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I am crafting a personal injury settlement demand letter. May I include that if I hire an attorney demand amount may increase?

Vero Beach, FL |

I was involved in a serious automobile accident in which the other driver was at full fault. I am crafting my settlement demand letter demanding monies for substantial damages. Damages will include compensation for permanent injuries, lost wages, lost future wages, mental anguish, etc. I would like to reserve the right to increase my demand amount should negotiations break down and I decide to hire an attorney. Thank You.

Attorney Answers 13

Posted

Read Mr. Sicuso's answer and consider the following additional thoughts: you need to know what the policy limits are, you need to give the carrier a reasonable chance to settle for the limits, and if you have UM, you need to figure out what those limits are too. Unrelated to your demand, be aware that if you have health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, they likely have a right to be reimbursed for any of your medical bills they paid. About your claim: the value could be many times what the policy limits are, but if you demand more than the limits, you are doing yourself a disservice. Again: Time limit demand. No unreasonable conditions. Call a lawyer for guidance. You may not need to retain the lawyer until after your demand expires. Good luck.

Although I am happy to give my opinion freely based on my knowledge, experience, and training as a personal injury attorney, the opinions I give in response to questions posed on AVVO should not be construed as legal advice and should not be relied on to make legal decisions.

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Posted

Personal injury suits are contingency, so unless there is a multiplier, the amount would not increase because of hiring an attorney. What you need to do is hire an attorney BEFORE you put together a settlement offer to accurately value your case and get the best settlement.

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ******

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13 lawyers agree

Posted

Typically in a demand letter of this nature, you include language that states "this offer is for settlement purposes only." Nonetheless, even if you omit the language, settlement offers are inadmissible and you can certainly change the amount you demand at any time, regardless if you hire an attorney. Should the matter go to court, you will have to substantiate your demand (and will likely have to do so even at the settlement stage). Best of luck!

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1 comment

Asker

Posted

Thank You for the quality answer.

Posted

You may include whatever you want but it doesn't mean that it will help you. I suspect the party you are sending the letter to isn't going to be all that concerned by your letter. First of all, the insurance company (presumably you are sending it to the insurance company) deals with these letters all the time from attorneys, so the legal counsel that reviews your letter is going to assume you were unable to find an attorney. Moreover, you probably don't know the law and what you are able to get compensation for. As an example, you're not going to get compensation for mental anguish as a result of a car accident.

Unfortunately the insurance company is not going to take your letter seriously. I strongly recommend that you skip to the part about hiring a lawyer. The lawyer is going to know the proper steps for you to take in trying to get a settlement and, more importantly, will have a more accurate idea of what your case is worth.

You know the saying about the person who acts as his own lawyer, right? Do yourself a favor and retain an attorney.

This is not to be considered legal advice nor does an attorney-client relationship exist.

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18 lawyers agree

Posted

In all candor you are doing yourself a disservice. Research and my experience have shown that you are unlikely to obtain full case value without the assistance of experienced counsel. Get a good injury attorney if you think you have substantial damages. Negotiating up will not generally work out well for you in direct answer to your question.

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14 lawyers agree

Posted

I agree with my colleague, the time to retain the attorney is now, prior to submitting a demand letter. Insurance companies stonewall and lowball victims for a living. Leevel the playing field by hiring a FL personal injury attorney. Best of luck.

The author of this answer is an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of Arizona. Unless both you and the author have signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not the author's client, and the author's discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and are neither privileged nor confidential.

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Posted

Like my colleagues before me, you really need to get a lawyer now. Insurance companies do not take pro se plaintiffs as serious as they would if a plaintiff were represented by counsel.

DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

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9 lawyers agree

Posted

THIS is a classic example of why you should hire a lawyer. That you would even ask about threatening an insurance company with the 'ol "and if I have to get a lawyer, you'll pay through the nose" argument shows that you have very little idea about what goes on in a personal injury case,let alone what drives an insurer to pay a value in settlement. I suspect that your other damage evaluations are likely flawed and that any submission of a demand letter will likely do irreparable damage to whatever claims you actually have. Whatever money you think you are saving not hiring a lawyer I promise you is going to be lost and more in your efforts to negotiate a settlement. PLEASE do yourself a favor and hire a competent lawyer in your area to handle you PI claim BEFORE you do anything further that could cost you dearly.

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

It is not my intention to threaten the adjuster or insurance company. I am simply asking if I may reserve the right to increase my demand amount. Thank You.

