Written by attorney Wayne D. Parsons

Tips on how to describe an injury effectively

After an injury the first thing a person hears is usually: "Are you hurt?" Describe your injury."

The other driver will often ask. The police officer at the scene. The ambulance drivers will ask. The nurse at the emergency room will write it down. The doctor. The first question from any attorney you call will be how badly you are hurt. Your wife or husband will ask as soon as you talk to them. The insurance adjuster after you notify your insurance company will want to know. The other driver's insurance adjuster will ask. Nothing about you is more important in a case that may end up as a claim and maybe be headed to court.

No question gets asked more often and by more people.

No question gets answered more poorly than this one. So lets take a look at the question and lay down some rules that will help.

As in my earlier article on What Questions Is The Lawyer Going To Ask Me At The Initial Interview For My Injury Or Death Case?, Wayne Parsons , 20 September 2009 where I tell you how to answer any question, I will give you here a detailed way to properly answer a question about your injury and your health.

1. Identify the place that hurts or is numb or is injured. For instance: "I notice something in my right lower back, next to the spin just above my belt." Or, I feel pain in the back of my head at the base of the skull."

2. Describe the sensation. For instance: "the pain is a dull ache that throbs and goes away and then comes back," or "my lower back is like knot of burning pain, like a huge muscle cramp in an area about 6-inches in diameter and it radiates into both buttocks and then goes down the right leg all of the way to my foot. The pain is burning and achy all at the same time. In the leg I feel like hot lava is running down to my foot through my leg". Be aware that pain can be "burning", "shooting", "aching", "numb", "stabbing", "dull", "like an electric shock" or "Sharp". You may find words that are better than the ones I am suggesting here.

3. Describe the duration. For instance, "I get this pain for about 15 minutes and then it lessens. It will come back 4 or 5 times a day. I have 4 or 5 periods of this pain each 24 hour day. In between I am uncomfortable and although I can feel the pain, it is at a 3 on a 10 point scale as opposed to an 8 on a scale of 10 when the pain is greatest." Think about a 24-hour period and take some notes about what you were doing and how your injury feels. This may be very helpful to your doctor and attorney. Then expand to a week and identify what days the injury was bothering you and how it affected you. Then take 3 months and then a year. You get the picture. Create a graphic pain history. You can use a calendar.

4. Think about Triggers. For instance, "I get the spasm in my back when I sit or stand for more than about 20 minutes. Also if I do anything strenuous like cleaning my apartment, it sets off a huge flare up of the pain. This is very important to your doctors and it should be important to you. The goal is to reduce your pain and suffering, so don't do things that makes it worse.

5. Don't guess. if you aren't sure about a question don't answer. Ask for more time or to have the question clarified. You can't do this forever so do your homework as i describe it here and get ready to answer properly.

6. Don't be a doctor. Nothing looks worse than a smart aleck patient using medical school terms. The doctor will explain the medical issues. All you need to to do is to describe how you feel.

7. Keep a list of areas that hurt or are numb. That will lessen the chances of you forgetting one and then the insurance company calling you a liar.

8. Defer to your doctors. They went to medical school. You didn't. When asked what your diagnosis is, tell the questioner that they should get that directly from the doctors and then proceed to tell them how it (you) feel.

9. Ask questions. This is a good time to find out the insurance company's attitude about you. Take notes.

10. Read the other articles in this series by serious Injury Board attorneys across the country:

I was in an automobile accident. What should I do? Ten Tips For Hawaii Drivers, Wayne Parsons on September 14, 2009 - 3:59 AM EST.

What would a caveman bring to meet with the lawyer?, Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 11:00 AM

Solving Legal Problems, Being a Client, Back to the Basics, Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 8:48 AM

Car Accident Injury Client: What Makes the Case Good or Bad? (The Collision & Medical Care) , Rick Shapiro September 16, 2009 9:38 AM

Being a Client: More Tips To Help Improve Your Case If You've Been In An Car Accident , Devon Glass , September 17, 2009 8:39 AM

Presumed Guilty: How to Avoid Having Insult Added to Injury When You’ve Been Hurt in a Car Crash, Pierce Egerton , September 18, 2009 4:28 PM

What To Do After An Accident When The Adjuster Is There First, Mike Bryant, September 19, 2009 6:26 PM

What Questions Is The Lawyer Going To Ask Me At The Initial Interview For My Injury Or Death Case?, Wayne Parsons , 20 September 2009 12:01

What makes a case good or bad?, Steve Lombardi, 21 September 2009 12:57 PM

What To Do After An Accident When The Adjuster Has A Tape Recorder, Mike Bryant , September 23, 2009 10:01 PM

Do I have a good or a bad case?, Devon Glass, September 24, 2009

What are interrogatories and how do I answer them?, Steve Lombardi, September 29, 2009

Interrogatories: A Written Deposition , Devon Glass, September 30, 2009

How Do You Value Your Case? Mike Bryant October 03, 2009 9:29 AM

Demystifying Injury Litigation for Clients: What Are Interrogatories?, Rick Shapiro ,October 3, 2009

Do only dishonest people refuse to give a recorded statement? Steve Lombardi | October 06, 2009 10:47 AM

These Injury Board affiliated attorneys have done a great service by collecting articles on the beginning phases of getting hurt and trying to find an attorney and dealing with doctors and insurance companies.

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