Writing a personal injury demand letter after a car accident is an essential step towards a fair settlement. Because there are so many elements in a personal injury claim, many people choose to have an attorney write this letter for them; however, it is worth knowing what should be included.
Someone who decides to draft their own should use the following tips to produce a powerful and effective demand letter to back up their claim.
What Is a Demand Letter?
A demand letter is an official document sent between two parties. It requests action, often financial, to resolve a dispute or right a wrong. In the case of a settlement demand letter, it is sent by a claimant or their lawyer to an insurance company asking to demand compensation by way of a settlement offer.
Sending a demand letter to the insurance company of a liable party (the at-fault driver, in the case of car accidents) is usually a turning point in settlement negotiations. If a settlement amount can not be agreed upon following this demand, the claim goes to court.
What To Include
The first step to knowing how to write a demand letter is understanding what it must include. It is far more than just a friendly reminder that injuries occurred and liability is owed; it is an integral part of any claim in a lawsuit and can tip the scales one way or another.
Detailed Descriptions of your Claim
Providing as much detailed information as possible about every aspect of the auto accident (including the events leading up to it and the aftermath) is key. Mention the road and weather conditions, exact details of the accident (with descriptive language), and what part the other driver played.
This section is effectively a detailed overview of the entire claim, which should include descriptions of any property damage or injuries suffered, with the receipts and medical records to back it up.
Explanation and Evidence of Fault
A person making a claim must also include supporting documentation in their demand letter for settlement purposes. It should prove liability beyond a doubt with significant evidence showing who was the at-fault driver.
Witness statements, the police report, photographs, and medical records are all examples of ways to provide evidence that someone is at fault. They can all help prove that the liability sits with their insurance company. This is why it is so important to gather as much evidence as possible at the scene of a car accident.
Description and Proof of Medical Treatment and Medical Bills
Injuries suffered play, of course, a significant part in a personal injury car accident claim. From the viewpoint of a liable insurance company, it is hard to argue with medical records during a settlement negotiation.
A person injured in an accident that was not their fault may claim all medical expenses, from emergency room costs to pain medication to physical therapy to prescription medication. Even minor injuries can lead to major medical bills, so everything must be documented.
The settlement demand letter should also include official proof of all medical treatment and medical expenses for validation purposes. Records from the emergency services that responded to the accident scene, doctor notes, and all receipts for any costs related to injuries of which the accident was a direct cause.
Estimation of Financial Losses (Lost Wages and Other Expenses)
It is not only the cost of medical care that comes into play in a personal injury case. A victim can also claim r lost wages and other money they missed out on earning or had to spend. Some accidents can lead to several weeks or more time missed at work, which can leave some people in a tough position.
Most sick policy limits do not extend for long time periods, or they simply don't exist in the case of self-employed people or temporary workers. Many people have zero income unless they are working, which may not be possible during the recovery period.
Additionally, if there are any miscellaneous expenses directly caused by the accident and resulting injuries, these may also be included in the claim. That may include travel costs to and from the lawyer's office, doctor or courtroom, hospital parking, or any other expenditure the victim would not otherwise have had.
Dollar Value of a Fair Settlement
A personal injury settlement covers so much more than just the cost of medical treatment and the wages the injuries affected. There are also countless intangible losses a person can experience after an accident, not least pain and suffering.
Claiming for pain and suffering is something all personal injury lawyers should encourage a client to do. Living with physical pain- sometimes severe pain- because of injuries suffered in an accident that somebody else caused is not fair or right, and it affects all aspects of daily life. It is difficult to quantify exactly what this is worth, and it depends greatly on the severity of the injury.
In every settlement demand letter, there should be a specific demand telling the insurance company what value that pain and suffering are worth in the claimant's eyes. A lawyer can help find the right amount, as it is important to be realistic.
Insurance adjusters do not respond well to a drastically over-estimated injury claim with an unrealistic dollar value in the demand letter. In fact, it is likely to have a negative effect on the settlement. The value should be fair and relative to the overall impact the accident has had on the victim.
Key Advice for Writing a Demand Letter
Before they start writing a demand letter, claimants should take a moment to consider the following tips to avoid missing the tone and leaving room for the insurance adjuster to fight back. Remember that the claims adjuster wants to pay as little as possible, but this letter is designed to push the figure up.
Here are several general notes on how to make a letter effective, and to ensure there are no cracks for the opposing party to crack open.
Stick to Facts and Figures
Do not get creative with the truth. Describing the exact sequence of events as best as remembered is the way to go. Insurance companies look for minor inaccuracies to justify offering a lower settlement.
Use facts from the police report and details from the witness statements to keep the letter as factually correct as possible. Descriptions are not the same as fluff- include viable information, not decoration.
Deny All Fault
Many people may feel a twinge of guilt after an accident, questioning if they could have done something differently. It is essential that none of these notions appear in a demand letter. A liable claims adjuster with a strong lawyer can take the slightest hint and use it to crumble an entire case, so deny all fault at all times.
It is worth including a stand-alone section denying any negligence or causation to ensure there are no grounds to push for comparative fault.
Comparative fault or comparative negligence is when both parties are deemed to have partial responsibility for an incident, and the liability is shared respectively. When this happens, the chance of receiving the desired settlement is all but gone.
Do Not Under-Sell It
Too many people are afraid to sound over-dramatic when describing a traumatic event such as a car crash. Remember, this is something that did happen, and it was frightening, and there is a liable party.
Under-selling the severity of the accident and under-estimating the value of suffering is what lets so many people get away with far less than they should.
Ask for Assistance
There are many sample demand letters available online to guide people through how the finished article should look. Additionally, guides such as this one can help provide a better understanding of what to do.
Going up against an experienced claims adjuster with a team that knows automobile accident law behind them while trying to recover from a traumatic incident is no mean feat, and nobody expects someone to do it alone. Contact The Keating Firm LTD for a free consultation to discuss your case and experience the privileges of the attorney-client relationship.
Whether or not you intend to use a lawyer to assist in the negotiation process, it is still worth asking for advice on how to structure and produce the most effective demand letter possible. It can be the final push to getting the settlement you deserve, or it can lead to a drawn-out court case, so its importance cannot be under-sold.
If you have been involved in a car accident, contact The Keating Firm LTD today to arrange a free consultation. Our team of highly professional personal injury experts can discuss your case and how to proceed. We can also assist with your letter if you wish to employ our services.
Demand letters help make settlements happen and allow victims to continue on their journey to physical and emotional recovery.