What Exactly is a Letter of Demand Related to a Car Accident?
Demand Letters Kick of Negotiations
With a demand letter, you tell the at-fault driver’s insurer what caused the accident and how much compensation you want. This is the “demand” part of a demand letter. You are letting the insurer know that if they meet your number, you will settle the claim.
Although you can negotiate verbally, putting a demand in writing memorializes what you want. All important communications should be in writing so there is no confusion about what is said.
Important Elements of a Demand Letter
A demand letter should be well-structured and contain key pieces of information. You don’t want to leave the reader confused about the letter’s purpose or why you are entitled to compensation. A good demand letter should be informative but also persuasive and contain:
- A description of the incident. Essentially, you are identifying what caused the accident. Maybe someone was looking at their phone and caused a wreck, or a drunk driver hit you. A description of the accident is necessary because Nevada is a fault state. This means the motorist at fault for the wreck pays compensation to the people injured. If you don’t establish fault when describing the accident, an insurer might think you aren’t entitled to any compensation. Important information can include your memories, any eyewitness statements, and any statements the other driver made.
- Police report information. The insurance company might already have a copy of the police report. But include the report number anyway.
- Photographs of the accident. You should have taken photos that show where the vehicles end up, a debris field, and damage to the vehicles involved. You can include copies of these photos in your demand letter. Photographs help the person reading the demand letter “see” how the accident unfolded.
- An explanation of your property damage. Your car probably sustained damage in the wreck. In addition to pictures, you can describe the damage. Include information about how much it cost to repair the vehicle or a repair estimate if you have not yet had repairs done. If another property was damaged in the car accident— your phone broke, your glasses were shattered— include that information as well.
- Information on your injuries. Car accidents cause bodily injuries. Describe in some detail what injuries you suffered and how far along you are toward recovery.
- A list of medical costs. You can type up a list of all medical expenses incurred to treat your injuries. Include everything— ambulance costs, hospital bills, doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, assistive devices. Even if your insurance paid for some of these expenses, including the full amount the medical provider charged.
- Information on lost wages. If you missed work, including how much time and the amount of income you are paid. Include this information even if you can use sick time or short-term disability insurance. You might need a letter from your employer to include as supporting documentation.
- A description of your pain and suffering. Car accident victims should receive compensation for any pain or inconvenience caused by the wreck. Think of being unable to sleep well because of bodily pain, or the depression or anxiety you feel because you cannot play with your children or grandchildren.
- Your settlement demand. Everything has led up to this moment—your demand for compensation to settle the dispute. Provide a dollar amount.
Contact information. If it’s not apparent from the letterhead, close with your phone number and mailing address so that the insurer can reach you.
What is a Good Demand Amount?
Attorneys are split on this. Some claim you should only request an amount that is fair. “Don’t get greedy” is their thinking. On the other hand, the demand letter serves as merely the starting point for negotiation. And it is a normal feature of negotiation that you might need to come down to reach a number the insurance company agrees with. For this reason, your first number should be on the high side.
Of course, everything depends on how you value your pain and suffering. Car repairs, lost wages, and medical bills are usually easy to calculate— you can look at bills and receipts. Pain or suffering is subjective. In our view, it is okay to be aggressive in negotiations and provide a high number in your demand letter.
What Happens after the Insurer Receives Your Demand Letter?
As mentioned above, the demand letter is only part of the process. An insurance adjuster should read it and then analyze how much they are prepared to offer to settle a claim. Don’t be surprised if the insurer rejects your initial demand and makes a counteroffer. You might have requested $120,000 for a car accident that sent you to the hospital with a fracture and moderate traumatic brain injury. However, the insurer might offer only $60,000 in return. This is why we believe an initial demand letter should have a demand on the high side. You now have room to come down and meet somewhere near the middle. Sometimes, the insurance adjuster will want more information. A thorough demand letter should cover all bases, but there might be some information you haven’t thought of. Only after receiving supplemental information will the insurer decide to agree or reject the demand.
How to Write an Effective Demand Letter
You might be wondering if you should hire a lawyer for your car accident case. There are many benefits, and one is that a lawyer knows how to write an effective demand letter:
- Be accurate. This is how you build trust with the reader. Add up your medical bills properly, because you know the other side will whip out their calculator to see that you have done so. If your numbers are wrong, they might wonder what else you got wrong.
- Be factual. Facts are more important than guesses. “My passenger saw the driver reach for her cell phone in the seconds before the crash” is better than, “I think the other driver was on her phone.”
- Be concise. A demand letter should cover a lot of information. Don’t make it too long.
- Be readable. A demand letter should be well written with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Insurance adjusters are busy and have a dozen different things they could be doing.
- Be professional. There is no reason to use heated or exaggerated rhetoric. Never say, “Your dumb driver who lied about being drunk.” Instead, point out that you saw an open container in the car and that the police requested a breath test with the driver.
A seasoned attorney has also negotiated with many different insurers and can tailor a letter to the insurance company’s expectations, which can speed up the settlement process. When letters are missing key information, negotiations grind to a halt.
Our Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyer Is Happy to Assist You
Car accidents are not simple. Even when the fault is clear, victims need to fully document their losses and be clear about what they think is a fair settlement. The process is complicated because most victims are suffering from serious bodily injuries which cause pain and inconvenience.
Please contact Ladah Law Firm today at (702) 252-0055 to schedule a free consultation to review your case. We can draft a demand letter as part of our full legal representation.