Documenting Your Injuries and Property Damage Lays the Foundation for a Strong Car Accident Case
Ensuring that you are properly compensated after your car accident means getting organized. Collecting and keeping the documentation you need is the most important thing you will do to demonstrate the injuries and damage you suffered because of your accident. Here are a few types of documents that make up the substance of most personal injury claims.
Get a copy of your Accident Report
Local police departments can provide crash reports – for instance, the Asheville Police Department has an online crash report request form. You can also request certified copies by mail with the NC DMV Crash Report Request Form. It can take forever for the DMV to actually send you your documents, so request them as soon as possible.
Request copies of your records from the ambulance service, hospital, physical therapy, chiropractor and other institutions that provided your care after your accident. You should also obtain copies of records from your primary care doctor to fully demonstrate how well you were before your accident and how profoundly your injuries have impacted your life.
Most health care organizations have forms for patients to fill out to request their records. If you cannot obtain one of these forms, you can use our Sample Letter to Request Medical Records.
Keep copies of medical bills, prescriptions, receipts, discharge information, and any other documents your providers give you. These documents prove that you received the treatment you claim you received and that you are making an effort to get well.
Proper documentation is crucial part of claiming lost wages. The first step is to get doctor’s notes to justify your lost wage claim. This note must include dates or concrete time periods in which you were unable to work due to your injuries. Then, you can request a letter or form from your employer that states:
- your job title;
- your rate of pay;
- how many hours you typically work per week, including overtime;
- how many days of work you missed, including vacation and sick days you used;
- and the total amount of wages you lost.
Use our Sample Wage Verification Form if your employer does not have one.
Know Your Policy
It’s a good idea to get clear on what your insurance coverage amounts to. Reviewing your insurance policy will help you understand what you’re entitled to recover from your auto coverage as well as your health coverage.
Records of Written Communications
You can ask insurance adjusters to correspond with you by email as opposed to telephone. Save every email you send or receive in order to form an accurate record and timeline of all your correspondence with the insurance company. Unless you record your phone calls, you cannot prove what was said when or by whom. Email records ensure transparency and accuracy in the communication process.
How to Properly Obtain Witness Statements
Witnesses who saw your accident can be invaluable in proving your case in the event of a he said/she said dispute. Collect written statements from eyewitnesses to back up your claims about the accident. They can be as simple as first person narratives of the incident, formatted like a journal entry. Keep these on file along with your witness’ names and contact information.
Photos of the Accident Scene, Property Damage or Bodily Injury
Taking photos of your injuries and property damage makes them more “real” than the itemized lists you’ll see on medical and repair bills. Providing these photos along with your bills proves that you really did suffer the injuries you claim and helps to paint the overall picture of how serious your accident was.
Keeping photos of your damaged property is only one type of photographic evidence you’ll need. It is also important to document other aspects of the crash site – for instance, the intersection where your accident occurred. If you were too injured to take photos, you may be able to obtain some from insurance company representatives, who may have photographed the crash scene. Also if your accident occured at a busy intersection or in front of a gas station, there may be surveillance footage available from the city or the property owner.
Get Organized ASAP
It’s best to make your requests for documents as soon as you feel well enough to do so. Many people keep the records they receive in accordion folders dedicated to their personal injury claims to make sure everything is accessible as it’s needed. Surveillance footage, for example, usually is purged after a certain amount of time, so try to request it as soon as you feel able.
When to Hire a Lawyer
While it’s possible for many people to settle their car accident claims without the help of a lawyer – particularly if the claim is small – personal injury lawyers typically have more experience in dealing with insurance companies than accident victims, and are able to negotiate claims with more authority. In addition to being able to advocate for clients in discussions with adjusters, lawyers can also handle requests for records and investigate other aspects of your case. It is always worthwhile to call an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the details of your case, and available options. They almost always offer free consultations for this type of discussion.
If you have been involved in a car accident or otherwise injured due to no fault of your own, please call or email our office. An experienced Minick Law Personal Injury Attorney is standing by to discuss your case with you. Consultations are always free, and we are happy to provide guidance if handling the case yourself is in your best interest.