In any personal injury claim, there comes a time when you and your personal injury lawyer will try to settle with the other party. This attempt to settle comes in the form of a demand letter. Learn more about demand letters and what they mean for your case.
What Is a Demand Letter?
A demand letter is a letter provided to a defendant or their insurance company (or both) stating the general facts of your legal claim and providing them with a money demand that you will accept to settle the case.
A demand letter is drafted by your attorney and sent to the defendant. It provides a basic background on the case, explains that you are considering legal action, and then makes a request for a settlement. Usually, a settlement is a money demand in a personal injury case, but it can also be other items that you would like as well, such as repairing your car or paying certain medical expenses.
The Components of a Demand Letter
Demand letters vary a great deal depending on the unique situation and the particular style of the attorney who wrote it. Good demand letters will contain the following information.
- Basic background on you and your family if your injuries have affected your family
- Information about how the accident happened
- Why you believe the defendant is at fault and why you are entitled to money damages
- Any legal arguments that apply to your unique situation
- How your injuries or damages have affected your life
- An outline of the damages or losses you have suffered (including dollar amounts, if available)
- A summary of how the damages will affect you in the future
- A specific demand that will settle the case
Because of all of this necessary information, demand letters can be somewhat lengthy. But, some demand letters don’t have all of this information simply because it isn’t available yet. For example; you may not know how much your future damages will be because you are still recovering from your injuries. You can specifically explain that in your letter, but you may need to put a dollar amount on it just to develop a final number. Initial demands are often higher to leave room for negotiation.
Your attorney will help you craft a demand letter that addresses all of these issues. This letter can be very helpful for a defendant because it puts them on notice that you have a real, valid legal claim that you plan to pursue. In some cases, this letter is what forces a defendant to take you and your injuries seriously.
When Do You Send a Demand Letter?
Demand letters are often the first step in a claim and are often sent before the legal process has even started (technically, the legal process starts when the case enters the courts).
Attorneys are sometimes able to negotiate a settlement using an initial demand letter and follow-up negotiation without ever having to file a lawsuit. Many personal injury victims prefer this type of approach because the process of discovery and going to trial is extremely time-consuming and stressful.
Demand letters are often helpful, but they are never required before you start legal action. In some situations, your attorney may recommend that you don’t send a demand letter before simply filing a case. There are a variety of reasons for this, from time constraints to strategy-based judgment calls.
How Are Demand Letters Used?
Demand letters are sometimes often used to communicate with your own insurance company. For example; if you should be getting coverage for uninsured motorist coverage, but your insurance company has denied your claim, your attorney may start with demanding coverage through a demand letter before taking any other actions. This type of letter will outline why you believe you should have coverage and request that certain bills or expenses be addressed immediately.
Businesses commonly use demand letters among one another as a means to address a potential problem that could lead to litigation. In some situations, a business may not even realize that they have done anything wrong or violated a contract until a demand letter arrives.
Getting Help with Your Demand Letter
A demand letter can be a very useful tool, but it can also be used against you if you make admissions you didn’t mean or even offer to accept a lower settlement than you should. It’s a good idea to have your lawyer help you with this document so you ensure it includes everything you need — and nothing you don’t.
It may be tempting to use a form demand letter you find online, but those rarely address everything you should cover, and they may end up doing more harm to your case than helping. Don’t make this mistake and compromise your legal claim before you even get started.
Talk to a Lawyer About Your Demand Letter
John Foy & Associates has over two decades of experience drafting demand letters. We can create one that is perfect for your unique situation. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Call us at 404-400-4000, or fill out the form and get your FREE consultation today.