A demand letter is a formal, written demand that the insurance company settle your claim for a specified amount. In most cases, the demand letter marks the beginning of serious settlement negotiations. Your personal injury attorney and the insurance adjuster will have had prior conversations about your claim, but the adjuster won’t really sit up and take notice until he receives a demand letter.
When Is a Demand Letter Sent?
Generally, a demand letter is sent 2-6 weeks after you have recovered from your injuries or when your recovery is nearly complete. This allows your personal injury attorney time to complete his investigation and to present the adjuster with a fairly clear picture of value of your claim.
What Are the Components of a Well-Crafted Demand Letter?
Summary Introduction: The letter will open with a brief summary of what you want and why you are entitled to that amount. This summary introduction gives context to the details that follow in the body of the letter and, more importantly, makes it easy for a busy adjuster to quickly get a handle on your claim.
Fault: Next, the letter will describe the incident that caused your injuries (e.g., the car crash or the slip and fall) and show how and why the insured is responsible (or “liable”) for those injuries.
Damages: The next portion of the demand letter will describe your legal “damages” – that is, the amount of money it will take to compensate you for your losses and make you whole. Your attorney will outline your out-of-pocket expenses; lost wages; anticipated future economic losses; and your physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering.
Demand: Before the demand letter is sent, you and your personal injury attorney will have discussed and agreed upon an acceptable settlement range for your claim. This initial demand will be on the high end of that range (or, possibly, higher than that range), to allow plenty of room for give and take in the following settlement negotiations.
Time for Response: Your injury lawyer will ask the adjuster to respond to your demand by a certain date, usually 2-3 weeks after the letter is sent. This gives the adjuster a reasonable amount of time to get any settlement approval he might need from his superiors and to formulate a response.
What Supporting Evidence Is Sent to the Adjuster With the Demand Letter?
Your demand will carry more weight with the adjuster if it is supported by actual evidence of the validity of your claim. Thus, your lawyer will include copies of some or all of the following documents with the letter, as part of a demand “package”: your medical records and bills; witness statements; the accident report or police report; and recent jury verdicts