Your personal injury demand letter starts the final phase of your claim. It summarizes the incident that caused your injury, the damages you suffered, and the amount you’re seeking for compensation. It ties together all your supporting documentation, and walks the adjuster through your claim. The letter effectively begins settlement negotiations.
Good and Bad Demand Letters
Good demand letters are well written, chronological, and give the claims adjuster strong documentation, which she can use to make a realistic offer. A good letter gives the adjuster clear evidence of her insured’s liability. The letter doesn’t make threats. It conveys your intention to negotiate the claim in good faith, with a spirit of compromise.
Bad demand letters are short and poorly written. They lack facts and supporting evidence. While they may include some medical records and receipts, they don’t give enough information to validate the claim. Without that information, the settlement demand appears unreasonable. Sometimes, they even include the threat of a lawsuit.
Formatting the Letter
The demand letter is an integral part of the settlement process. It must look professional, typed on high quality stationary, such as a 24lb cotton white or ivory antique-laid paper. Many personal injury attorneys use high quality paper because it has a professional look and feel.
Proper punctuation and grammar are essential. If your writing skills aren’t the best, find someone to help you write the letter. It’s also a good idea to have several friends proofread it for errors.
Contents of the Letter
The heading should include all of the basic information about you, the claim, and the insurance company. It must have all of the details that link the letter to your claim.
[Date the letter is written]
[Insurance company name]
Attn: [Insurance adjuster’s name and job title]
[Insurance company street address]
[Insurance company city, state, ZIP]
Claimant: [Your full name]
D.O.B.: [Your date of birth]
S.S.N.: [Your Social Security Number]
D.O.L.: [Date of the accident/loss]
Claim # [The claim number assigned by the insurance company]
Your insured: [Name of the at-fault party]
Presentation of Facts
In the body of the letter, lay out your facts clearly and concisely. To avoid any technical arguments from the adjuster, you can use “on or about” language. So, instead of giving the exact date or time of events, you can say “on or about” (a day or time).
For example, instead of saying, “Thursday at 4:03pm,” you’d say, “Thursday at about 4pm.” This prevents the insurance company from denying your claim due to an incorrect time.
After the salutation, begin by explaining the events that preceded the accident. Then give a chronological report of the events that came together to cause the accident. Those events should include:
- A clear description of the vehicles involved in the accident (i.e. make, model, color, and license plate number)
- The names of the drivers and passengers
- The exact location of the accident
- The weather at the time of the accident
- The action or omission of the insured that caused the accident (e.g. running a stop sign, making an illegal left turn, etc.)
- The existence of a police report and reference number (if your set of facts matches those in the police report, emphasize the match)
- Any traffic tickets given by the police to the insured
Description of Damages
The next step in your personal injury demand letter is an accounting of your medical damages, referred to as “specials.” It should include a clear and detailed description of your injuries and resulting treatment, beginning at the point of impact.
Write this as if you were walking the adjuster through every step along your road to recovery. Clearly relate the levels of pain and discomfort you experienced.
Tangible evidence includes:
- Descriptions (and dates) of medical treatments you received
- Exam and test results, including doctors’ diagnoses and prognoses
- Types of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment you received
Present your evidence of treatment in the order it occurred. Always be truthful, and never include treatment you didn’t receive; when the adjuster finds out, your credibility and negotiating position will be permanently damaged.
After completing the tangible portion of your injuries and treatment, move on to the intangible losses. These are losses that can’t be measured objectively, and can’t be calculated with a simple formula; they can only be described through words.
This is the part of the demand letter where you emphasize the pain, suffering, and emotional distress you experienced as a result of the insured’s negligence. Include specific details that show how your life was altered, such as canceling a vacation or an important business trip, or not being able to attend an important family event.
Relate how the effects of prescription medication or the injuries themselves prohibited you from normal, daily functions, and how you had to rely upon others. You can even describe relationships that were strained due to the limitations of your injuries.
In addition to listing your tangible and intangible damages, it’s very important to communicate to the adjuster that:
- You never asked for these injuries and all the resulting problems.
- You had neither the time, nor the desire to be laid up for weeks (or months), having to miss work and endure constant pain.
- You loathe the emotional toll the accident has taken on your relationships with your spouse and children.
Direct and Proximate Cause
Although it may be understood between you and the adjuster, never take the insured’s liability for granted. In this part of the letter, you have to bring all the facts together to form the unshakeable conclusion that the insured’s actions were the direct and proximate cause of the accident and your injuries.
Make it perfectly clear you did not contribute in any manner to the accident. Stress that there were no intervening factors which might relieve the insured of liability.
Personal injury claims ultimately come down to money. Your next step in the demand letter is to detail the specific amounts of money you’re demanding for all your losses. These losses can include past and future:
- Medical costs
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
The sum of all of these is your total settlement demand.
The closing paragraph should end by thanking the adjuster for her attention, and placing a time limit on her response – no more than 30 days. Well written demand letters invite honest negotiations. They almost always result in fair personal injury settlements.
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