If you’re pursing an accident injury claim or accident injury lawsuit in the U.S., it’s highly likely that your case is related either to an auto accident (which, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, are at the center of 52% of personal injury cases in the nation) or to medical malpractice (which is the cause of about 15% of personal injury cases in the nation). You might also need to file a claim or lawsuit for cases related to workplace injury or a slip and fall on someone else’s property. The details of your case will, of course, cause you to adjust some of your strategies. If you’ve been hurt in a car crash, it makes sense to hire experienced auto accident injury attorneys, for example, whereas if you’ve been hurt by a medical error, it makes sense to hire experienced medical accident injury attorneys.
But some aspects of personal injury cases stay consistent regardless of how you’ve been hurt. One of those aspects is that you’re highly likely to end up agreeing on an informal settlement long before the case gets to trial; in the U.S., only about 2% of personal injury cases end up making it to court.
Starting the Negotiation Process
So how do you initiate the settlement process? The vast majority of negotiations are begun by what’s called a demand letter. That’s a letter that you, the injured, send to the party you think should be paying the settlement. In most cases, that will be the insurance company of the negligent driver or other party in question. An insurance adjuster then reviews the letter and your demand and makes a counteroffer, and you (and your car accident attorneys, if you’ve hired legal representation) negotiate until an agreement is reached. The stronger your letter is, the more likely it is that the insurance company will agree to your demands rather than risk your filing a lawsuit and taking the matter to court.
What a Demand Letter Includes
Now you’re probably wondering what, exactly, makes a demand letter strong or not. First, let’s address the basic elements included in a demand letter:
- Why the other person (normally the company’s insured) is legally responsible.
- What your injuries were or are and how severe they were or are.
- What medical treatment was required and how much it cost.
- What your lost income, if any, was.
- What other trauma or damages you suffered.
The more evidence you can provide for each of those points, the stronger your demand letter will be. A police report estimating the speed the other driver was traveling at, witnesses who reported the driver talking on a cell phone or traffic camera footage that captured an illegal lane change, for example, would all be very strong evidence in a car accident case that the other driver should be held legally responsible. If you can provide details relating to each point on that list and corroborate them, then you have a much better chance of getting the settlement that you need.
Have questions or anything to add? Join the discussion in the comments.