medical records will make up one portion of your claim, and your pain and suffering will make up the second part of the evaluation.
What is 'Pain and Suffering'
The laws in California provide for compensation for your pain and suffering, which is sometimes called your general damages. So if you were injured in a California car crash, and you are seeking a claim against the driver who hit you, you will have two parts to your claim: special damages (the "hard costs", such as your medical bills and other things you paid out of pocket for), and general damages (hard to put a number on, but the value of your pain and suffering). The more you can prove you were injured, the better position your injury lawyer will be in to win more money for you. For example, if you had a hobby you can no longer participate in, or if your exercise routine was disrupted or changed as a result of the car injury, you are entitled to pain and suffering damages for the negative affect the accident has had on your lifestyle. All these things are unique to your case, and of course specific to your lifestyle. But it is not enough to simply state that you've missed out, or your life has changed. You need documentation, and a pain journal can be of great assistance to your lawyer as he or she fights for your case.
Assessing General Damages (Pain and Suffering)
Your personal injury lawyer will be explaining the many ways in which your life has been affected by your injury. This may include anything from a sport you can no longer play, to difficulties caring for your children, to discomfort in a variety of situations unique to your life as a result of someone else's negligence. Because it is not as simple as adding up receipts and claiming the total, you must be specific in explaining to your injury lawyer the ways in which your life has been affected. He or she will then argue these points on your behalf. A good injury lawyer in California will be able to compare the types of losses you have incurred with similar cases in the past. An injury law firm that has handled a lot of cases and is paying attention to trends in the courts will be in the best position to fight for maximum value for your car crash injury case.