How to Write a Demand Letter for Personal Injury Cases
This guide will provide some quick tips for writing an effective demand letter.
Medical Treatment is CompleteYou should only write a demand letter once treatment has been completed or is no longer effective. Once treatment is completed, you will know the total medical expenses so you and the insurance company can properly evaluate the claim. If treatment is no longer effective, usually your only option is surgery, which can be scary. Some people don't want surgery so they simply live with the pain and discomfort. Request all of your medical records and bills related to the incident in question before sending the demand letter.
Include AttachmentsIt's important to inform the adjuster of what happened that's giving rise to your claim; however, you don't want to give them too much of your own writing and arguments in the demand letter. Send the attachments such as the medical records and bills, traffic collision report, appraisal report, photos that really show your injuries, etc. The adjuster is going to review the attachments anyway and not take your word for it so you might as well not write too much in the beginning. This is will provide some negotiating ammo later on during negotiations. It's rare that your medical expenses are $20,000, you demand $100,000, and they accept your demand from your demand letter. Demand letters are useful for getting the ball rolling, but not for getting your initial offer accepted.
Start HighYou don't have to include an amount in your demand, but if you do, you should start high. Start anywhere from 5-7x the amount of your medical expenses. If you start too low, you won't have much room to work with during negotiations. Caution: if you start too high, the adjuster will send to their attorneys who will propound discovery and notice your deposition. It really depends on your injuries, which is why it's good to have an attorney representing you.
Time to RespondProvide the adjuster with no more than 30 days to respond. If the claim is not that complex, require their response within 2 weeks of you sending the demand. You can always grant an extension for them to respond.
Basic Format of Extended Demand Letters1) Introduction - Introduce yourself, your claim number, and the date it happened.
2) Facts - Describe what happened (CACI Jury Instructions - see below)
3) Liability - Describe why they violated your rights. Use CACI Jury Instructions to determine what elements you need to prove to hold them liable. For example, to prove negligence, you need to prove that their insured owed you a duty of care, he/she breached that duty, that breach caused your injuries, and as a result of the breach, you have suffered damages.
4) Damages - Describe your damages, such as past medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost earnings, lost earnings capacity.
5) Summary of Medical Expenses - Usually, your claim will be medical expenses and the bills will detail the amount; however, it's helpful to provide them with a breakdown so they know the total amount of medical expenses to make their evaluation easier.
6) Demand Amount - This is optional. State that as a result of their negligence or whatever they did, you demand $XX,XXX.
7) Conclusion - Provide them with a time frame to respond.
Hiring an AttorneyAlthough you are capable of replicating the same letter as a lawyer, insurance companies know that non-lawyers cannot litigate the case to the same extent as an attorney so they are less willing to provide high offers. If you feel that your claim is worth more, contact an attorney. If you spend too much time trying to resolving it on your own, you might mess it up and a lawyer will be less willing to take it. Lawyers are not short on cases; we're overloaded. This means that we can be picky with the cases we take. Don't be the person who tries to do it on their own for too long.
DisclaimerEach case is unique, and this is not to be take as legal advice. There are so many issues with each case, and lots of ways to write an effective demand letter. You should definitely contact someone who does this everyday if you want your claim to be as effective as possible.