If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve to be fully and fairly compensated for your injuries, as well as for your pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.
A “demand letter” is the first step in negotiating a favorable settlement. You may choose to draft a demand letter and negotiate with the insurance company on your own. Or you may choose to team up with an experienced injury law firm
Components of a Demand Letter
A demand letter, which is sent to the assigned claims adjuster, sets forth a brief summary of your version of the case, along with your injuries, treatment, and other damages, in an effort to persuade the insurance company to settle your claim without the need for litigation.
An effective demand letter should briefly explain your version of the incident and how it occurred, set forth the types and amounts of your injuries and damages, make a claim for lost wages, if applicable, and, most importantly, present all necessary supporting documentation. It may also be helpful to briefly mention any other losses or expenses that were a direct result of the accident, including a short description of your pain and suffering, anxiety, inconvenience, loss of companionship, inability to engage in certain recreational activities, and any job-related limitations.
The letter should also set forth an initial dollar amount to settle your claim without the need for litigation. Demand letters typically include a statement that the letter is for settlement purposes only, as well as a request for the insurance company’s policy limits, if that amount has not already been disclosed. It is also customary to close with a request for a telephone call from the insurance adjuster to discuss an amicable resolution of the claim.
Demand Letter Tips and Strategies
What follows is a list of tips and strategies for writing clear, concise, and persuasive demand letters. If you choose to write your own letter, be sure to follow these guidelines:
1. Less is more.
Often, the injured party is tempted to write a lengthy demand letter, providing a detailed and often dramatized, version of the incident; a play-by-play of all injuries, including every single medical and physical therapy appointment and procedure; and every conceivable measure of damage possible, even in the simplest of cases. However, this letter-writing strategy often backfires – particularly when a case is not complex or involves relatively minor injuries (at least from the insurance company’s perspective).
The truth is that adjusters spend very little time reading the actual demand letter. Instead, they are more interested in reviewing objective, tangible evidence of damages, including police reports, photographs of injuries and property damage, medical records, physical therapy records, permanency ratings, medical bills, tax returns, employer lost wage statements/verifications, etc. These materials help the adjuster put a value on the case.
Adjusters often view the excess verbiage as “fluff,” and do not consider it when making an initial offer. Therefore, rather than writing an embellished, wordy demand letter, the more effective demand letter begins with the words, “Enclosed, please find the following,” and attaches objective evidence of the injured person’s various items of damage.
2. Explain why the other party was at fault – and why you were not at fault.
In briefly discussing your version of the case, it is important to explain why the other party was at-fault or negligent, without disparaging that individual in any way. By the same token, in a demand letter, never admit any wrongdoing or negligence on your part. If the insurance company wants to allege fault on your part, it is their job to find evidence of that.
3. Avoid using the word “accident.”
In a demand letter, word choice is important. In general, you should refrain from using the word “accident,” because it implies that no one was at fault. Say “incident” instead.
4. Describe the mechanics of your injuries.
When describing injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision, it is often helpful to describe how your body moved in the vehicle at the point of impact, and whether any part of your body struck any part of the motor vehicle, including the headrest, the steering wheel, or the dashboard. Describing the way in which your body moved in the vehicle at the point of impact helps to provide some insight as to the mechanics of your injuries – and how you sustained them. It also helps the adjuster gain an understanding of the basis for your claimed injuries.
5. Downplay pre-existing injuries and gaps in treatment.
In your demand letter, it is important that you inform the adjuster that you were not suffering from any pre-existing conditions to the injured parts of your body at any time prior to the subject accident. Generally speaking, insurance companies take note of any preexisting medical conditions and gaps in medical treatment and try to argue that the injured person was having medical problems long before the accident, and/or that treatment following a lengthy gap is not causally related to the subject accident. As you can imagine, if the adjuster determines that you had a relevant pre-existing injury or a significant gap in medical treatment, he or she will adjust the initial settlement offer accordingly.
6. Aim high.
Keep in mind that the amount your request in your demand letter is an initial demand for settlement of your case. Consequently, the proposed demand amount should be more than the case is worth. As a general rule of thumb, ask for 2 to 5 times the amount of your medical bills and lost wages. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine an appropriate monetary amount to ask for in an initial demand letter.
We Can Help Maximize the Value of Your Case
You may choose to write your demand letter and negotiate with the insurance company on your own, but your chances of obtaining a favorable settlement are greatly improved if you work with an experienced injury lawyer. Except in the most serious of cases, it is unlikely that the insurance adjuster will meet the demand head-on. It is more likely that a period of back-and-forth negotiations will ensue.
We understand how to work with the insurance adjuster to obtain a fair and favorable settlement on your behalf. We know the tricks, tactics, and strategies that insurance companies use to avoid paying reasonable compensation to an injured party. Keep in mind that insurance adjusters, while they may seem interested in you and your case, are employees of the insurance company, and the main goal of the insurance company is to keep as much of its money as possible.
Let us know if we can help you present your injuries and damages in the best possible light to obtain the maximum settlement value for your case. Call us today.