Personal Injury Demand Letter

Plaintiffs’ lawyers put a lot of energy into writing what we call a demand: a letter that sets forth the injured victim’s case and attaches the medical records.

I sometimes use the phrase “demand” even though I don’t like it. Inherently, battles with insurance companies in these cases are adversarial. So, because wedemand letter already have enough friction, the wisdom of loading our terminology with demand is probably a terrible idea. Really, if we will call it a demand, we should load it up so it is more like “Terms of Your Surrender If You Want to Avoid War.” A better name that would be more conducive to the settlement would be “Resolution Without Litigation Package.”

Anyway, surrendering to the term for convenience, the question becomes: does a good demand letter increase the quality of the insurance companies’ settlement offers? I think it depends on the case.

My humble opinion: If you write a treatise about a soft tissue injury case, you are sending a “tell” to the insurance company that you really don’t know what you are doing and that you don’t understand how the game is played. At best, you accomplish nothing, and at worst, you are diminishing your credibility. (Really, I think the risk of this multiplies exponentially if you don’t have a proven track record with that insurance company at trial.)  Insurance adjusters are looking around trying to find low hanging fruit, plaintiffs’ lawyers or people representing themselves that will never file a lawsuit and know the difference between a good offer and a terrible offer.  Many of these are victims who are being represented by people that have no business representing an injured person in a personal injury case because they don’t have the knowledge and experience to maximize the value of the claim.

Does that mean a demand package beyond the medical records is a waste of time in smaller cases? No. But I would save the opus. Make the critical points and get out.  What are the critical points? What is not contained in the medical records that the adjuster should know because it bears the true settlement value of the case?

Usually, in more serious personal injury cases, a more substantive demand is worth making, sometimes before a lawsuit is filed and sometimes after the claim is filed, to summarize the case and the risks not only for the adjuster but for the defense lawyer and the adjuster’s supervisor monitoring the case. The most important part of the demand letter: If you have a claim that can exceed the defendant’s insurance policy, you want to make sure you are spelling this out clearly in the demand letter.

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