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Car Crash Injury? Keep a Pain Journal

A lazy injury lawyer will get you enough money to pay for your medical bills and perhaps a bit more. A good injury lawyer will get you money to compensate for the ways in which your life is now different than it was before.

A lazy injury lawyer will get you enough money to pay for your medical bills and perhaps a bit more. A good injury lawyer will get you money to compensate for the ways in which your life is now different than it was before.

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.

Pain and suffering includes changes to your lifestyle. If you were active before, and can no longer do what you previously enjoyed due to someone else's negligence, a good injury lawyer can help compensate you for this loss.

Pain and suffering includes changes to your lifestyle. If you were active before, and can no longer do what you previously enjoyed due to someone else's negligence, a good injury lawyer can help compensate you for this loss.

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. 

As part of your injury claim, you should include the ways in which your lifestyle has been affected. For people who previously lived an active lifestyle, there is no amount of money that can compensate for the things they can no longer do.

As part of your injury claim, you should include the ways in which your lifestyle has been affected. For people who previously lived an active lifestyle, there is no amount of money that can compensate for the things they can no longer do.

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.

A pain journal does not need to be fancy. Keep track of the days you feel worse than usual, and document days when you're feeling better. This will be of great value to your injury law firm as they negotiate on your behalf.

A pain journal does not need to be fancy. Keep track of the days you feel worse than usual, and document days when you're feeling better. This will be of great value to your injury law firm as they negotiate on your behalf.

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. 

Orange County is home to a beautiful coast - if you previously enjoyed days at the beach, but have had to cut back on your leisure activities due to an injury, a good Orange County injury lawyer will help compensate you for this change in your lifestyle.

Orange County is home to a beautiful coast - if you previously enjoyed days at the beach, but have had to cut back on your leisure activities due to an injury, a good Orange County injury lawyer will help compensate you for this change in your lifestyle.

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)

Orange County residents who were injured in a car crash have many options of injury lawyers to choose from. 

Orange County residents who were injured in a car crash have many options of injury lawyers to choose from. 

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. 

How to Choose a Car Crash Lawyer

Attorney or Salesman?

Some people feel like they are talking with used car salesmen when they are talking to an injury law firm. In California, there are no shortage of law firms that practice injury law, so there is competition amongst the lawyers. This is good for you, as it gives you plenty of options. However, it can also lead to a situation where the people you are talking to when looking into a law firm play the role of salesmen, and are not lawyers and will not handle your case. You should expect to speak with a lawyer licensed to practice law in California - if a law firm won’t put you on the phone with the lawyer who will handle your case, you are likely talking to a salesman. Like any sales position, these individuals say all the right thing and put on the charm, but they do not know the intricacies of the law, as they are not lawyers. More importantly, you won’t talk with this person ever again, in most situations. Their job is to sign you up and get your case, not help you in the long run. 

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Who will be your attorney?

If you are looking for a lawyer to help you, you can expect to talk to an actual attorney, not just the sales team. Consider it a red flag if the person you are talking to is not a lawyer, and cannot tell you which lawyer will be handling your case. They will tell you the case will be reviewed by a team of lawyers and assigned to the lawyer most capable to help your case. This sounds good, but what it really means is you have no idea who will be taking your case. Most injury cases last many months and sometimes years. If you sign a contingency fee agreement or contract to hire a lawyer or law firm to represent you, but you’re not allowed to talk to the actual lawyer, do you really have enough information to make an educated decision as to whether the lawyer will be a good fit for you?

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Too Good to be True?

Unfortunately, many people who are looking for a lawyer to help them with their car crash injury case are given unrealistic expectations. If you are discussing your accident claim with an attorney who is telling you how much money you will walk away with, and it sounds too good to be true, it very well may be. Predicting the amount of money a plaintiff will receive is not easy. While a good injury lawyer can give a ballpark estimation, some law firms use inflated estimation with savvy salesman techniques to excite you and convince you to sign on the dotted line. A good case evaluation will include a review of numbers, including the cost of your medical bills, the cost of your future medical treatment, and of course the structure of the attorney's fees. Beware of salesmen who only want to talk about how much money they think you'll get in the end. This can be exciting, but it can also be a smoke and mirrors situation. 

Personal Injury "Specialists"

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a personal injury specialist in the law, according to the State Bar of California. That said, there are law firms that only practice injury law. These law firms obviously have more experience in car crash cases and the nuances of injury law. In comparison, a lawyer who practices a little transactional law, some tax law, perhaps a divorce here and there, does not always know the up-to-date trends and changes in injury law. 

Are They Located Near You?

Surprisingly to some people, this matters less and less as technology enables lawyers to represent people who live far from their physical office. In fact, most personal injury law firms that specialize in car accidents and injury cases in California are able to represent clients throughout the state. This means that it tends to be less important where the physical office of the lawyer or law firm is, and it makes your attorney's experience and practice focus all the more important. 

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If Nothing Else, Remember This

Personal injury cases can be complex, and your attorney's experience in this area of law matters. If you're looking for a lawyer to represent you for your California car accident injury case, or any type of injury case, you should seek the counsel of a lawyer who knows what he or she is doing, and is willing to give you the time of day to discuss your case without pressuring you to sign with his law firm. Injury law firms are notorious for employing aggressive sales techniques - this should be a red flag to you. If you're talking to a salesman, you're being sold something. If you were injured and need someone to help you recover physically and financially, you don't need a salesman, you need a good lawyer. 

This post was written by  The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. , a personal injury law firm located in Newport Beach, California.  The Lions  represent injured people throughout California and focuses exclusively on personal injury law.

This post was written by The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C., a personal injury law firm located in Newport Beach, California. The Lions represent injured people throughout California and focuses exclusively on personal injury law.

