If you have been hurt due to the fault of another individual, you may want to seek a settlement as compensation for your injuries. Obtaining a monetary settlement from an insurance company is a time-honored means of righting wrongs, and this route can be fast, relatively simple, and less stressful than litigation. However, the importance of getting a settlement request off the ground in the right way can hardly be overstated, and this process begins with a letter of demand. Below are the essential elements to drafting a letter of demand that will let insurance companies know you mean business.
Before you begin drafting your letter of demand, you need to adopt the proper mindset that will help make your letter strong and assertive. A letter of demand should never be timid or weak; instead, it should reflect your situation in a sure, confident, and assuming manner.
To help you adopt this attitude, it is important for you to start by writing down how you have been negatively affected by an accident. Begin listing the monetary costs—medical bills, lost wages, transportation to and from the hospital, and physical damage suffered to your property. Next, list the emotional and mental traumas you have experienced; this includes not only the extreme stress of being an accident but also those consequences following. For example, write down episodes of lost sleep, emotional outbursts, and other problems that aren't physical in nature. Finally, list the future costs that you predict will occur as a result of the accident. This can include ongoing medical or rehabilitative bills, the decrease in your property value, and other consequences that you anticipate.
Once you have finished listing these negative effects, you will have strengthened your own ability to draft a properly forceful letter. In addition, the odds your letter will make more of an impact on the insurance adjuster will have increased greatly.
Focus on the facts
Once you feel confident you will be able to draft an assertive letter, begin the letter by making a clear statement of why the insured is liable for your harm. Don't attack the insured's character or use insults, as these are likely to only build resentment on the part of the insurance company. Instead, center your argument on the facts about how the insured's negligence caused the accident. If you feel you were partly to blame for the accident, do not make any admissions of guilt or mention that you feel somewhat responsible.
In addition, describe the specific injuries you received in the accident and also list other negative consequences that may have affected you. Keep the language clear and simple and avoid the use of unnecessary medical jargon; as long as your writing is straightforward, you can attach medical documentation that helps support your case.
Finally, don't forget to mention the other intangible and future costs you incurred from the accident. Include anything that you believe you should be compensated for as a result of the insured's negligence; again, don't be shy in stating what you feel is a real cost, as you will later regret not asking for compensation whenever those costs appear.
Overestimate your settlement amount
The centerpiece of your demand letter is the total dollar amount requested. This is where you will add up all the tangible expenses along with estimated future costs plus what you believe is fair compensation for intangible harm done. Once you arrive at a dollar amount, double it and use that figure as your settlement amount. While that may seem excessive, you do not want to present any less to the insurance company in your first correspondence. Chances are likely they will not even counteroffer with half that amount, so you are only shortchanging yourself should you ask for less. By asking for double the dollar amount of estimated damages, you will leave yourself in a strong negotiating position for the remainder of the process.
Get professional assistance when needed
If you don't feel comfortable drafting a letter of demand or doubt your own ability to produce a strong, clear document, then it is a good idea to seek professional legal assistance. You won't necessarily need the services of an attorney for the entire process, but retaining a lawyer can be helpful. In addition, should the settlement process fail to go as you planned, an attorney will be there to lead your case if you need to move forward with legal action.