I have Become a Plaintiff – What Happens Next?
How Were You Injured?
You have been injured through someone else’s negligent actions, such as texting and driving, and you know you may be entitled to recover financial damages. You have decided to hire a lawyer to represent you and bring a legal claim for these damages. You are now a plaintiff.
The most important thing for you to do now is focus on getting better. That means you need to follow your doctor’s advice and keep all of your appointments. If your doctor prescribes physical therapy, tests or other medical procedures, you should follow through with his or her recommendation. If your doctor writes you a prescription for medication to help you heal or manage your pain, you should not delay having it filled at the pharmacy.
Not only will this help you heal, but it also creates a “paper trail” that will be important for your personal injury lawsuit. Your doctors’ records often act as the medical testimony in your case and help the lawyer determine the value of your claim. It is vital to be careful about following through with your doctors’ recommendations.
Keeping Diaries and Calendars
Your lawyer may ask you to keep a diary, a calendar of your daily activities or both, focusing on your physical and psychological injuries. This may seem like a chore, but it can be important for your legal case because it helps to prove your claims about your injuries, your pain and how they affect your life. If you sustained serious injuries in the accident, your treatment may continue for months and your healing patterns may change over time. It is important to keep a record of the changes you notice, both positive and negative, starting as soon as possible after the accident. In some cases, even your treating physician may benefit from your notes.
In your diary, you should focus on how you feel and how you are coping with your injuries. Make these entries as often as you feel a change; there is no need to make an entry every day. To begin, write down your name and a start date. On any day after the accident when you notice any changes in how you feel, or experience anything unusual, write it down. Include the date and a brief description of what you are feeling and what you were doing when you felt it. Include any descriptions of things that seem important, such as events that seem to trigger pain.
It is important not to forget the diary as time goes on. At the beginning, you may make daily entries, but as you start to feel better, you may find yourself making entries that are further and further apart. It is absolutely fine to make fewer entries if you have less to say, but it is important not to forget your diary altogether. Unfortunately, some injuries continue to have occasional side effects, even after they seem to have healed. Try not to tuck your diary so far out of sight that you forget about it.
You should use the calendar to record each of your doctor’s appointments or other medical care. When you record a diagnostic appointment, be sure to note the type of test, such as an MRI. It is better not use this calendar to record social appointments or chores that are not relevant to your case. However, you should also record the dates and times of appointments with your lawyer, and any deadlines or court dates he or she provides.
You should take your diary and calendar with you both to doctor’s appointments and to meetings with your lawyer. They will help your doctor treat you better and keep your law firm updated on your injuries and how they are healing.
Your Diary Matters
Clients and potential clients frequently tell personal injury lawyers “I am not the suing type.” Many people are injured by someone else’s wrongful or negligent act, yet they are either afraid of litigating or do not know what it takes to bring a claim. Essentially, bringing a claim means that you become a plaintiff and this may seem like a daunting task to many people. However, the simplest tasks assigned to plaintiffs can often have huge rewards.
This was the case for one client who came looking for lawyer nearly two years after his accident. He was severely injured when his van was run off the road by an unknown driver, causing his right arm to be paralyzed. He told his lawyer that he waited so long to get legal help because he assumed there was no one to collect from, since the car that caused the accident was never located. He did, however, keep a diary of his daily life over the two years since his accident. In it, he noted every time a nurse came to his house, every time his mother had to drive him to therapy and even how excruciating the pain was on a daily basis.
After investigating, his lawyer discovered that the client’s company van had uninsured motorist insurance that should cover the accident. After a two-week trial, he was awarded a multimillion dollar verdict. This daily diary of his life was very important, because it helped explain to the jury all that he had been through. Even though he did not know at the time that he would eventually become a plaintiff, common sense dictated much of what he did that resulted in such a large recovery.