The Demand Letter in a Car Accident Claim
A demand letter is a key part of almost every car accident injury case. The process of drafting a demand letter involves gathering all information and documents that are relevant to your injuries, and using it to lay your side of the story out to the other driver -- usually in a letter addressed to the driver's car insurance carrier. This letter is usually sent once you have a pretty good understanding of your damages, but before a complaint is filed with the court. When the car insurance company responds to the demand letter, the next step is usually settlement negotiations. Read on to learn more about demand letters in car accident cases.
Requesting Information and Documentation
A strong demand letter requires that you describe your side of the case using specifics -- dates, details, and costs of medical treatment.
To make sure you have all the information you need, you must usually request records and bills from your medical care providers. For example, suppose that you injured your leg in a car accident. After the accident, you were transported by ambulance, received treatment at the city hospital, and underwent physical therapy at a private clinic. Before writing your demand letter, you should request copies of all your medical records and bills from the emergency services provider, the city hospital, and the physical therapist.
In most cases, it is best to wait until all treatment is completed before requesting records and bills. However, if your injuries will require long-term treatment, you should not wait to write the demand letter. Instead, ask your medical provider to provide an estimate of the costs of long-term treatment, and then include that estimate in your demand letter.
Some medical providers will charge a fee to produce copies of your medical records. Depending on the medical provider, the fee may be upfront or you may receive a bill after the records are produced. These fees can add up, and you will be responsible for the fee in most cases. Even in pure contingency fee agreements, most car accident lawyers will not cover these fees or expenses. The fees and expenses must either be paid as they become due, or the lawyer will cover them and then subtract them from your settlement or final verdict.
Obtaining all medical records can be a long and tedious process. It is easy to become frustrated during this time. However, if you do not have all medical treatment information or medical expenses calculated in your demand letter, the insurance company will have no proof of your losses.
Structure and Content of your Demand Letter
The demand letter should be addressed to the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. In most cases, you will want to send the letter to the attention of the insurance claims adjuster.
The top of the demand letter should also list important information such as:
- Your name;
- Name of at-fault driver;
- The claim number; and
- The date of the incident.
The first paragraph should describe the car accident, your injuries, and any traffic citations issued in relation to the accident -- and should specify that the other driver was at-fault. It is advisable to describe the accident in chronological order.
The next paragraphs should describe each medical treatment that you received. You should also describe the diagnoses of each medical provider. Again, provide the date of each treatment and list the treatment in chronological order. Here is an example: “On January 30, 2012, Mr. Smith was evaluated by city hospital for complaints of leg pain. Mr. Smith was diagnosed with a broken femur.”
After describing all treatment and diagnoses, you should list the medical bills to date. If possible, provide the exact dollar amount of each treatment. If treatment has not ended, you can provide an estimate of future medical expenses.
It is important to include calculations of emotional damages and pain and suffering in your demand letter as well. Often, a car accident will result in non-physical injuries without accompanying medical bills. For example, if Mr. Smith experiences daily pain as a result of his leg injuries, he should include a claim for damages that includes pain and suffering.
The last paragraph of your demand letter should summarize your injuries and offer to settle the case for a certain monetary amount. The initial offer should be higher than you expect to receive, but should still be reasonable. Learn More: How Much is My Car Accident Claim Worth?