*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.
Thousands of people are involved in motor vehicle collisions every year. Whether the accident involves significant property damage and injury, or is a relatively minor fender-bender, it will more than likely entail making a claim for damages with an insurance company -- be it your own, or that of the other driver.
While each accident is different, there are common steps that anyone involved in one should take to ensure that they are appropriately compensated for their losses. The overwhelming majority of car accident claims are not taken to trial. Generally this route isn't worth it, especially because the costs it entails are usually not worth the damages of your run of the mill car crash. For the most part, these claims are settled outside of court. This blog will focus on the first major, and arguably one of the most important steps, in this process; the demand letter.
A thorough demand letter is one of your most important tools to reaching a satisfactory outcome. This letter will be detailed and aims to create the most compelling case it can to the insurance company. In this demand letter should include the facts and circumstances of the accident (objective, factual observations, not opinions) and details as to any damage or medical treatment sought out.
This effectively sets the stage for negotiations to begin, so it is important that you present yourself in such a way that makes clear both the extent of damage and your lack of culpability in the situation.
A strong demand letter will contain a chronology of the events leading up to and during the collision, detailed information relating to medical attention received, and an accounting of all related medical bills, damages and even lost wages. While some costs may seem over much, the idea is that the demand letter will ask for an amount of money significantly higher than what the injured party will actually reasonably accept. This gives you, or your attorney, some ‘wiggle room’, so to speak, during negotiations.
Once you send your demand letter, the settlement process has begun and you can expect the insurance company to reply to begin negotiating down your initial claim. Our next personal injury blog will cover this next step.