Date:September 22, 2015
The NH personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC advise our clients to keep a symptom diary to increase the value of your personal injury claim. The better you are able to describe your injuries or symptoms, the greater your chances are of receiving fair compensation.
Regardless of how you were injured, there is one easy way to increase the value of your case: Keep a symptom diary.
What is a symptom diary? A symptom diary is a means of regularly recording the symptoms you are experiencing as a result of your injuries. It can take many forms, including a traditional, handwritten diary; a spiral notebook; a computer log; a spreadsheet; or even a wall calendar with detailed notes.
How will keeping a symptom diary help my case? Keeping a symptom diary will help your case in two ways:
(1) Proving non-economic losses. In order to obtain compensation for the harm done to you, you must prove that you were, in fact, harmed. Your medical bills, employment records, and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses will help to establish your economic losses. A symptom diary will help to establish your pain and suffering, your loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic losses that are harder to quantify.
(2) Filling gaps in your memory. It may take many months to resolve your personal injury claim with the insurance company, and longer if a lawsuit must be filed. Even if you have an excellent memory, your claim for compensation will be stronger if you have a detailed, written record to support and enhance your recollection.
What should I include in my symptom diary? There are no magic words or phrases you are required to use. There are, however, a couple of ground rules you must follow:
(1) Be honest. Don’t exaggerate your symptoms. If you had a good day, say so. On the other hand, if you had a lousy day, don’t minimize it. Your diary is not the place to be stoic and suffer in silence.
(2) Be specific. A detailed symptom diary is a persuasive symptom diary. For example, do not write simply, “My back hurt all day.” Instead, describe the nature of your pain and how it impacted your day. For example:
• How did you feel when you first woke up in the morning? Were you able to get out of bed, attend to your personal hygiene, and get dressed on your own?
• What was your pain level, on a scale of 1-10? Where was the pain located? Did it radiate? Did it subside or increase as the day progressed?
• Did you take any medication for the pain? Did the medication have side-effects (e.g., drowsiness, irritability, nausea)?
• Did you take any other steps to alleviate the pain (e.g., yoga, meditation, physical therapy)? Were those measures effective?
• How did you spend your day? Were you active or did your symptoms keep you in bed?
• Were you able to go to work? Clean the house? Exercise? Do the shopping? Care for your children? Cook dinner for your family?
• Did you fall asleep easily at night? Did you sleep through the night?
The more specific you can be in describing your symptoms – whether to an insurance adjuster; to opposing counsel; or to a jury at trial – the greater your chances of obtaining fair compensation for the harm done to you.
When should I get started? You can start right now. Choose a format (e.g., a notebook or laptop or wall calendar) that will be easy for you to stick with throughout the life of your claim. Be sure to include the date every time you make a new entry. Try to update your diary at least once a week and when something out-of-the-ordinary happens (e.g., a visit to a new doctor or a trip to the emergency room).
Keep your diary private and confidential. Do not show your symptom diary to anyone – especially the claims adjuster for the person or entity that caused your injuries – without first consulting with the NH personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC.
If you have questions about keeping a symptom diary or about your personal injury case in general, please feel free to give us a call at (603) 624-7200 to schedule a free consultation at your convenience.
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