Category: Personal Injury

How Do You Write an Effective Settlement Demand Letter?

Personal injury accidents are extremely common. New York City alone suffered nearly 10,000 motor vehicle accidents in the month of July 2021, many of them involving serious injuries. When you have a personal injury claim, you send a settlement demand letter to the defendant or to the defendant’s insurance company. This letter describes your claim and demands that the opposing party compensate you for your losses. 

The settlement demand letter is the first step in negotiations with the opposing party that could lead to a generous settlement. That is why your settlement demand letter needs to be persuasive and effective. You should ask your lawyer to draft the demand letter. If you draft it yourself, at least allow a lawyer to review it.

Writing Tips

Following are a few tips that can help you maximize the effectiveness of your settlement demand letter:

Create an Outline of Your Settlement Demand Letter Before You Write It

A settlement demand letter is usually structured something like this:

  • A brief description of the accident
  • A description of your injuries;
  • Why the other party is responsible for your injuries
  • What medical treatment you have received, and how much it cost;
  • The amount of your lost earnings;
  • The amount of any other losses you suffered;
  • Why you’re qualified to make a claim to the insurance company despite New York’s no-fault auto insurance system; and
  • A demand for compensation.

Use the foregoing as a general guide to structuring your demand letter. You might need to vary it somewhat depending on the specific facts surrounding your claim.

Use a Polite and Professional Tone

You might be very angry. In fact, if your claim is valid, your anger is likely justified. Don’t let any of that anger creep into your settlement demand letter. Human nature dictates that such a tactic is likely to be counterproductive. Your tome should be polite and professional. That doesn’t mean you can’t be firm at the same time.

Keep It Brief, But Not Too Brief

There is no point in writing a long letter that nobody is going to read. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to assume that your reader is familiar with any of the facts of your case.

The insurance company adjuster who reads your letter is probably busy with many claims. Say everything you need to say, but say it briefly, logically, and concisely. 

Issue a Compensation Demand

Depending on the circumstances, you might demand the entire policy limit from an insurance company. You might do this if the total value of your claim clearly exceeds these limits. If your claim is below policy limits, at least pad your demand to give yourself some bargaining room. Some lawyers prefer not to insert a specific dollar demand into an initial demand letter, only a general demand for compensation.

Set a Deadline for A Response

Set a specific deadline or a response from the opposing party. You don’t need to demand that the opposing party pay the settlement by that date, but you do need to demand a response by that date. If the opposing party ignores you, you might consider filing a lawsuit in response.

Keep Copies of Everything

Keep copies of every document that you receive that is in any way related to your case. Make sure you have a copy of your medical bills, for example. If you were involved in a car accident, you might request an accident report from the police department. During settlement negotiations, you will need evidence to back up your claim. 

Send By Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested

Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to make it more difficult for the opposing party to deny that they received it.

A Lawyer on Your Side Can Make All the Difference

If you’re trying to settle a small claim, it might not be worth it for you to seek out the services of a personal injury lawyer. If your claim involves a significant amount of money, or you suspect that it does, contact a lawyer to find out for sure. Even a free initial consultation might be enough to get a general idea of the value of your claim.

9 Things You Should Know About a Free Lawyer Consultation

9 Things You Should Know About a Free Lawyer Consultation

When you have been hurt in an accident, you may hope to file a legal claim to secure a financial recovery. The first step in this process is consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. 

Even if you know that you have a valid California accident claim, you may be uncertain about what to expect during a free legal consultation. In the following post, you will learn about nine of the most important things to understand about initial case evaluations.

1. Statutes of Limitations

Before deciding to pursue a personal injury or accident claim, you should determine whether your claim has expired. 

The “statute of limitations” is a legal time limit. After the statute of limitations has passed, you cannot begin the legal claims process. In California, the statute of limitations on personal injury cases is typically two years.

2. Researching Your Attorney

Before meeting with a lawyer, make sure to research their office or firm online. You should read reviews from former clients to help you anticipate your own experience. 

Do not hire an attorney or firm unless the majority of online testimonials are positive. Also, make sure to read reviews from many different websites.

3. Bring Documentation

The attorney will want to review the facts of your case during the consultation. Because of this, you should bring the following documents and information to your case review:

  • Photographs of the injuries and accident
  • Police accident reports
  • Relevant tickets and citations
  • Medical records and doctor’s notes
  • Insurance information 

This information will allow your lawyer to fully understand the viability of your case.

4. Write Notes

When you attend the initial meeting, bring notes about your experience. Take detailed notes as soon as possible after the accident.

As time goes on, you might forget small details of the accident or injury. That is why you should keep a personal record of your entire experience.

5. Prepare Details About Your Accident

One of the primary purposes of a legal consultation is to provide your lawyer with information about your accident, illness, or injuries. 

