If you were injured in an accident, you should hire a personal injury attorney to prepare and send a demand letter for you.
A demand letter is less expensive than formally starting a lawsuit. Sometimes, a defendant might not know they harmed you or broke a law. The personal injury attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP in New York City can help you craft an excellent demand letter that explains to the wrongdoer what they did and why they need to compensate you for your loss.
After a lawyer sends a demand letter, you are much more likely to get a favorable, or at least fair, response from the other side.
What Is a Demand Letter?
A demand letter is often the first step in negotiating your claim. The purpose of a demand letter is to let the wrongdoer know what they did, what damages they caused, and how likely it is a judge or jury would hold them responsible. The goal of a strong demand letter is to encourage early settlement. But a larger goal of a demand letter is to set the stage for your case, even if it must be decided at trial.
A good demand letter will do at least four things:
- Clearly describe what occurred;
- Explain how what occurred was the defendant’s fault;
- Detail and provide evidence for how the occurrence harmed you; and
- Offer a reasonable early resolution to the conflict.
To clearly describe what occurred, the letter must articulate all the relevant specific facts. The demand letter should provide a narrative summary that states when and where the incident occurred and describes the incident. The point is to persuade, and facts are powerful. A good demand letter often also includes exhibits, such as witness statements, police reports, or accident and injury photographs. After reading the letter, the defendant and its insurer need to have a sense that if they do not resolve the case early, the liability could be more than the settlement demand.
Read more: Pros and Cons of Going to Trial
After laying out the facts, the next step in a good demand letter is to apply the facts to the law. Many defendants do not realize they broke the law. And a sophisticated reader, like an insurance claims manager or opposing counsel, will need to be persuaded about the law. Demand letters often include authority from past legal cases or jury awards from recent trials. The point is to persuade the reader that in a case like yours, the defendant is responsible and going to have to pay.
Finally, the demand letter should close with a reasonable settlement offer. After describing the facts and the law, the letter should show how the defendant caused you harm. You’ve suffered damages. Perhaps your damages include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage. The demand letter should detail each element of your losses with supporting documents. Then, your demand letter will state what your reasonable settlement offer is.
If the other side realizes they may lose and you have made a realistic settlement offer, they will typically negotiate in good faith. Time is money. The opposition may choose to settle the case early rather than incur legal expenses defending a lawsuit that they may end up losing.
Read more: How To File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
How Long After the Demand Letter Can I Expect a Settlement?
It depends. A demand letter is often the first step in settlement negotiations. But, it is also the first step in litigation. Sometimes, settlement can occur very quickly after a demand letter. Factors that help settle cases early include clear liability, well-documented losses, high insurance company exposure, and a reasonable settlement demand.
On the other hand, if the other side can debate liability, if claimed damages lack substantiation, if the insurance company thinks it can risk losing, or if the settlement demand is unreasonable, those are factors that can cause settlement negotiations to crawl or stall altogether.
Another factor affecting negotiations is the insurance company or the insurance professional involved. Frankly, some insurance companies, claims specialists, and self-insured defendants are more inclined to settle cases early than others are. Our seasoned New York personal injury attorneys know the opposition well and know how the companies or individuals involved can affect negotiations.
The time of year can also affect settlement negotiations. Insurance companies or larger, self-insured defendants might want to get liabilities off their books before they end their fiscal year (which is typically the calendar year). If an insurance company is on the fence about settling a claim, it is more likely to settle in November or December than at any other time of year.
Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me with My Demand Letter?
Yes, you should. An experienced New York personal injury attorney can help you organize facts, gather evidence, analyze the law, and calculate a reasonable settlement offer. Preparing an effective demand letter is something you should not have to do on your own. The seasoned lawyers of Hach & Rose, LLP specialize in a variety of personal injury cases and want to help you prepare your case and draft a demand letter that gets your claim moving forward on the best foot possible.