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For today's post, we are joined once again by our friend Martin Ginsburg of MarGin Consulting. Mr. Ginsburg has graciously agreed to share his expertise on a very important topic; documenting! You might recall seeing our Damages Diary in the past, and today's article goes right along with it. Check it out!
So what's the best way to document my injuries and expenses?
I know I’ve been asked by an attorney to write this, but my reflex answer is to ask Judge Milian of “The People’s Court.” I realize how silly that sounds but it is not intended to be flip.
For those of us who watch her, there are some good lessons for those of us who don’t spend our lives around courts and lawyers. She reminds people frequently that things need to be written down when they happen. One of her tongue in cheek suggestions is “grab the nearest roll of toilet paper and a crayon.” While she is usually talking about agreements and contracts, this applies to just about everything we need to remember accurately.
People in some professions teach; “if it isn’t written, it wasn’t done.” While that’s not remotely true, it is an important concept. History may be a boring subject (for some) in school, but without having written things down, how would we know what has happened in the past? When anything unusual happens, it doesn’t hurt anyone, and may be important later, to have things noted.
I watch people on most days making videos of things happening around them. Not living the moment, but recording it to show other people later. I personally have some very mixed feelings about that phenomenon. My feelings aside; images of damage to a vehicle, bruising, or cuts and abrasions all help people to understand the effect an injury might have had. In falls, slips, equipment failures (like railings, stairs, fencing, and the like), or crashes, images recorded at the time help people understand what happened and how.
From a clinical nursing perspective, the more that is known about exactly how an injury happened, the better directed the treatment can be. For insurance companies and attorneys I know they ask about such things to try to show who is responsible for what. It doesn’t hurt to be able to show that but your health will benefit first and long before anyone even thinks about who did what.
Documenting everything as early as possible with images and notes helps direct care, improves outcomes, and helps to make sure that every injury has a chance to be addressed more efficiently. A good example is someone who falls and hits their head. That’s the most important injury to examine and treat, to be sure – but what about the knee that “just gave out” or got hit by a runaway shopping cart leading to the fall?
If treatment for injuries or repairs to property is necessary, remember to keep receipts. Writing a short note about how you ended up at that mechanic or doctor and stapling it to the receipt helps you to remember later some of the things that happened and what was done and said.
We are accustomed to just telling people about our lives; at least everyone I grew up with was. Writing things down, though, helps to keep things straight in my head and helps me be sure that I don’t forget to tell my doctor about an ached from a month ago that started when I did “this” and stopped when I did “that”. Knowing the “this” and “that” helps my doctor figure out what probably happened, the chances it will happen again, and what to do to either prevent it or treat anything that might be wrong.
Some people say information is power. It isn’t; information is information. Remember though, that without the information you’ve gathered over a lifetime you wouldn’t be able to drive a car, fry an egg, broil a steak. Oh and by the way; all of those instructions were originally written down so everybody could learn how and do a better job.
It can be really hard to tell when you've reached your maximum medical improvement, and even harder to predict whether you'll need care in the future. Even if you're relatively sure you'll need future care, you can bet that the adjuster will interpret any ambiguities against you. For this post, our good friend and nurse-paralegal extraordinaire Martin Ginsburg offers his sage advice for (i) determining the need for future care and (ii) communicating that need to the insurance company.