That might seem like a “no-brainer,” but you would be surprised by how often accident victims don’t get around to seeing a doctor right away, even when they have very real symptoms of injury.
We also sometimes talk to victims who simply can’t remember where they went for care.
Even the most diligent patients are prone to assume that their doctor’s office is keeping all their records for them.
While that may be true, we also encourage our clients to keep:
- A thorough list of all your symptoms & when they began
- An independent journal documenting the progress of your recovery
- A log of every conversation you have with a medical professional
- All insurance documents: Explanation of Benefits, statements, etc.
- Your health care insurance policy documents from each relevant year
- All medical bills (invoices, statements, etc.)
- Photographs of injuries and their progress over time
- Hospital discharge paperwork
- Any letters from your doctor
- Paperwork relating to any medical treatments or trials
- Prescriptions & usage / dosage instructions
- Receipts of payment for medical services & devices
- Contracts or agreements you sign with health care providers
- Any other documentation relating to your medical care
In fact, you should keep each of these items in duplicate, meaning at least two copies stored in different places for safekeeping.
Does that seem like overkill? Why would all that paperwork be that important?
Keeping Track of Medical Records Helps You Prove Your Case
In any personal injury case, the plaintiff (the person claiming damages, i.e. the victim) has the legal burden of proof.
Whether you are negotiating a private settlement or making your case in court, you will need to have persuasive evidence of each of the following elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty (in other words, the defendant was “negligent”).
- This breach of duty (or “negligence”) caused you an injury.
- You have suffered damages as a result of the injury.
Generally speaking, the first element is relatively straightforward. We all have a general duty to behave reasonably and to avoid causing other people harm. Some people, like doctors, even have special duties in that regard.
The remaining elements, however, will often hinge entirely on the available evidence. This is where we really begin to see the importance of keeping track of medical records during your personal injury claim.
Medical records don’t lie. Courts tend to look at these records with a great deal of trust.
Your records will also help to form the basis of expert witness testimony, as well as our own analysis as experienced West Virginia personal injury attorneys.
Your medical records can help to establish, for example, whether a doctor violated the appropriate standard of medical care, or whether your injuries were truly caused by the car crash or the accident in question.
Without medical evidence, building a factual basis for your claim can become very challenging. Without strong enough evidence, you won’t be able to meet your burden of proof.
We Use Medical Records to Calculate Your Damages
In addition to proving that you suffered damages, you will also have to provide the court (or the insurance adjustor) with a factual basis for the monetary value of your damages.
Medical bills are the first building block in a case for damages. These help us understand exactly how much your injuries have cost you out of pocket.
Other types of damages aren’t easily expressed in monetary terms — things like emotional distress, pain and suffering, and so on.
Even when it comes to these “non-economic damages,” keeping track of medical records will help you draw a reasonable line of connection between your out-of-pocket costs and physical injuries on the one hand and your emotional or psychological injuries on the other.
Non-economic damages can sometimes represent a substantial portion of an accident victim’s overall financial recovery, but courts and insurance companies tend to look at such claims skeptically unless there is a strong evidential record supporting them.
Beating Insurance Companies to the Punch
Part of the importance of keeping track of medical records during your personal injury claim is anticipating the insurance company’s defense tactics.
Insurance companies will look for any opportunity to reduce their liability or avoid it altogether. If there’s a problem with your medical records — or if you don’t have any — they will pounce on that right away.
Insurance defense lawyers love to raise arguments like these:
- “How do we know your injury wasn’t caused by something else?”
- “If your injuries were that serious, why did you wait to see a doctor?”
- “Sure, you received medical treatments, but they weren’t medically necessary.”
- “You’re exaggerating your injuries in order to get money.”
- “You had a preexisting condition, and we aren’t liable for that.”
- “You’ll never convince a jury with this flimsy evidence, so we aren’t going to bring a lot of money to the negotiating table.”
As experienced West Virginia personal injury attorneys, we have a long track record of successfully countering these defense tactics. We understand how insurance companies approach injury claims, and we are prepared to stand off against them aggressively. But we cannot overstate the importance of medical evidence.
Even the strongest defense arguments can fall apart in the face of clear, convincing, and credible medical records.
See a Doctor Right Away
If you’ve recently been in an accident of any kind, seek medical attention right away. (If your claim involves possible medical malpractice, be sure you see an independent doctor who is not affiliated or acquainted with your previous providers.)
Having a documented doctor’s visit soon after an accident can be extremely helpful to your claim.
Some injuries do not produce symptoms right away. Even if you think you’re okay, it’s a good idea to schedule a comprehensive medical exam ASAP.
Don’t Have a Lot of Medical Evidence?
While medical records are extremely important, please don’t assume that you’re out of options just because you haven’t been very careful about keeping records so far.
Every case is unique, and depending on the circumstances, there may be other kinds of credible evidence available. Please reach out to our office to talk about your options.
Schedule a Cost-Free, No-Obligation Legal Consultation Today
Keeping track of medical records during your personal injury claim is important because there is a lot on the line. Let us help you build a compelling case for the full and fair justice you deserve.
The West Virginia personal injury lawyers at Colombo Law bring years of experience to the table, coupled with a tireless drive for justice.
In the majority of our cases, we have been able to negotiate favorable settlements without going to trial, getting our clients more money than the insurer was willing to offer before we got involved.
We fight to maximize compensation. Let us fight for you. Call us at 304-599-4229 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.