When you suffer an injury caused by somebody else’s negligence, you have the right to claim compensation for all damages to yourself and your property. A demand letter sent to the responsible party or their insurer begins the claims process.
A demand letter is also a legal document that sets out your case for the claim. The statements you make in it can make or kill your case, so you have to get it right. That’s why we recommend that you consult an experienced personal injury lawyer for your personal injury demand.
What is a personal injury demand letter?
A demand letter is a written statement that you (as the plaintiff) send to the party liable for your injury or their insurer stating your formal demand for compensation. A demand letter serves four main purposes:
- Notifying the parties involved that you have a claim
- Specifying that the recipient bears responsibility for your injury and related damages
- Stating that you intend to pursue legal action if your claim is not resolved
- Making a formal demand for restitution
A demand letter is not a lawsuit. Instead, it often begins negotiations for settlement, and a lawsuit comes if those fail. Since about 95% of lawsuits settle before trial, a demand letter is key to the claims process.
What to include in a personal injury demand letter
Theoretically, you don’t need to write a long or complex demand letter. However, a bad letter is unlikely to get you results, no matter how good of a case you have. You need to prepare a well-thought-out demand letter and tailor it to suit the facts of your case.
The right layout will help you give a comprehensive account of the case with all the material facts. A good demand includes four main things: who was involved in the accident (and their insurers), what happened, the consequences, and the actual demand.
The best way to write a compelling demand letter is to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. Their experience and legal knowledge make it more likely for you to win and get a bigger settlement. If you have to write it yourself, follow this guide to personal injury demands.
Heading: claims information
This section contains information about the parties involved. That includes the name, address, and contacts of the victim (you, the claimant), the liable party (the insured), and the insurance company. It also includes the date of the accident and that of writing the letter.
Additionally, you can include the adjuster’s name and title, the policy number, and the claim number if you know them. End the heading with a line stating “for settlement purposes only,” which ensures that information contained in the letter can’t be used if the case goes to trial.
Here is an example of a heading.
[YOUR FULL NAME]
[YOUR ADDRESS: STREET, CITY, STATE, ZIP]
[DATE OF WRITING THE LETTER]
[INSURANCE COMPANY’S NAME]
[INSURANCE COMPANY’S ADDRESS, CITY, STATE, AND ZIP]
Attn: [INSURANCE ADJUSTER’S NAME]
Your Insured: [LIABLE PARTY’S NAME]
[LIABLE PARTY’S ADDRESS: STREET, CITY, STATE, ZIP]
Claim Number: [CLAIM NUMBER]
Re: [TYPE OF CLAIM] injury on [DATE OF INCIDENT]
FOR SETTLEMENT PURPOSES ONLY
The introduction starts with a line saying that the demand is time-limited and the offer to settle will be revoked in a given number of days (usually 30) unless a suitable response or check is received within that time.
Next is a brief description of the accident and the injuries you suffered. It includes an outline of the location and time of the accident and the parties involved, then ends with a brief description of your damages. Here is an example of an introduction.
You may already know that on [DATE OF INJURY] at approximately [TIME OF DAY], I was injured in a [TYPE OF CLAIM/ACCIDENT] that happened at [PLACE] through no fault of my own.
If not for the negligence of your insured, [NAME OF THE LIABLE PARTY], I would not have suffered my injuries and the ensuing pain and suffering, and financial loss.
Information about the claimant
Provide a brief and accurate description of yourself, including your full name, age, gender, occupation, and status of your health before the accident. Include information that can help humanize you, such as your marital status and any sports or hobbies you used to enjoy.
A detailed description of the accident and liability
Describe the accident in detail, taking care to only include the essential facts—who, when, what, where, and how. You don’t need to talk about emotions, and especially don’t include anything that could imply fault on your part.
Follow up the description with a short statement explaining why the insured was liable for the accident.
Injuries suffered, and treatment received
Summarize all the injuries you suffered, including every part that was hurt. Talk about the tests and treatments you received and how successful each was, as well as the medication you took and are likely to continue taking.
You only need to summarize this section because you will attach copies of your medical records with the demand. Remember to state any future treatment or care that you’ll need, including prescription medication, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments with your doctor.
This section will include details of all medical costs and lost income associated with the injury. Use your medical bills, paychecks or W-2 forms, health insurance information, and any other documentation you have to support your claim.
Remember to include future loss of income caused by job loss, extended sick leave, disability, or reduced capacity to work. Where you lack specific figures, estimate as best as you can.
These are damages for pain and suffering, which includes physical and emotional pain. Describe in detail your level of pain, whether you have healed or expect to heal, and future risk for conditions such as back pain and arthritis that could cause more suffering.
Non-economic damages also include reduced enjoyment of life, such as the inability to participate in hobbies or sports. If you suffered mental health conditions such as depression because of your accident, include them as well.
Finish this section with an estimated dollar value for non-economic damages. While it can be hard to come up with a fair amount, past rulings in similar cases or jury instructions can help.
Summary: demand for settlement
This last section sums up all the amounts listed in the sections above and provides the total you’re demanding. It’s wise to start with a higher number than you want so that you negotiate down in subsequent correspondence.
What else you should know about demand letters
This format is fairly comprehensive, but there are still some things you should do to improve your claim:
- Attach supporting evidence such as medical records, bills, paychecks, employer communication, police or incident reports, witness statements, videos, and photos
- Send the demand package by USPS-certified mail and request a return receipt
- Make a copy of the full letter and evidence for your records, and send a copy to all the liable parties and their insurers
- Do not include overly detailed information that could be challenged, especially if it differs from police reports and witness statements
- Don’t make unreasonable compensation demands
For best results, wait until you’re sure of your injuries and potential for recovery before you send the demand letter.
How a lawyer can help
Even with this detailed guide, you can only give yourself the best chance of winning your personal injury claim by working with an experienced personal injury attorney. Remember that the defendant has teams of lawyers waiting to fight your claim at every stage.
Getting professional help makes writing the demand much easier, and an attorney also handles the settlement negotiations expertly. Consult a personal injury lawyer at Miley Legal and let them help you write the perfect demand today.