If you have been the victim of a car accident, you may be wondering how you can be compensated for your loss. The first step in settlement negotiations is called a settlement demand letter or simply, a demand letter. Liability insurance carriers will often tell you that they will reimburse you for your property damage and that the matter will be resolved. It will require you or your attorney informing the adjuster that you expect to be reimbursed for your medical expenses, and pain and suffering, before they will come to the table with a settlement. Generally speaking, any adjuster will require a settlement demand letter and/or package to be sent prior to talking about a settlement.
Every attorney has their own style when it comes to writing demand letters; however, they generally include these four basic sections:
Your insurance adjuster likely has thousands of files from open cases so it is necessary to introduce yourself and your claim number at the start of any demand letter. If you have hired an experienced personal injury attorney and/or any attorney who is regularly involved in litigation, they will take care of this process for you. The first paragraph generally says something along the lines of: “Please be advised that my firm represents XXXXXXX with regard to the above referenced matter.” This shows the insurance company that you mean business and that they are now dealing with an attorney who has already opened a file on your case. This section will also include the date of your injury and who the opposing party is – generally the individual covered by the insurance carrier.
The section is pretty self-explanatory. The insurance company needs to understand the facts of the claim in your own words. Do not be surprised if there is a discrepancy as to how the insurance carrier views the facts and the way they are presented by your attorney. This is common in litigation. In accidents where the insurance carrier has already accepted liability, this section may be shorter as the facts of your case may not be in dispute. In this instance it is likely that both sides are squabbling about the damages and the value of the case if placed before a jury in your specific jurisdiction. Remember, the insurance company is going to try to offer you as little as possible, while your attorney is attempting to settle for as much as possible. Because of this, the next section on damages is the most important.
It is important to remember that you always suffer damages when being involved in an accident – especially one at which you were not at fault. Be upfront with your attorney about every medical bill you have received or any ailment that you have suffered. You are eligible for compensation due to pain and suffering, such as back pain you were not already experiencing, as well as the nuisance of being without a vehicle for an extended period of time (even if the insurance company has already settled with you for property damages).
Additionally, while we recommend that you see a physician for bruises or painful ailments as a result of the injury-it is not always necessary. Insurance adjusters will often use this against you saying that because you did not see a doctor regarding afterward, you are not eligible to be compensated for those injuries. That is simply not true. Understand that you have the ability to personally testify to your injuries in court regardless of whether you were treated for them. Jurors understand that sometimes a victim may decide to handle the pain from an accident on their own, rather than miss another day of work. Your attorney will use all the information you provide to calculate a reasonable demand.
Think about the demand section as the conclusion of your letter, taking into account the totality of the circumstances and the facts of your case. It is necessary to encompass all of this into a settlement demand – a number that you believe would compensate you fully and place you back in the position that you were in prior to the accident. Also, understand that while the initial demand is likely not what you will receive, you need to be able to justify its presentation. Additionally, it is necessary to keep in mind that damages lower than $7,500 are litigated in a different court than damages alleged of $7,500 or more. Your total demand will begin the negotiations and your attorney will give you advice as to where you should begin. From this point, it becomes a back and forth negotiation which will hopefully result in a settlement. Otherwise, the attorney is ready and willing to take your case to trial.
Our firm specializes in personal injury litigation and has years of experience representing accident victims. We are not simply attorneys, but trial lawyers. We are not afraid of the courtroom and relish the opportunity to present our case to a jury. We have obtained some of the biggest verdicts in the country for our clients and believe the horizon to be bright. While no results can be guaranteed, we promise to fight for your rights against the insurance companies that believe you can be pushed around. Please do not attempt to determine if you have a compensable case. You must consult a relevant liability attorney who has the expertise and extensive knowledge necessary to determine who ultimately caused the harm and injuries you or a loved one suffered.
Contact us for a free car accident case evaluation here.