Alyson Marie George

Alyson Marie George

Posted

Mark - perhaps my use of the words "many lawyers" was misleading. High end lawyers who see the possibility of excess do it because they anticipate the client will return when the carrier doesn't pay. I didn't want to get into too many details about how that usually works since this is an open forum. That was kind of what I was getting at in my response below. Further, I give out free legal advice all of the time. People call and I may not be able to rep them but I can give them some direction. In this case, the "extraordinary circumstances" are the asker is describing catastrophic injuries (in their opinion, we do not know what they actually are, but let's assume). Unless s/he was struck by a commercial vehicle or has huge UM limits, there's some room for assistance on the demand. I've had people ask for help with their CRN. What's the harm? If you give them good advice and they follow it, I don't see the issue. I understand your concern, but I think the odds of it being a serious issue are low.

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Posted

Well......that's not "exactly" what you asked. You asked whether you could include "that if I hire an attorney, demand may increase" and that's not the same as "demand may increase". Your obvious motive in doing so would be to use the reference of retaining an attorney as an incentive for the adjuster to settle with you though the fear that hiring a lawyer will cost THEM more. That you don't view this as a threat negotiation strategy makes my point in spades as to why you should hire an attorney to handle your case. While threat strategies can be productive, they have to be either real or perceived by the other side to be so. Other common examples of this used by lay people are references to filing bankruptcy to debt collectors and threats to file suit, whether veiled as your or overt. The failing here is that such comments are perceived as idle threats that belie the lack of knowledge on the part of the person employing it as a negotiation tool. For example, in your case, hiring a lawyer in and of itself DOES NOTHING to RAISE the value of your claim as your claim value revolves around existing facts. To the contrary, what lawyers bring to the table is a more accurate understanding of what facts and factors equate to value in a personal injury case, and what type of evidence supports those factors. If you present a claim and are inaccurate in those assessments, you will likely and avoidably impair your future negotiations in a manner that later hiring legal counsel won't solve. Rather than saving you money, this typically costs you money either in lost value because (a) you under value your claim and get taken advantage of (b) over value your claim and waste time trying negotiate an unobtainable arbitrary value (c) handicap the future lawyer because of irreparable damage done to the case. More frustrating is that you will not likely find competent lawyers who will take a case in such a posture on the "you get your % fee from whatever added value you get on top of my last offer" type of deal for a variety of reasons.

Posted

I think the most important factor here is the amount of available insurance coverage. If there is only 10,000, you may be doing the perfect thing by requesting the full limit amount and be sure it is time sensitive (say 20 days) and sent by return receipt. If they fail to pay, then, get a lawyer and the policy limits could be irrelevant because they should've paid when they had the chance. They could be responsible for ALL of your damages, no matter how much! Be sure to tell them the demand will be forever revoked if they don't accept and attach all relevant documents. Good luck!

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10 comments

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Posted

While the idea posed is solid, Bad Faith claims are wwaaaaaaayyyyy too complex for any lay person to understand, let alone set up. Even if there was $10,000.00 in BI coverage, the issues associated with CMS or hospital liens, income attribution that kicks people out of Section 8 or off Medicaid, med pay reimbursement, income tax reporting if wage reimbursement is handled wrong, blowing a UM claim for unauthorized settlement, etc etc. all have to be handled properly or it blows up. Worse, just because there is $10,000.00 policy, that would not prevent a demand for contribution from the offender which would be overlooked if an asset check or eval wasn't at least considered. There are simply a dozen reasons to hire a competent PI lawyer for every one reason not to.

Alyson Marie George

Alyson Marie George

Posted

Yes, but consulting with a lawyer who could guide the asker on how to craft the demand is actually a really good idea. If they don't pay, go back and hire lawyer. Many lawyers would give her free advice in person after reviewing her file. Then the demand is better.

Joseph John Bernardo

Joseph John Bernardo

Posted

All good points, including the comments to the poster, Mr. Sicuso. Should this be a substantial damages case as indicated by the asker, it seems high in risk to navigate the many issues and pitfalls without benefit of counsel. At the very least a review of some of the specifics mentioned by Mr.Tischhauser would be in order by a helpful attorney as outlined by Ms. George. A thorough attorney can and does obtain amounts in excess of contractual coverage, including personal contributions from assets of the tortfeasor. Excellent responses by all of these responders.

