DISCLAIMER: BRB discourages prospective clients from bringing a claim for bodily injury unless serious injury has been suffered. If you are going to make a full recovery in a few weeks or months, it is not in your best interest to make a claim for personal injury for several reasons – here are 2 major ones:
First, if you suffer a serious injury in the future, the bodily injury claim made for the minor injury is used by the defense as a black mark against you. Juries don’t like it when a person has brought multiple claims for personal injury. If you suffered a neck strain for which you recovered in two months and then later suffer a herniated disc in your cervical spine, the defense will argue your herniated disc was caused when you suffered the minor injury. You are much more likely to convince a jury that your previous injury was relatively minor if you never brought a claim to be compensated for it.
Second, for minor injury, it is very likely that different forms of insurance will be available to pay all medical expenses with very little out of pocket cost. In a car accident, your own auto insurance will pay for your medical expenses up to at least $5,000 with no co-pay for Pennsylvania residents. In a trip and fall accident, the business or home owner may have a medical payment policy to protect you from out of pocket medical expenses.
So, if BRB is handling your personal injury claim, that means we believe you have suffered a serious injury and you are worthy of compensation for your pain, frustration, embarrassment, inconvenience, and loss of ability to perform your activities of life – in addition to past and future medical expenses and lost earnings.
Here are 8 ways you can improve the value of your case while trying to get everything you can out of life despite your serious injury.
1. DO take serial photographs of your injuries and recovery over time, and date the photos and note who took them. Ask your therapist or doctor if you can video from your phone the treatment being provided. This documentary evidence is very valuable in creating the timeline and extent of your suffering. Since you may be coming to trial many years after the injury, and you likely will look much different than over the time of your recovery, these photographs and video will help the jury understand that recovery was a painful and lengthy process.
2. DO keep a diary of how you feel and what activities in your life are being affected. Litigation can take many years. You will forget many years later how you could not attend your son’s baseball game because you could not move without excruciating pain. You will forget the moments you lashed out at your loved ones because the pain overcame your ability to be patient. You won’t remember that you missed 3 hours of work to attend a doctor’s visit and felt badly that your colleagues were left with your work. Writing it down in your diary will help you remember it and act as evidence that these things happened to you.
3. DO keep records of out of pocket medical expenses, fuel costs, travel time to and from doctor’s, wait times at doctor’s offices, and many of the other inconveniences that are caused due to the careless act of another. Give this list of items to your attorney. This is difficult to recreate after the fact. It is a mistake to assume that anyone else is keeping a record of this information.
4. DO tell your lawyer what co-workers, friends and people you deal with regularly will be able to explain how this injury has affected your life. You are understandably embarrassed by the limitations caused by your injury and how angry and frustrated you feel that the world goes on despite your severe life altering pain. You will likely withdraw and not engage with friends and family as you normally would. Believe me, your friends and family will notice this. This is very important evidence to be able to establish from someone who has no economic interest in the outcome of your case.
5. DO tell your friends, family, co-workers and others how badly you are feeling so they can understand why you are not engaged as you normally would be. Your lawyer will likely tell you not to speak with anyone about your injury except your doctor and lawyer. I think this is old time advice and not in the best interest of your emotional well-being. By talking to people you would normally confide in, you will feel less isolated and your friends will understand that you are not angry or upset with them by not engaging.
6. DO follow your doctor’s instructions. If treatment is not working, explain that to your doctor so an adjustment can be made to the treatment regimen. If you are not satisfied that your doctor is addressing your pain and dysfunction, find a doctor who will listen. Some people make the mistake of choosing to stop treatment because the first recommended treatment is not working or the doctor makes you feel like it’s all in your head. Don’t accept anyone else’s judgment. You know your body best.
7. DO try to resume all activities as soon as you can. If you physically cannot perform your work for example, try to volunteer doing something you can do. If you can’t perform the physical activities of a Girl Scout troop leader, than make phone calls to raise funds or help organize the events. If you can’t run anymore, try walking. If you can’t walk, try using a stationary bike. Juries like people who try to get back into the game and if they can’t, they like to see the struggle made to do so. This is also helpful for your mental and emotional framework. Sitting at home watching TV thinking about your case is the worst thing you can do for yourself. It leads to isolation and depression.
8. DON’T use social media or let your friends post to your social media accounts. Put your accounts setting on “private”. Social media is often an effective and fun means of communication. But a false impression of health and vitality can be created by the posting of a single happy picture. In the representation of a man who suffered neck and head injuries that caused him chronic pain for years, the defense lawyer pulled a picture from his Facebook account showing him smiling happily with a bunch of friends at an event. It was one picture, and one event, and several years after motor vehicle wreck which caused his injuries. But the effect was to create doubt in the jury that this man was credible.