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Personal injury clients are oftentimes asked whether they keep journals, diaries or calendars related to their symptoms. Some attorneys advise that clients maintain diaries so that their pain is “documented”.

I have a different view. Keeping a pain diary is somewhat unnatural and causes there to be a particular focus on the discomfort. The more time and attention that is spent thinking about the injuries the less time and attention typically is spent on recovering from them.

Not only is keeping a diary potentially counterproductive in terms of recovering from injuries but it also has the potential for mischief in the presentation of the personal injury case. Clients oftentimes write about topics unrelated to the personal injury action which can be used for purposes of cross-examination by defense counsel.

Rather than keeping a pain diary (or worse yet, memorializing pain symptoms in a diary of a more general nature) I think it makes the most sense for clients simply to testify based on memory regarding the symptoms they experienced.

If the symptoms are not significant enough for the client to remember them then probably they would not have been the source of significant compensation anyway. Testifying by refreshing one’s recollection by using a pain diary is undesirable and the type of presentation unlikely to hold a jury’s attention.

While some attorneys say “yes” I say “no” when it comes to keeping a diary to memorialize pain symptoms following an accident.

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