Being organized is always a good idea. Having good organizational skills in your personal and professional life makes you more efficient, saves time, and promotes positive results in all you do. When it comes to your personal injury claim, good organizational skills can mean the difference between an above average settlement and a mediocre one.
You must be able to instantly access any document you need when speaking with the adjuster. You also want to know if you’re missing a piece of important information. A well-organized file will help expose any gaps in your documentation.
Part of organizing your claim is taking lots of notes. They help to remind you what was said during telephone calls, and can serve as references to help link various pieces of evidence. Be sure to take lots of notes throughout the course of your claim.
Your File Folder
A personal injury attorney’s method for creating a client file is a good model to follow. An effective injury attorney always keeps her paperwork in good order. She’ll also have plenty of notes supplementing the documents and reminding her of important events.
Begin with a large accordion-style folder, the kind with lots of dividers inside. Each section should have a label, but if not, you can purchase them separately. You will maintain a section of the folder for each category of documentation related to your claim.
Spending a few dollars in preparation for the settlement process is well worth the money. It enables you to focus solely on negotiating your settlement, and not on shuffling through piles of documents.
File Sections and Contents
1. Property Damage
In this section, include all information related to your property damage, including body shop estimates for repairs, towing bills, and receipts or estimates for damaged personal items.
File all written correspondence in chronological order, with the most recent at the front and oldest at the back. This part of your file should include:
- Your notification letter to the at-fault driver and insurance company
- The insurance company’s reservation of rights letter
- Your letters to all medical providers
- All correspondence to and from the adjuster
- Your demand letter
- All other miscellaneous correspondence
3. Medical Bills
This is where you’ll include every bill from every medical provider in chronological order, with the most recent on top. This section includes bills from chiropractors, therapists, and all other health care providers. Begin with the ambulance bill, if applicable, and continue with every other bill right up to the present day.
4. Medical Records
This is for all documentation related to your medical treatment. Although similar to the previous section, here you’ll include a chronological listing of every medical procedure and treatment related to your injury. Attach copies of all of your medical records, including:
- Admitting charts
- Doctors’ and nurses’ notes
- Exam and test results
- Doctors’ medical narratives
5. Wage Verification
This part of the file folder won’t be very thick, but the contents are important. Place the letter from your employer, and any other verification of your lost wages and compensation in this section.
6. Witness Information
Include contact information for any witnesses and copies of their written statements here. If you have more than a few witnesses, you can put them in alphabetical order.
Have all your digital photographs developed. Include photos taken at the time of the injury and over the next several days. On the back of each photo write the date it was taken, who took it, and what the picture represents. Include a note in the file if you or anyone else has video of the incident (on your cell phone or a security camera, for instance).
This is where you’ll keep all notes taken during each phase of the settlement process. Make an entry each time you speak with the adjuster, a witness, medical provider, employer, etc. This is also where you’ll write down offers and counteroffers as the negotiation progresses.
Example: Taking Notes During the Claims Process
at 3:15 p.m.
at 10:15 a.m.
at 9:25 a.m.
at 1:25 p.m.
Keep a Calendar
Keep a separate calendar for your personal injury claim and check it every day. Make an entry on dates you agreed to contact the adjuster or dates he said he’d contact you. This way you’ll be able to hold the adjuster accountable for his commitments.
Make sure you clearly note the statute of limitations date. Mark it in large red letters beginning four months before the statute expires, and then every month until it actually does. If you organize your calendar like you organize your paperwork, you’ll be on your way to a smooth settlement negotiation.
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