Obviously, the nature and extent of damages play a central role in obtaining the maximum value in personal injury cases. It is incumbent upon us as lawyers for the injured client to employ the most effective ways to present the injuries and damages.
We find that by doing certain things in the work up of the damages part of the case the value is greatly enhanced.
As a preliminary matter, we make certain that we have copies of every medical record and medical expense involved in the client’s course of treatment. We also request copies of all prior medical records for at least five years before the injury occurred. That way, we are prepared to address the presence or absence of any pre-existing injuries or conditions. Our staff does an excellent job of collecting this information and making summaries of the medical treatments and records.
In addition to photographs that depict the injuries at various stages of the client’s recovery, we often order specially prepared medical illustrations that depict the internal damage resulting from a personal injury. The medical illustrations are prepared from the client’s medical records, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, etc. by Medical Legal Art in Kennesaw, Georgia. They are expensive, but can be very compelling evidence of serious internal injuries and surgeries.
It is important to document past and future lost income as an item of special damages. We have a form letter that we mail to the client’s employer for completion so that total time and income lost is properly documented. If the client’s injury results in diminished earning capacity, we retain the services of a vocational rehabilitation expert and economist to provide testimony or statements regarding future lost opportunities and income, including any fringe benefits.
Permanent injury is an important element of a personal injury claim, but is often overlooked by attorneys representing injured victims. Unless the injury was on the job and involves treatment covered by workmen’s compensation, physicians rarely address permanent injury or impairment ratings in their office notes or hospital records. If we believe that there is any degree of permanent injury, we visit with the client’s treating physician and address the issue.
We handle a lot of car wreck cases that are settled without filing suit. In those cases, we take a sworn statement from the physician and include it with our settlement package. The treating physician will provide sworn testimony regarding the client’s permanent injury, impairment rating, prognosis, future treatments, etc. We think it is important to demonstrate, for example, that a 10% permanent impairment rating to the upper extremity means that the client has lost 10% of the function of his arm for the rest of his life.
In a catastrophic injury case, we will present a Life Care Plan that is prepared by a certified professional in the field. Life Care Plans are absolutely necessary in these types of cases so that the defendants, insurance companies and juries fully appreciate the current and future needs of the injured client and the costs associated with those needs. A “Day in the Life” video and “Before and After” videos are compelling as well.
As mentioned previously, the statement or testimony of relatives, friends and co-workers regarding how the injury has affected the client is very persuasive evidence of damages. These witnesses can describe apparent physical limitations, fatigue, emotional changes, etc.