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Posted

With all due respect to Ms. George, this is simply where some lawyers disagree. While I agree that from the asker's view, legal guidance for drafting a demand is an excellent idea, its simply impractical. Absent some extraordinary circumstance, there are very very very ( and mayb one more very) few lawyers who will give free legal advice to anyone to craft their own settlement demands. Beyond the obvious, that the asker would be expected to benefit financially from the lawyers input, at the lawyers expense, the risks and malpractice liabilities alone should dissuade any lawyer expecting to keep his or her bar license more than a few minutes from doing so. As an aside, however, one thing that is often not explored by accident victims is the idea of hiring lawyers on a traditional hourly rate/retainer to handle such cases instead of the contingent fee basis so ingrained in the system. If the person has the means, on a straight forward substantial case, it is usually MUCH cheaper to pay for a lawyers services when compared to the financial loss based on a contingent fee. This also afford a client greater control over the decision making, such as weather to litigate or try a case,since the lawyer has no vested interest in the issues.

Asker

Posted

Thank You Mr. Sicuso. Your input confirms my plan of action. With regards to Mr. Tischhauser's comment. I apologize if you find my question offensive. I hope that users of this fine website may ask a lawyer a question and get a quality answer. Thank You.

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Posted

I don't find your question offensive at all. My concern is that you seem hellbent on doing something I have every expectation will likely turn out poorly for you regardless of how well you think you do. There is a reason why several insurance carriers in states like Texas were prosecuted for fraud and bad faith claims practices based upon marketing and claims handling specifically designed to convince consumers that PI lawyers were simply fee leeches and that the insurance companies pay the full claim value to unrepresented people. The insurance industry profited handsomely from playing up this mistrust of lawyers because fact was that unrepresented clamaints typically settled for values that were less than 30% of the settlement values paid to claimants with lawyers for the same injuries as reflected in thier own records, which of course they simply lied about.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your reply, sir. I have the utmost respect for an attorney's education and service that he or she provides. Generally a personal injury attorney is of great value for their clients. This is not about eliminating attorney's fees. I understand that I may be an outlier in my decision to attempt to handle this type of case on my own. It was only me in that car fighting for my life on that horrific day. I think my demand letter will be compelling, accurate, and perhaps very effective. I do appreciate your comments and they are regarded with great respect.

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Mark Theodore Tischhauser

Posted

You are quite welcome. I wish you well in any event and hope everything goes well for you.

Salvatore Joseph Sicuso

Salvatore Joseph Sicuso

Posted

Your actions have sparked quite some debate. You must be a little amazed that so many lawyers are willing to answer your question and give solid thoughtful advice. It is really difficult to answer your question without all the information, but, I think we all agree having an attorney would keep you from any terrible mistakes and benefit you beyond the cost. Please tell us how it goes and reach out to any of us, if you wish.

Asker

Posted

Thank You sir, I will indeed let you know how this turns out. I feel good about the prospect of having my demands met. If they are not I will be contacting your office to find out if you would consider helping me. If I am successful on my own I hope this question or thread climbs up google search results and you earn a lot of business for the way you answered my question. Thank You again.

Posted

From the perspective of a lawyer who practices on the other side of the country, and therefore is not someone you would conceivably hire...............get a lawyer.

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6 lawyers agree

Posted

I would strongly recommend you consult with a licensed Florida personal injury attorney. This threat will not be taken seriously by an insurance carrier. There is no proverbial "teeth" behind the threat.

Best of luck.

This advice should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction for a consultation and evaluation of your potential claim. Matthew Dolman was selected a 2013 Florida Superlawyer by Thompson Reuters. He can be contacted at (727)451-6900

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6 lawyers agree

Posted

Retain the services of an attorney right away. However, if you decide not to, be sure to demand the full policy limits in your demand letter.

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Posted

You can write anything you like in your demand letter. However, without a knowledgeable personal injury attorney on board, your demands will not have much of an effect.

The insurance company will evaluate your claim and make a settlement offer as they see fit, no matter what you include in your demand letter. The only leverage that can be used to persuade them to increase their offer is the threat of real litigation. For that, you will need to employ the services of a competent personal injury attorney. Otherwise, you should expect to receive settlement offers well below the actual value of your claim.

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1 comment

Asker

Posted

Thank You Sir. I appreciate your comment and I marked as helpful. I believe there may be leverage in the prospect of the claimant switching from pro se to being represented by an attorney. More so when their insured is carrying very high policy limits. I understand that I do not have the knowledge personal injury law as you do. I just feel very confident that my demand letter will be effective. Thank You very much.

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