Auto accident cases are the most common type of personal injury case handled by small firms. To resolve these cases efficiently and favorably for your clients, you need to know how to write an effective demand letter. Consider these 6 tips, excerpted from Texas Small-Firm Practice Tools.
1. Wait until your case is ripe for settlement. In a case with minor bodily injuries, send a demand letter when it appears as if no more medical bills will be incurred. In more serious cases, send the demand letter when the doctor can evaluate an estimate of future medical bills.
2. Remember your audience. Adjusters generally are overworked and overstressed. Your demand letter should be simple, straightforward, and easy to read.
3. Cover the elements of negligence, with particular emphasis on the full measure of your client’s damages. Topics to cover include:
- The insured’s liability.
- The nature and severity of your client’s injuries.
- Past medical bills.
- Anticipated future medical expenses. For example, has the doctor referred your client to a physical therapist or orthopedist? Will your client have future issues due to arthritis or a disfiguring scar?
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity.
- Other damages, including, for example: pain and suffering; inability to take care of children; emotional distress of children; nightmares; special events missed.
- Property damage.
- The harm that would be created if the claim is denied.
4. Don’t use the term “whiplash.” Instead, identify this injury using the terms used in the medical records, e.g., “a severe strain of the cervical spine and supporting musculature” or “acute neck strain with severe consequent headaches.”
5. Enclose supporting documents, including:
- Police report.
- Medical records and bills, in chronological order so they will neatly and logically tell your client’s story.
- Receipts for prescriptions.
- Lost wages (in the form of a letter from the employer).
- Photos of property damage, the scene of the accident, your client’s injuries. These can increase the value of the case, as the adjuster knows that a jury might eventually be viewing this evidence.
- Estimates of damage (hidden damages: bent frame, cracked block, computer problems, etc.).
- Rental car expenses.
- Towing charges.
About the Author
Cindy Stormer has been a practicing Texas attorney for over twenty years. She is currently an Assistant District Attorney in Dallas. Previously, she has been the elected District Attorney in Cooke County; an Assistant District Attorney in Fort Worth; an Assistant City Attorney for Dallas; and she maintained a successful small-firm practice for fourteen years. Ms. Stormer’s law firm was a general practice law firm handling civil and criminal trials, family law, personal injury, real estate, negligence, estate planning, and probate law.