If you’ve been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, filing a personal injury claim could get you the compensation you may need to pay for any expenses due to injuries, missed work, and more. To win you claim you need to prove that accident was the cause of the other driver’s negligence. This could mean, for example, the other driver broke a traffic law or was driving under the influence.
The Demand Letter
Most states have a statute of limitations of two years to file in court, but before you can bring the case to court you need to send a demand letter to the other party’s insurance company out what happened, why they owe you damages, and how much you want. In a third of cases, the third party responds positively to the demand letter and the claim ends with little further action.
The demand letter is one of the most important parts of the claim process, because so much depends on that one letter. Not only, will the other party, and possibly court officials, read the letter to evaluate the facts of the case, but they will also be evaluating you. It’s crucial to be polite towards the person you’re writing the letter to as well as the driver of the car, no matter how bad the accident left you, because the other party will be less likely to work with you if you aren’t professional.
What to Include in a Demand Letter
Start with explaining what happened. This is where you need to prove the other driver’s negligence. State exactly what the other driver did or didn’t do and why that caused the accident. You want the other party to consider the risks of losing the case, how much time a court case will take, and if they want the dispute to become public.
Tell the other party how much money you are demanding and give them a time limit. If they deny or claim or don’t respond by that time limit, make it clear you will file a personal injury claim. You also need to have evidence that the amount is reasonable, such as medical bills, doctor’s notes, and accounts of your recovery. Send the letter by certified mail and/or email so you can prove in court the other party received it.
After You Send a Demand Letter
Once your demand letter is sent, there are four things that the insurance company can do: pay the amount you asked for, negotiate a lower rate, deny the claim, or ignore it. Unless the insurance company agrees to pay what you want or you are happy with the negotiation, you’ll likely have to file a lawsuit to get the money you want. Most claims reach a settlement before the trial.
If you don’t already have a personal injury lawyer, you should hire one to continue the negotiations with the insurance company’s lawyer and to represent you in front of a judge. The claim should be filed in a civil court. Generally, the specific court you file in depends on the location of accident, location of the other party, and/or the amount of money you are demanding, but this varies by state.