The attorney will ask detailed questions to better understand your situation. These questions help the lawyer determine your ability to answer difficult questions about your accident or injury.

6. Bring Questions for the Attorney

During the consultation, make sure to ask the lawyer questions to help decide whether they are right to represent you. Preparing questions before the meeting will ensure that you use your time effectively. 

Some of the most common questions that clients ask include: 

  • How will my medical bills be covered?
  • Do you believe I can win this case?
  • What is the next step after this meeting?
  • What types of damages can I pursue?
  • Who is legally liable for my accident?
  • How do you handle attorneys’ fees?

These are only a few common examples. Make sure to ask any questions that will help you better understand the legal process or your claim.

7. Laws Related to Your Case

A personal injury attorney will explain the specific California laws and statutes relevant to your case. This will help you understand the viability of your accident claim. 

8. Discuss Attorneys’ Fees

Most injury lawyers are paid through contingency fees. With this payment approach, clients do not pay anything unless their case is successfully won or settled. 

You may not want to hire a lawyer or firm that demands upfront payments before your case is concluded.

9. The Next Steps

Once you have signed the hiring documents for your attorney, they will begin building a case for you. Negotiating with the opposing party will be the first step. If negotiations fail, your personal injury lawyer will file litigation on your behalf.

Can You Sue for a Car Accident If You Are Not Hurt?

Can You Sue for a Car Accident If You Are Not Hurt?

Although it might surprise you to learn, you can sue for a car accident if you are not hurt. But in many cases, you will not need to file a lawsuit to recover your damages. The time, effort, and money put into a lawsuit will not justify the damages you recover in these situations.

There are a few narrow circumstances in which you might file a lawsuit without an injury. The decision to file a lawsuit over damaged property will depend on the property in question and the at-fault driver’s assets.

Here is some information about the situations in which you might sue for a car accident, even if you weren’t hurt.

How Car Insurance Works

Car insurance in California includes bodily injury liability (BIL)  insurance and property damage liability (PDL) insurance.

Bodily Injury Insurance

In California, bodily injury liability insurance covers people injured in an accident caused by the insured party. After a car accident in California, all of the accident victims file a claim against the at-fault driver’s BIL policy.

The insurer investigates who caused the accident. As a result, the accident victims may find themselves searching for an “auto accident lawyer near me” early in the claim process because everything hinges on proving liability for the accident.

Property Damage Insurance

Every state requires property damage liability (PDL) insurance. The limits of these policies vary from state to state. For example, California requires every registered vehicle owner to carry at least $5,000 in PDL insurance.

PDL insurance pays for the cost to repair or replace property damaged by the insured. In most cases, the damaged property will consist of a vehicle. But PDL also covers the repair or replacement of your fence or tree if a negligent driver hits it.

You rarely need to search for a “car accident lawyer near me” for property damage only (PDO) accidents. Instead, you will file a damage claim against the driver’s PDL insurance.

How Much Can Someone Sue for in a Car Accident?

Your damages for property damage include the cost of repairing or replacing the property. For example, you may find yourself wondering, “Someone totaled my car. Can I sue?” In short, you can. However, you’ll usually start by filing an insurance claim.

When you file an insurance claim for property damage, the claims adjuster will:

  • Inspect the damage
  • Collect repair estimates
  • Set a value for your vehicle
  • Offer a damage settlement

Even if your car gets totaled, the at-fault driver’s insurer can estimate its replacement value. Because the adjuster bases the estimate on objective sources like Blue Book values, you can usually negotiate a fair payout without filing a lawsuit.

When Could You Sue for a Car Accident Without Getting Hurt?

Occasionally, you might sue for a car accident without getting hurt. This usually happens because something has gone wrong with the insurance claim process.

Some scenarios where you might sue rather than settle include:

You Were Hit By an Uninsured Driver

If the person who hit you did not have insurance, you must negotiate compensation with the driver. In many cases, you will need the extra leverage of a lawsuit to get the at-fault driver to pay your damages.

Your Damage Exceeds the Policy Limits

If the value of your property exceeds the at-fault driver’s PDL limits, you may need to file a lawsuit to make up the difference. This can happen if you have:

  • Expensive property
  • Vintage property
  • Custom property

Bear in mind that this situation could happen even if you do not drive a Lamborghini. A van customized to include a wheelchair lift could easily exceed California’s PDL minimum of $5,000.

Claiming Compensation Without an Injury

Most injury lawyers will help clients file a PDL claim along with a BIL claim. If the case does not settle, the injury lawyer will include the property damage in the injury lawsuit.

But fewer lawyers are willing to act as your auto accident lawyer without an injury. The damages in these cases rarely justify the lawyer’s fee. Instead, you will often receive a better outcome by negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurer.