Detailing Your Damages in a Car Accident Demand Letter

How to present the best picture of your economic and non-economic losses.

Every demand letter in a car accident case must thoroughly describe your damages -- the losses you have suffered because of the accident, both economic and non-economic. You need to make sure you address all aspects of your damages in a concise, succinct manner. You don’t want to go on for too many pages, but you don’t want to leave anything out either. As a general rule, you want to provide the following information about your damages to the insurance adjuster or other recipient of the demand letter:

  • your employment situation, including your employer’s name and your current earnings
  • what physically happened to your body during the collision
  • your exact medical diagnosis or diagnoses
  • a summary of your medical treatment
  • how the injury impaired or affected your ability to work
  • how the injury impaired or affected your personal life and your ability to do things around the house
  • how long you were out of work
  • your pain and suffering
  • when you physically recovered from your injury (if you did not recover fully, you need to explain that)
  • your lost earnings
  • your medical bills

In most cases, you should be able to provide all of this information in about a page and a half. Let’s look at some of these categories in some more detail.

What Physically Happened to Your Body During the Accident

You want to explain exactly what happened to your body in the impact. Did any part of your body hit the dashboard or any other part of the car? You want to mention that. Did your head, neck, or back snap back and forth due to the impact? Mention that as well. Explicitly describing what happened to you -- at impact and afterward -- paints a picture so that the adjuster can match up what happened in the accident to your doctors’ diagnoses and your injury claims.

Your Exact Medical Diagnosis or Diagnoses

You should make sure that you have your doctor’s precise medical diagnosis. Don’t write a demand letter that just says that you suffered a back injury. Use the doctor’s medical terminology. If you don’t know, ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records.

Chronological Summary of Medical Treatment

You want to provide a brief, concise summary of all medical treatment received after the car accident, and present it in as organized a fashion as possible. Summarize your medical care chronologically, by provider. This will allow the adjuster to easily follow the course of your medical treatment from beginning to end. You should list each provider’s full name and also identify their practice organization.

For example, don’t just list Dr. Jones in your summary. Say William T. Jones, M.D., East Main St. Medical Association. That will allow the adjuster to easily match up the health care provider with his/her office records in the event that the records only have the organization’s name on them. Remember that the demand letter is written for the adjuster’s convenience, not for yours. Make it as easy to read and understand as possible.

Explain Your Pain, Suffering, and Impairment

If you go to trial, the jurors will want to hear you explain your pain and suffering. This is a category of non-economic damages, and the jury won’t be able to look through your medical records to find out about it. The same goes for a demand letter. Don’t just tell the adjuster to review your medical records to learn about your pain, suffering, and impairments. Provide the narrative for them.

Explain thoroughly, but concisely, what type of pain and suffering you had due to the accident. Say how bad it was on a scale of 1-10. Say what made it worse and what made it better. How long did it last? How did it affect your ability to work and your life in general? What other impairments did you have? Did you have weakness or restriction of motion? How long did it take to recover? When were you feeling like yourself again? Make sure to describe all of that, and remember that no one can explain it better than you can.

Make a Spreadsheet of Your Medical Bills

You should of course make sure that the adjuster has all of your medical bills, but it is also a good idea to make a spreadsheet of those bills as well. The spreadsheet should list each provider’s name, their professional association, and the amount of the bill. That way, the adjuster will have a one-page summary of the cost of your medical treatment. That is a lot easier for the adjuster than sifting through page after page of bills.

Calculation of Lost Earnings

You should always spell out any lost earnings claim you're making. Don't just say that you lost $10,000 in earnings. Do the math for the adjuster. If you were out of work for 20 weeks and earned $500 per week, lay out your calculations (i.e., 20 x $500 = $10,000).

Documents to Include with the Demand Letter

Along with your demand letter, you should also send documentary proof of your lost earnings (copies of some recent paystubs and/or a letter from your employer) and copies of all of your medical records and bills relating to your treatment from the injury if you haven’t send them already. More: Checklist of Records to Gather After a Car Accident.

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