Settlement Demand Letters: How to make them more persuasive
Even though insurance companies have started to utilize computer programs in evaluating cases, there is always a human element (adjuster) who can adjust the value of a specific case up or down. There is always an incentive for both sides to try and settle the case before incurring the risk, additional expense, and time of litigation. A way to try and reach the human side of the computer and amicably resolve a case before filing suit is by presenting to the adjuster or counsel for the company a persuasive Demand letter. Keep in mind that you want the reader to know that the case is important to you and that if it cannot be settled the information in the demand is what you are going to PROVE to a jury. Some of the ideas to include in a Demand letter are:
Make your client a person and not a claim number.
The reader of the Demand probably sees hundreds of Demand letters a year. The object of the Demand is to make sure that the reader views your client as an individual and not just a claim number. Include in the Demand the background of your client including a picture, date of birth, family information (children/dependents), schooling, employment, and hobbies. In addition, refer to the client on a first name basis and not as Mr., Mrs., or client. Including this information, particularly pictures, may gain some empathy from the reader towards your client and help him or her to relate to your client, particularly if the reader has something in common with your client.
Present the Demand as you would an opening statement.
Write the Demand as a story. Anyone can list the dates your client was examined by the doctor and what were the diagnoses. However, the reader will have questions including, why did the client go to the doctor?, why did the client refuse treatment at the accident scene?, why did the client wait one week to see a doctor?, why is there a six month gap in treatment?, and why was the client referred for physical therapy?. Anticipating these questions will help the flow of the demand letter and make your client's claim reasonable to the reader.
Organize the medical records.
The medical records should be separated either by provider or in chronological order. If you put the medical records in chronological order and they were mailed to you by the provider in another manner explain to the reader that you put them in chronological order for the reader's convenience. The reader should appreciate your effort and know you are not lazy. If you fail to organize the medical records and provide them in an unorganized manner, the reader will think either you are lazy or are not serious about litigating the case.
Acknowledge the weaknesses of your client's case.
Usually, no case is perfect. The reader of the Demand is more than likely well experienced in reading medical records and finding flaws in every case. By acknowledging the weaknesses to your client's case up front you take away and disarm the other side's arguments. Additionally, you gain credibility with the reader by showing that you recognize problems with the case and have taken these weaknesses into consideration in making your Demand. As a corollary, make sure that the Demand only claims damages that you intend to ask a jury to award. It is acceptable to point out nominal wage loss, miles, expenses, etc. However, if the reader believes that he or she is being "nickle and dimed" it may have an adverse effect on the evaluation.
Witness statements or videos.
Consider including witness statements or videos to witnesses that you are going to present at the trial. If the damages are catastrophic, a "day in the life" video or pictures of therapy or the client may be included.
Photographs of injuries and vehicles.
Some cases may warrant including color photographs of scars, your client wearing appliances, or the damage to vehicles.
Include research on medical issues.
Some areas of medicine are not well known or accepted. For instance, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), trigger points(TPS), and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) are either missed by medical providers or not given adequate consideration as part of Demands. There is medical research or journals available in libraries or over the Internet that you can purchase or print to attach as an exhibit to your Demand.
Demands are often sent out with spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. If you fail to make certain that your Demand does not have any of these mistakes you show the reader that you may be lazy and this will be taken into consideration.
These are some suggestions that may be included in a typical Demand. It is not an exhaustive list. However, using it as a guide may help you in drafting Demands and to remember that each case has a value of its own and should be considered separately.