A demand letter in a car accident case should be sent at the right time -- not too early and not too late. But when is the right time? The most important rule is that you should not send a demand letter in any personal injury case until you have either reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) or are very close to that point.
MMI is that point in your recovery when are as good as you are going to get. It does not mean that you have fully recovered; it simply means that you are not likely to get any better. MMI is generally the point where your doctor discharges you from care and tells you that you do not need any further medical treatment in connection with your car accident injuries. Generally, MMI means that the doctor believes that there is nothing further that he/she can do for you.
The reason that you want to wait until you are at MMI before settling is so that you and your lawyer will know how to value your damages. If you are still treating, it is unclear whether you will fully recover or not. If you fully recover from your injuries, your case is likely to be worth less than if you require medical treatment for the foreseeable future or your injuries are deemed permanent.
Let’s look at an example of this. Let’s say that you broke your wrist in a car accident and you want to get the case settled so that you can stop obsessing about it. You assume that you will recover fully, so you make a settlement demand based on being out of work for three months and settle the case before you get back to work.
But it turns out that your wrist never does heal and you can never go back to your old job. You are stuck having to take a new job for much lower pay than the old job. Your claim would have been worth a lot more because now you would be claiming a permanent injury, but you settled the case and so it is over. You can never reopen the case and file a lawsuit. This is the best example of why you should always wait until you have reached MMI (or at least got very close to MMI) before sending a demand letter.
Adjusters go through claimants’ files with a fine-toothed comb. They will not make a settlement offer until they have reviewed every single medical record, medical bill, and proof of lost earnings that relates to your claim. If you are missing even one medical record or bill, the adjuster will not make an offer. It is simply not worth your time to send a demand letter until you are sure that the adjuster has all of the medical records and other supporting documents necessary to evaluate your claim.
The first thing to remember about deadlines for sending demand letters is you have to either settle your case before the statute of limitations expires or file suit. If you don’t either settle your case or file a lawsuit before your state’s statute of limitations expires, your case is over. There are no exceptions to the statute of limitations.
For this reason, you always want to make sure to send a demand letter no later than six months before the statute of limitations expires, just to make sure that the insurance adjuster has enough time to consider your claim and make an offer. Insurance adjusters don’t speed up the review process just because the statute of limitations is approaching. In their minds, the statute of limitations is your problem, not theirs.
But, even if the statute of limitations is still far away, you still don’t want to wait too long after reaching MMI before sending a demand letter. The reason for this is that the adjusters keep track of significant developments in all of their cases. They particularly want to keep track of the medical progress of all of their claimants. They will know when you are approaching MMI and when you reach MMI. When you reach MMI, they are ready to talk settlement. They want to get the case settled so that they can get the case off their desk and get a checkmark in their personnel file for having settled another case. When you reach MMI, they’ll write you letters asking for a settlement demand. If you keep ignoring their letters and don’t make a demand, eventually they are going to give up, put your file away, and move on to other cases.
Letting adjusters forget about you is a mistake. You want to deal with them when they are ready to deal with you. Don’t make them have to pull your file out of storage. Once you hit MMI, be ready with your demand letter.