The cost involved in a litigation is enormously “high”. As a result, it makes complete sense for both parties involved in a personal injury dispute to consider resolving the same through an out-of-court settlement. The demand letter plays a vital role towards accomplishing this goal. The precise purpose a demand letter is to make progress towards resolving a claim and set the tone for settlement negotiations that eventually may result in a faster resolution for your case without the need for expensive and extensive litigation.
What is a demand letter?
A demand letter is a formal and persuasive document prepared by lawyers for their clients as an attempt to resolve a dispute, usually over a form of payment owed by one party to another. A demand letter offers the recipient (usually an insurance firm or an establishment) an opportunity to compensate the sender for the injuries or damages sustained due to their actions/negligence as an alternative to taking the litigation route through the courts.
What should an effective demand letter include?
While the concept is simple, there are crucial details to be kept in mind in order to prepare most effective demand letters that are more successful in resolving disputes, as well as protecting your interests. Let’s review some of those key components of a well-written, effective demand letter:
An effective introduction
The demand letter should begin with a clearly laid out introduction that lets your reader immediately know the intent towards sending the demand letter. The introduction needs to be polite yet establishing your confidence and commitment towards handling the case.
Inclusion of Facts
The first step towards preparing a demand letter is to gather and review all the pertinent documents related to the case. For example, in case of a personal injury dispute, the relevant documents may include the police incident report, records and bills from all the medical providers, any work loss details, etc. Ensuring the availability of all the necessary documents, a thorough review and reciting the required facts underlying the dispute is the key towards ensuring the efficacy of your demand letter.
Be Specific & Reasonable
The demand letter has to be very specific when it comes to laying down the incident facts, the medical treatment rendered and the damages involved (including current & future treatment costs, any property damages, wage loss etc.). Also, clearly describing the non-tangible pain and sufferings that that the client faced and quantifying damages against those is important. Including specific facts that are easily verifiable will assist the adjuster in properly evaluating the case.
Being reasonable when it comes to stating your demands against the compensatory, general or punitive damages incurred due to the incident, can ensure a better success rate of settling the dispute with your demand letters.
Keep it Structured
A demand letter often contains several pieces of information. It is thus imperative to ensure that this this information is well structured and rationally laid out. First, it has a summary of facts describing the incident and confirmation of accident liability. In the second section, the letter lists down the list of medical service providers and statement of medical treatments (including ICD 10 Codes). Then comes the detailed description of injuries, pain and suffering followed by a total medical expenses table (including both current and future medical expenses). Finally, the letter ends with an impressive conclusion highlighting the reasonableness and necessity of treatment rendered and setting forth the amount demanded towards the damages incurred.
Specify a Timeframe for Response
A well-drafted demand letter will typically specify a timeframe for a settlement. Language such as “this letter serves as a 30-day settlement demand” OR “this offer would remain open for 30 days” should be included at the beginning/end of the demand letter, so that expected response time if clearly laid out. Inclusion of a deadline in your demand letter would help you ensure that your case will proceed on a reasonable, sensible timeline.
Be Professional yet Polite
It’s important to remember that a demand letter is a formal communication and thus must use appropriate professional language and a polite yet insistent tone. Overly emotional or threatening language should be avoided.
Precise and Well Formatted
An effective demand letter needs to be an amalgamation of all the relevant information from the case presented in a precise and well-formatted manner. Use of consistent font, right headings/subheadings, tables and bulleted points adds to the comprehensibility of your demand letter.
All the records and documents corresponding to the details included in your demand letter should be well organized structurally and chronologically and attached as exhibits. This would only reiterate the authenticity of the information you’ve included to the adjuster and help in avoiding incorrect evaluation or delays in case handling.
A humble and silent pen can make you win more than an honorable and mighty sword. These words hold true for drafting demand letters for personal injury law firms. An effective demand letter is a perfect solution to set things right in quickly resolving the disputes out-of-court and saving significant amounts involved in court-room litigation. Taking the advice and help of an experienced and highly skilled personal injury lawyer has numerous advantages including its perceived weight on the recipient and thus ensuring maximum compensation, which certainly is the end goal.
Author: Sugeet Wahal, Co-Founder – LinksToValue, a firm offering a wide range of litigation support services including medical record review, drafting demand letters, medical record summaries, deposition summaries, legal research & drafting etc. to law firms and attorneys in the area of Personal Injury Law.