When we've been hired by a client who's been injured in an auto collision, before we file a lawsuit, we'll first send a "demand letter" to the other side. A demand letter is typically sent when the scope and severity of a client's injuries are understood and a compelling argument for the defendant's liability has been established. The most common way we settle claims without litigation is to initiate a conversation with the at-fault driver's insurance company by drafting and sending the demand letter. This letter puts the other side on notice of the claim and affords them the opportunity to settle before a costly and time consuming personal injury lawsuit is filed.
Once we've concluded our investigation of the personal injury claim and have all of the relevant information concerning the client's damages--including medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering-- and the other side's role in causing those damages, it's usually time to send the letter.
A well-written personal injury demand letter should:
* Provide an objective, verifiable account of the incident that led to our client's injuries;
* Explain why the other side is responsible for our client's injuries and why our client is free of responsibility;
* Provide a detailed, verifiable explanation of our client's injuries;
* Itemize all of the client's medical expenses, out of pocket expenses, and lost wages
* Address the specifics of our client's pain, suffering, and emotional distress
* Include any known witness statements and the names of all known witnesses, medical providers, and employers who will provide support for the client's damage claims;
* Contain a settlement demand for the specific amount of money we are seeking to settle the claim; and
* Request a response to the demand within a reasonable time (usually 30 days or so).
When an insurance company receives a demand letter that includes the information listed above, it will typically treat the claim in a serious manner, and will embark upon its own investigation. At this point, the insurer's goal is to respond to the demand with a counteroffer. Just as we are interested in settling the claim without having to file suit, the insurance company is likewise concerned about attorney fees and other litigation costs that can cause a claim to become prohibitively expensive. For this reason, insurance companies will seize the opportunity to negotiate a pre-suit settlement whenever it is presented. A well-written demand letter serves as the catalyst for negotiation and ultimate settlement of a personal injury claim. When this letter documents the facts supporting the elements of the claim, it is an effective tool in the personal injury attorney's arsenal and often leads to a timely, cost effective resolution. Further, if the parties do not settle and filing a lawsuit becomes necessary, we use the demand letter as the starting point for drafting the mediation statement and ultimately the trial brief.
If you have been injured in an auto collision and need legal help negotiating your claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.