When you receive physical injuries due to the negligent actions of another, you have a right to receive fair compensation for the economic and non-economic damages that result. In order to initiate the settlement process, you must submit what is called a personal injury demand letter. This letter is essentially a demand for compensation for the damages that another party caused. The hope is that this letter will help the injured party obtain maximum compensation without the need for a personal injury lawsuit.
In this post, a Shreveport personal injury lawyer from Gordon & Gordon Law Firm will further explain what a personal injury demand letter is and what effective demand letters entail.
What is a Personal Injury Demand Letter?
A personal injury demand letter is the starting point for settlement negotiations in a personal injury claim. It essentially lets the other party know that you are seeking damages for the injury or injuries that resulted from their negligent actions. As this letter begins the settlement negotiation process for personal injury claims, it is important that your demand letter is well constructed and that you present your damages in a professional, straightforward manner. While a poorly written letter can gravely hurt your case, a well-written demand letter can set the stage for a quick and equitable settlement process.
Within your demand letter, you should include any and all damages that resulted from the injuries. This includes economic damages, such as medical expenses (current and future treatment, diagnostic tests, pain medication costs, physical therapy, hospital inpatient services, etc.), property damage, and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and mental distress.
How Do You Start a Demand Letter?
The top of your demand letter must explain the relationships between the parties and their identities. It should include your name, address, and the date of writing or sending the letter. If you will be sending your letter to an insurance company, you should include its name, address, and a line that directs the letter to the attention of an adjuster.
After that, you write the name and address of the at-fault party. Include their policy number and any claim number if the letter should be directed also to their insurance carrier.
End your heading with the date and type of injury. You must also state that you are sending the letter for settlement purposes. This means that if you end up suing, this letter cannot “cap” your compensation.
Going forward, you want to ensure your letter is truthful and factual. In addition, be sure it is clear, concise, and error-free. If it is poorly worded or contains grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, it could end up negatively impacting your case. Be sure to have someone else, such as your personal injury attorney at Gordon & Gordon, read it over for you or otherwise assist you in composing it.
How Much Should I Ask for in a Demand Letter?
Always speak to an experienced attorney before you demand or settle for a specific amount in a settlement. Generally, you should ask between 75% to 100% higher than you would actually be satisfied with. For example, if you think your claim is worth $3,000-$4,000, you should first ask for $6,000-$8,000.
Not only will you need your demand letter, but you will also need copies of your supporting documentation. Some of the crucial evidence includes:
- Wage verification
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Medical bills
In most cases, a good demand packet contains as many as 20 or 30 pages. You will need to use a letter-sized envelope to hold the packet without folding the pages. Send the letter with certified USPS mail, and include a return receipt request.
In terms of the structure of a demand letter, after your heading, you will need to include:
Presentation of the Facts
The presentation of the facts will occur in the body of the letter. Explain the events that preceded your injury. Next, give a step-by-step description of the events that led to your accident. Provide as much detail as possible.
Avoid any technical arguments. It is permissible, and sometimes desirable to use “approximate” language. Avoid saying “Sunday, January 1 at 12:23 pm.” This will prevent the insurance company from denying your claim due to minor incorrect details.
Description of Damages
This includes the hard costs, called economic or “special damages.” You can prove these by showing:
- Medical bills
- Lost wage statements
- Receipts for medications
Next, you will talk about your “general damages.” These are intangible losses. You will need to use vivid and descriptive language. It is important to emphasize the pain, suffering, and emotional distress you experienced. You may include specific details demonstrating that your life was negatively impacted, such as:
- The injury required you to cancel a vacation or important business trip
- The injury prevented you from caring for your children
- You were not able to attend an important family event
- The prescription medication you needed to take for your pain prevented you from performing daily functions
You need to walk the adjuster through every step along your road to recovery. Here, you can talk about the levels of pain and discomfort you experienced.
Make it very clear that you believe the at-fault party is fully responsible for your injury. Bring all of the facts of the case together to prove that the injuries happened because of the insured party’s negligence and that the injury was absolutely not your fault.
How Long After a Personal Injury Demand Letter Does the Settlement Take?
The time it takes to achieve a personal injury settlement varies from case to case, as it depends on a variety of factors. Many times, it is simply up to the insurance company involved and how complicated your case is.
First, your attorney at Gordon & Gordon must go through all of your medical records. Next, they will finalize a draft and send it to the appropriate parties. Once the demand letter is sent, it usually takes the insurance company anywhere from 20-60 days to respond. If they accept the demand letter, you can proceed to settle and receive the damages you asked for.
At this point, you will probably have to sign a release of liability. This means that you won’t be able to take any legal action for the injury in the future.
What Do You Do If You Don’t Get a Response to Your Demand Letter?
This is not likely. As long as you are sending your demand letter to an insurer or a large company, you should absolutely expect a response. If you don’t, something probably went wrong. These companies have many staff members whose primary duty is to respond to demand letters. If you don’t hear back after a while, you should contact them to make sure that they received your letter.
Ultimately, however, if they do fail to respond to your demand letter, they can expect a lawsuit.
Get Help With Your Personal Injury Demand Letter
The Shreveport personal injury attorneys at Gordon & Gordon Law Firm have helped their clients in writing many successful demand letters. They have many years of experience in building strong cases, all which start with a powerful demand letter. If you are unsure of how to begin your letter, or need legal advice on the best way to proceed, contact us online or give us a call at 318-716-HELP today.