Treatment for a Car Accident Injury: How Long Can You Treat?

One of the most frequent and important questions regarding treatment for an injury stemming from a car accident is how long you can treat and expect that the at-fault driver's insurance company will pay for your treatment. Some injuries, such as a broken bone, may be fairly predictable, while other car crash injuries may take significantly longer to mend.

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Big Picture: Treat Until You're Healed

The law basically says that if you were injured and it was not your fault, it is the other party's responsibility to make you whole again. This has been interpreted to mean that you should essentially be put back in the same position you were before the car crash. One way insurance companies avoid paying medical claims from car crashes is by saying that your injuries were "preexisting conditions," or in other words, you already had the ailment or were hurt in that area of your body before the car crash. If that is true, the insurance company (who steps in for the actual driver who caused the crash), does not have to pay for your medical bills relating to a preexisting condition. But what if you were injured in an area of your body that was already painful or hurt, and now it is worse?

Aggravation of Preexisting Conditions

Nobody is perfectly healthy, and the older we get, the more ailments we tend to have. For example, it is common for older people to have back pain. So if you have back pain before a car accident, does that mean that you can't receive medical treatment for the pain if it is now worse than it was before your car accident? California courts have taken the approach of looking at what is fair and reasonable, and consider whether the treatment received is medically necessary. Thus, if you had a bad back before the crash, but it has gotten worse, you should be able to seek treatment. After all, the increase in pain cannot be attributed to you being older, but directly relates to the car crash. Thus, California residents (and this is the same for those living in Southern California as in Northern California) should consider getting medical help and treatment for the aggravation and exacerbation of prior injuries if it is reasonable and medically necessary.

Examples of Treating Prior Medical Conditions

Consider that some people are involved in multiple car crashes. After all, California roads are among some of the busiest in the country, and some of our cities, like Los Angeles, Orange County metro area, like Irvine and Costa Mesa, see millions of drivers every week on their thoroughfares. Thus, some people experience a car wreck more than once. What if a person is injured, received medical treatment and is feeling better, and then gets in another car accident that is not his or her fault, but is injured in the same way again?

If the injury is in the neck and back, the individual will likely follow this type of treatment: a visit to a doctor, which may include going to the emergency room or an urgent care, but often is simply a visit to your primary care physician; then, perhaps they have an x-ray taken, or an MRI, in order to find out the extent and severity of the injury; next, they may go to a chiropractor or pain management doctor and try to heal their injuries through therapy; finally, if necessary, the individual may have a surgical procedure, such as a fusion surgery, or receive a stem cell injection, or an epidural injection. There tends to be a chronology of care that increases in seriousness as the treatment continues. Nobody wants to have an epidural injection, or have an invasive procedure like surgery on their back. However, if the pain a person feels continues, they may elect these procedures.

How do Insurance Policy Limits Play In?

The more treatment an injured person receives, the more expensive it will be. The more intensive the treatment, such as surgery or injection of an epidural or stem cells, the more costly the care is. But what happens if there is not enough money in the at-fault driver's insurance policy? The basic answer is that the at-fault driver's insurance company can rarely be made to pay you more than what their insured's policy limits are. Thus, if the individual who caused the crash was insured for only $15,000, at the end of the day, that is likely the most the insurance company will pay for your medical bills. Of course, if there is a bigger insurance policy, and your injury requires more costly medical care to recover from, then the insurance company will be made to pay more to make you whole again.

It does not seem fair that the same injury can settle for different sums of money, but consider a situation in which two people have the same injuries, but one was injured by someone with a million dollar insurance policy, and the other person was injured by someone with a $15,000 "minimal" policy (in California, to legally drive on California roads, $15,000 is the minimum amount of liability coverage individuals need to be insured for). Now, consider that the two people both need a surgery that costs $50,000. The individual who was hit by someone with a million dollar policy will be able to get the surgery and can reasonably predict the insurance company will eventually be made to foot the bill. The individual hit by the driver with the minimal insurance policy may elect to get the surgery, but how will they pay for it? If the insurance company pays the $15,000, what happens to the remaining $35,000 of the bill? And what about pain and suffering, lost wages, and future medical treatment?

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How an Injury Attorney Can Help

Most people don't know how to proceed in a situation such as the example shown above - even finding out how much the at-fault driver is insured for can be a great challenge to people who are not represented by an injury lawyer. The good news is that injury law firms usually work on a contingency fee basis, meaning whatever money they are paid comes out of what they win. For example, most injury lawyers will pay all the costs on a case up front, and won't get pain anything until they win your case, so you're never left writing a check to your lawyer, not knowing whether you'll actually win in the end or not.

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An injury attorney can help you compare your situation to other cases, and can help advise regarding policy limits, jurisdictional issues (a case in San Francisco may play out differently in court than it would in Los Angeles County, or Orange County), and other questions you might have. Regarding how long you should treat, a good injury lawyer will be able to get into the details about your prior injuries or ailments, and will help you understand the process of how injury cases are handled, including what the general value of your case may be, and whether or not your case is one that will likely go to trial or not. 

Ask More Questions

The more you understand how the injury claims process works in California, the better position you will be in to make wise and educated decisions. If you're like most people, this is new territory. Fortunately, injury lawyers and most injury law firms have seen hundreds and sometimes thousands of cases, and their attorneys can compare your case with the outcome of similar cases. Without knowing how similar cases worked out in the past, you will have a hard time making educated decisions regarding your treatment. For this reasons, many people find it helpful to discuss their injury with a car crash lawyer, even if they don't decide to hire the lawyer. The more you know, the better you'll be in the long run, and that is never more true than when it comes to treating your car accident injury.