When you’re recovering from an injury you received in an accident—whether from a car accident, a slip and fall incident, medical malpractice, or from a defective product, you want to focus on your recovery and not a contentious lawsuit in a courtroom. Fortunately, only about 2% of personal injury cases end up in courtroom litigation. The vast majority of personal injury cases in Colorado settle out of court through negotiations between an experienced Westminster personal injury attorney and the insurance company of the party at fault in the accident. This means an injured victim can gain compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering without having to set foot in a courtroom.
The success of a claim and whether or not it settles out of court typically rests on the effectiveness of the initial demand letter. If you’ve been injured, it’s important to understand what your lawyer means when he/she talks about a demand letter.
What is a Demand Letter?
Once a lawyer thoroughly investigates the circumstances of a client’s accident, they have the information they need to craft a compelling demand letter to the insurance provider of the party at fault in the accident. The demand letter lays out the case for their client’s liability and includes an itemized list of damages suffered by the injury victim through no fault of their own. A demand letter is the first important step toward recovering compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
After the insurance company evaluates the claims in the demand letter, they’ll typically set up a meeting date for negotiations where they’ll attempt to minimize or undervalue a claim or maybe even deny it outright for a variety of reasons. Insurance companies use common tactics to avoid paying out claims in order to ensure high profits. Your Westminster accident attorney will advocate aggressively for the maximum compensation for damages throughout the negotiations.
What Goes Into a Demand Letter?
Your attorney will investigate your case to determine the circumstances of your accident and carefully craft a case proving the liability of the at-fault party. This typically involves the following:
- Examining the accident or incident report
- Reviewing any existing video footage from traffic cameras, dash cameras, or surveillance cameras
- Reviewing photos of the accident scene
- Talking to eyewitnesses
- Hiring accident reconstruction specialists if required
- Examining the doctor’s report of your injuries, recommended treatment, and prognosis
- Gathering documents like medical bills, W2-forms, pay stubs, and a letter from an employer about missed work time or diminished earning capacity
Once an attorney has completed the investigation they’re ready to draft a pointed demand letter. The letter not only highlights the economic damages, pain, and suffering you’ve experienced but also proves liability.
Showing Liability in a Demand Letter
Not only does an insurance company require proof of an injury and its related financial damages, but a well-written demand letter also shows that the policyholder is at fault in the accident and liable for damages. For any personal injury, proving liability means showing the following:
- That the person at fault owed a duty of care to the injured party to take reasonable measures to keep them safe such as following traffic laws if a car accident caused the injury or removing safety hazards from business premises if the accident was caused by an injury due to a wet floor, loose store shelf, or other safety problem
- That the at-fault person breached their duty of care through an act of negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing
- That the breach directly resulted in an injury to the client
- That the injury caused the client to suffer damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering
A polite, factual, but strongly worded demand letter showing clear evidence of liability and damages gives the injury victim a position of strength to begin negotiating the maximum settlement.