Your ability to write an effective demand letter is one of the single biggest factors influencing whether you will be able to recover a fair settlement for your personal injuries. If you do a great job and write a clear and persuasive letter, then you are much more likely to get a positive result than if your letter is rambling, incoherent, and non-sensical.
Writing an effective and persuasive demand letter is where your lawyer (should you hire one) will earn their fee. (The ability to take a case to trial doesn’t hurt either).
You should never send a demand letter until you are almost at the end of your medical treatment, or you have been informed by your doctors that even though you will need ongoing treatment, you have reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI. If you send a demand letter too soon after your accident, you may not properly account for all of your injuries and the cost of your medical treatment. In addition, if you have missed time from work and are likely to miss more time, you will need to wait until you have returned to work before sending out your demand letter.
When you send out your demand you should have as clear of a picture as possible about the facts of your case, your medical treatment to date, and your prognosis for future medical care and lost income.
In this article, we will dig into how to write an effective demand letter even if you have no legal training. But keep in mind that there is a certain art to drafting an effective and persuasive demand letter. If writing is difficult for you, or you are too emotionally involved to look objectively at your own case, then you should talk to a personal injury lawyer to answer any legal questions you have about your settlement.
What Key Elements Should You Include in an Effective Demand Letter?
Even though writing an effective demand letter can lend itself a certain degree of artistic creativity, there are still a number of core elements that must be present in every demand letter. These include:
- A clear disclaimer indicating that your settlement letter is for settlement purposes only;
- A summary of the facts of your case and what happened, including a statement of why the insured is liable for your injuries;
- A detailed list of the injuries you suffered as well as the related medical bills;
- A list of all out of pocket expenses you incurred as a result of the accident;
- A list of all your lost income, both current and future wages and compensation (if applicable);
- A detailed statement of your current and future pain and suffering and/or emotional distress;
- Copies of relevant medical records, the police report, prescriptions, redacted medical bills, and letters from your employer that back up your claims; and,
- A clear statement of the settlement amount you are seeking.
The Importance of a Legal Disclaimer
At the very top of your letter, between the address of the insurance adjuster and the body of your letter, you should type in big bold letters, all caps, underlined, the phrase:
FOR SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS ONLY. NOT ADMISSIBLE IN ANY COURT PROCEEDING.
A disclaimer such as this will keep the lawyer for the insurance company from attempting to introduce your letter as evidence in the event that you file a personal injury lawsuit later on.
The Basics – Don’t Overlook this Section
I can’t impress upon you enough how important it is that your letter be clear, concise, free from spelling and grammatical errors, and easy to read. You can do this, even if you failed high school English and have never had any legal training. But if you try to write your letter and find that you absolutely are unable to write a letter that will be easy for the insurance adjuster to understand, then you should seek out the help of a lawyer.
One of the easiest ways to make your letter clear and concise is to simplify it. You do NOT need to write in complicated legal language. Simply tell the adjuster what happened and why their insured should be responsible for your damages. In most simple personal injury cases (where your medical bills do not exceed $2,000), this should not be terribly difficult.
However, if you have severe injuries and medical bills, significant time away from work, and other long term disabilities, then you should seek out the help of a personal injury lawyer to assist you. In many cases, you will more than recoup the fee you must pay the lawyer in the overall settlement value of your case.
Here is a quick summary of the main sections that must be included in your demand letter:
It is important to include your name, address, and contact information at the top of the letter. Underneath your contact information, you should insert the date followed by the name and address of the insurance adjuster.
Next you will include the legal disclaimer referenced above.
Always include a “Re:” line that includes your name, the name of the insured, the claim number, the date of the accident/loss, and any other relevant information. You should separate each of these items with a line break.
The body of your demand letter contains the substantive information that the adjuster will need to properly evaluate your claim. If you botch this up, it will be easy for the adjuster to promptly deny your claim.
The first paragraph of the body will include a brief introduction and put the adjuster on notice that you are prepared to begin settlement negotiations.
Next you will include a “background” section that includes the relevant facts of your case, and lays out the factual foundation for why the insured was negligent and ultimately responsible for your injuries. You may reference police reports and witness statements in this section that are included as attachments to your letter.
In the liability section you will make the legal argument that their insured was negligent and responsible for your injuries. You will want to argue why what they did to hurt you constituted an act of negligence.
In the injuries section of your letter, you will describe how you were hurt, what your injuries were, and the medical treatment you underwent. You want to be as explicit and as specific as possible in this section. Ultimately, you want the adjuster to step away from your letter saying to themselves, “wow, that must have been really painful – this is a real person with real injuries. I want to help them.”
The damages section of your letter is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you will methodically detail each and every item that you are seeking as compensation. Some of the items you may want to include here are:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Out of pocket expenses you had to incur as a result of your injuries;
- Lost compensation from work;
- Past or future pain and suffering and emotional distress you are claiming; and,
- Any damages to your personal property (if this has not already been resolved).
We find it helpful to include charts, graphs, videos, etc. if they will help to support our client’s case.
Essentially, by the time the adjuster gets to the end of your letter, you want them to decide there is no other option but to pay your claim. The only question is how much will they offer to settle the case?
The conclusion should be a relatively short one or two paragraphs. In this section, you should reiterate your final demand, and let the adjuster know how much time you expect for a response.
Final Thoughts on Writing a Demand Letter
If you have any questions or are nervous about writing a demand letter on your own, please reach out to a personal injury or auto accident lawyer for additional help and guidance.
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If you have a question for us, you can submit it confidentially online by clicking here. You can also call The Hart Law Firm at (919) 460-5422. We are happy to speak to you and answered any detailed questions you may have.