Maintaining a Pain Journal After a Motor Vehicle Collision

Should I keep a “pain journal” following my accident?

After an accident, substantial time can pass before the settlement with ICBC or your matter goes to trial.   It is very difficult to keep track of events unless they are written down.  Frequently, on a lawyer’s suggestion or on their own accord, accident victims will make note of events in a journal to keep track of the progression of their injuries and significant events. There are pros and cons to keeping such a record.

It is important to note that in British Columbia a pain diary is considered a “relevant document” which, in most cases, must eventually be disclosed to ICBC’s lawyer as part of the litigation process, and perhaps to a Judge and jury if the matter goes to trial.

The benefit of keeping the pain journal is obviously for the easy reference to dates and events (example: when you had a CT scan, when you returned to work, when you started a rehabilitation program, when you experienced flare-ups of pain, when activities were missed due to pain,  etc.)  It can also be helpful to track your progress (example: “had last physio appointment today – will work out independently at home”, “have stopped taking Tylenol #3”,  “am back to usual duties at work”, “have increased walking to 30 minutes”, etc.)

In most cases I advise my clients to keep notes of relevant events, but to refrain from “rants” and matters that are completely unrelated to the accident.  This is not a personal journal and perhaps ought to be more properly referred to as “Events Post Accident Document” or “EPAD”.  If you are in the habit of “journaling” the personal events of your day including your thoughts and views, by all means continue, but not in the EPAD!

It is a mistake to write in your pain journal on a daily basis. The presence of daily entries can create the impression that you are unduly preoccupied by your injuries and the litigation.

In the first few weeks following the accident you may be inclined to write more frequently, especially if there are multiple medical appointments and various “events” concerning work accommodation and at home activities that are affected by your injuries.  I would suggest that after a few weeks it would only be necessary to make the occasional entry to note significant events.

I must say that I am delighted when clients produce salient notes that are thoughtfully composed and “to the point.”   It should only take a few pages to cover each year following the accident and not a lot of your time.

It is essential that any notes included in a pain journal are accurate, and without any embellishment or exaggeration.

I would recommend that notes be made contemporaneously in a small notebook, as opposed to on your computer to avoid the possibility of ICBC’s lawyer requesting access to your entire computer in hopes of finding other information relating to the accident and draft/edited versions of your notes!

While a pain journal can be a helpful tool in resolving your personal injury claim, it is wise to consult with your lawyer or their legal assistant from time to time as to the contents of your EPAD to make sure you that are on the right track.

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