Chief Commercial Officer
Do not rely on your memory.
We have heard of cases where valid claims have fallen down...
...because the plaintiff has forgotten the details of an accident...
..became flustered in meetings...
...and lost credibility as a witness.
Your ability to recall minor facts can be make or break, a year or two down the track.
Don't have your claim discounted because the insurer trips you up over small details.
Insurers and lawyers are predictable. We know that. We are lawyers. Without fail insurers and their legal team will try to discount you as a witness (and reduce your compensation as a result).
But it doesn’t have to be all bad news. Taking some simple steps to collect evidence, particularly in the first few weeks following an accident can help prove your credibility and ensure your claim is taken seriously.
Notes can be essential two or six or ten months later when you put the important facts together for a final demand for compensation.
Having notes to remind you of...
...is far easier and more accurate than relying on your memory.
Start by making a word doc or writing in a journal. Alternatively, use Google Docs, so you have access to your notes wherever you are.
As soon as your head is clear enough, write down all the details of your accident.
Take notes of things including:
This is the bulk of your journaling. Do not skip small details. Include every detail of what you saw and heard and felt…
…all of the twists, blows and shocks to your body immediately, during and right after the accident.
Chief Commercial Officer
You don't know how valuable the minor details could be later down the track. Write everything you can think of down.
Be sure to include anything you remember hearing anyone – a person involved in the accident or a witness – say about the accident.
In the first days following your accident, make daily notes of all pain and discomfort your injuries cause.
For at least the first month or two make notes daily on areas such as any:
Again write down the small details. You may suffer niggling pain that seems inconsequential at the time but may become important when you trying to gain compensation.
Taking notes on your injury will make it easier for you (and possibly your lawyer) to later describe to an insurance company how much and what kind of pain you were in, and for how long.
Writing down your different injuries will also help you remember to report them to a doctor or other medical provider when your receive treatment.
A relatively small snap of the neck, for example, may not seem worth mentioning but it might help:
…understand why your bad back pain developed two to three days later, or several weeks, after the accident.
The easiest way to provide evidence of the injuries sustained in the accident is to have them documented in your medical records.
The only way to get your injuries into a medical record is tell your doctor about them and to accurately do that, you will need notes to jog your memory.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and then some.
Photos are useful because they…
…preserve evidence of the extent of the injury
…show the damage better than you can describe them
…are difficult to contradict. An insurer will find it harder to deny the evidence in a photograph.
Wounds and injuries heal. Without photographs it will be difficult later to convince and insurance company in the ways and to the degree you claimed.
Failing to seek immediate treatment can lead an insurance company to believe that your injuries were not that serious, or that you made them up entirely.
Chief Commercial Officer
The high cost of medical treatment often makes people reluctant to go see a doctor or physio.
But in the case of an accident where someone else was at fault, that person or business, through its insurance, will be obligated to repay you for all reasonable medical expenses associated with your injury.
You may also be entitled to compensation for economic and other losses but you will need documentation.
Most claims for economic loss rely on you proving that you either:
… because of your injuries.
Other important notes to make that don’t relate to your economic loss but rather cover your general loss of enjoyment of life include missed:
Make note of these factors too. They can often be overlooked in a compensation claim and can be financially compensated for.
Return to the scene of the accident as soon as possible to locate any evidence and photograph any conditions you believe may have contributed to the accident.
Draw a diagram of where key things were/are located such as:
Again, take photos from a range of angles. Be sure to take them at around the same time of day as the accident to show the appropriate light and traffic conditions.
Having a witness on your side is powerful.
Witnesses may be able to describe details that confirm what your believed happened. This backs up your story…
…and ensures that the insurer can’t dismiss your claim.
Here’s how to gather evidence from witnesses so that the insurer disregard their statements.
Start taking notes about conversations (telephone, in person or emails) that you have with witnesses, insurance companies and other medical personnel (such as other doctors or nurses).
Make written notes of the:
…of every conversation you have about your accident.
This last point is less about note-taking and more about taking an extra action that covers all your bases so no insurance company can discount you as a liar.
In the course of your claim, you will likely be told or promised something or given some information that you want to make sure isn’t denied at a later date...
…witness statements or
…results of tests
…when you expect to hear the result of your claim.
Immediately after the conversation, send a letter confirming what the person told you.
The letter does not have to be elaborate, just a brief restatement of what was said.
Make a copy for your files before sending it on.
A sample email or letter can be shown below.
111 Smith Street
Brisbane QLD 4000
Dear Mr Smith,
This email is to confirm our telephone discussion on January 2, 20xx in which you informed me that you would advise me of the outcome of my claim by no later than January 15, 20xx.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
The claims process can be a battle of determination. Insurers are tough but with these notes, you will be holding all the cards.