If you don’t write down all the details of what happened at the accident scene, you’ll quickly forget. Good note taking and organizational skills are essential in successfully negotiating a personal injury claim. Written documentation of important facts, statements, and other related information will result in a higher settlement offer.
After a car accident, you must write down:
- What you see
- What you hear
- What you say
- What you do
These four simple rules will remind you to collect all the information and supporting evidence you’ll need for the insurance claim. Good notes can mean the difference between an average personal injury settlement, and a substantial one.
Taking Notes at the Accident Scene
Much of the important information and evidence you’ll need for your injury claim can be collected at the scene of the accident. Once the scene is cleared and the participants and witnesses are gone, that window of opportunity closes, and it becomes harder to gather important evidence.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to carry pen and paper in your glove compartment or console. No one expects to be in a car accident, but in the event you are, it pays to be prepared.
Your notes should include:
Vehicles & People Involved
- The at-fault driver’s complete contact information
- License plate number, make, model, and color of the driver’s car
- The driver’s insurance information (policy number and company phone number)
- Names and contact information of all passengers and witnesses
- Statements made by the at-fault driver, passengers, and witnesses
- Names of the paramedics and their contact information
- Names and badge numbers of the police officers
- Service or reference number of the police report
Environment & Circumstances
- The date, time of day, and weather conditions
- Any damage to road signs, guardrails, or other solid objects damaged in the accident
- Your written version of the facts, including a chronological summary of the events leading to the accident, the accident itself, and its aftermath
Here’s an Accident Information Form to keep in your car in case of an accident.
Taking Notes After the Accident
If you were transferred by ambulance or driven to the hospital after the accident, you should continue taking notes. If you’re physically unable, you can have a close friend or family member help you.
At the emergency room, write down the following:
- Address and telephone number of the hospital
- Names of the ER physicians and nurses who treated you
- Dosages of your prescriptions (copies if possible)
- Name of the pharmacy, telephone number, and pharmacist’s name
- Contact information for the hospital’s records department, so you can request copies of your medical charts
If you see your primary care physician, or any specialists, write down:
- Your doctor’s name and contact information
- Referrals to other specialists
- Copies of any medical releases or HIPAA documents
- Instructions on how to obtain your medical records
How to Organize Your Claim
A personal injury claim is a process. It begins at the scene of an accident, and ends when you receive the settlement check. Successful injury claims are often hard-fought. If you want to be successful, you must be proactive. This includes taking good notes, acquiring important documentation, and organizing your paperwork.
Part of the claims adjuster’s job is to have all relevant data collected in her file. That way she can quickly access specific information at any time during negotiations. You must be just as organized as the adjuster. You should be focusing on negotiations, not on finding the right piece of paper.
Setting Up Your File
You need one or two accordion folders with tabbed files, so you have a total of at least 15 separated sections. Make copies of all your notes and every other piece of documentation you’ve collected, and make a tab for each of the sections named below. File your documents accordingly.
Section 1 – Statute of Limitations date
- Date the claim must be settled, or a lawsuit filed
Section 2 – At-fault driver’s information
- Driver’s name and contact information
- The car’s make, model, color, year, and license plate number
Section 3 – Insurance information
- Your insurance company’s policy number and telephone
- At-fault driver’s insurance company’s name, address, telephone, and policy number
- Claim adjuster’s name, and direct telephone number
- Copy of initial notification letter to insurance company
- All correspondence between you, the at-fault driver, and the insurance company
- The claim number
Section 4 – Medical documents
- Paramedics’ contact information
- Hospital name, address, and telephone number
- Names of ER physicians and nurses
- Copies of prescriptions
- Pharmacist’s name, address, and phone number
- Copies of hospital charts, test results, and medical bills
- Authorizations for release of information
Section 5 – Medical diagnosis and prognosis
- Original medical diagnosis and prognosis for your injury, as written by your doctor, including estimated cost of future treatment
Section 6 – Letters of protection
- Letters to physicians and medical treatment providers guaranteeing payment
Section 7 – Witness information
- Witnesses’ contact information
- Witnesses’ written or recorded statements
Section 8 – Photographs and videos
- Originals and copies of photographs and videos of the accident scene
Section 9 – Police report
- Copy of the police report
- Police officers’ names and badge numbers
Section 10 – Settlement negotiations
- Chronological notes, including date and time of all conversations with the adjuster
- Written offers and counter-offers
Section 11 – Lost wages
- Written verification of past, present, and future lost income, signed by your employer
Section 12 – Out-of-pocket expenses
- Copies of receipts for prescription medications
- Receipts for over-the-counter medications, slings, bandages, etc.
- Parking and gasoline receipts
Section 13 – Legal research
- Copies of any articles, cases, or reference materials you used to help your claim
Section 14 – Property damage
- Information related to property damage and cost of repair
Section 15 – Miscellaneous
- Any other information related to your claim
Never submit original documents to the insurance company. Always send copies and keep the originals in your file. The only exception might be when you sign the insurance company’s release for medical records related to your current injuries.
The importance of good notes and organization can’t be overstated. You must be able to access vital information during settlement negotiations.
Remember, the adjuster wants to settle your claim. That’s her job. But she can’t do it without credible evidence. So, give her what she needs. Provide so much supporting documentation that she can only settle in your favor.
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