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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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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