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.

Am I at Fault if I Was in a Rear-End Car Crash in California?

Am I at Fault if I Was in a Rear-End Car Crash in California?

In many cases, the rear driver in a rear-end car crash is at fault, but not always. The lead driver could be at fault or share liability for the cause of a rear-end collision. 

Fault for a rear-end accident is not automatic. You must review all facts and circumstances to determine which driver caused the accident. 

Why Is Liability Important in a Rear-End Accident Case?

Fault determines who is responsible for paying damages after a car accident. Liability can be established by proving which driver’s negligence caused the car wreck. 

An injured victim could pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver for damages such as:

  • The cost of medical treatment 
  • Loss of income
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Future lost wages and decreases in earning potential
  • Permanent disabilities and impairments
  • Cost of long-term nursing care 
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Decrease in quality of living
  • Personal care and assistance with household chores

In addition to compensatory damages, a person could receive punitive damages (exemplary damages) for a rear-end accident if they can prove the other driver acted with malice, fraud, or oppression. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, however.

How Do You Prove Fault for a Rear-End Accident in California?

Fault for a rear-end crash is determined by negligence. To hold a driver liable for damages, you must prove the elements of negligence:

  • The other driver owed you a duty of care
  • The driver breached the duty of care through their acts or omissions
  • The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the rear-end accident
  • You sustained damages because of the breach of duty

All drivers have a duty to use reasonable care when operating a motor vehicle, including following California traffic laws. Drivers must control their speed and movement of the vehicle, and they must keep a lookout for other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other obstacles.

Many rear-end accidents are caused by the rear driver failing to maintain a safe distance or failing to keep a proper lookout. Numerous factors could contribute to the cause of the accident, including:

Proving liability requires you to prove that the rear driver caused the crash. Evidence could include video of the collision, eyewitness testimony, vehicle damage, physical evidence, statements by the drivers, and evidence from expert witnesses

California Vehicle Code §21703 states a driver shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is prudent and reasonable. 

There is no law stating a specific safe following distance. Therefore, drivers have the duty of judging the following distance needed to be able to stop if the car in front of them suddenly slows or stops. 

Typically, it is presumed that the rear driver is at fault unless evidence proves the lead driver was negligent. The driver in the rear failed to keep a safe distance and a proper lookout.

Can the Lead Driver in a Rear-end Crash Be at Fault?

Yes, in some circumstances, the lead driver could be responsible for causing the crash. Negligent conduct that could result in liability for the lead driver includes:

  • Backing up on the road
  • Pulling out in front of another vehicle
  • Intentionally trying to be rear-ended
  • Suddenly braking without cause
  • Drunk driving
  • Driving without operating brake lights

The lead driver also has a duty to use reasonable care when driving. If the lead driver fails to use reasonable care, they could be liable for damages.

In some cases, the lead driver could be partially to blame. California’s contributory negligence laws state that an injured party’s compensation for damages is reduced by the party’s percentage of fault.

Therefore, if a jury finds the lead driver in a rear-end crash was 50% at fault for the cause of the crash, the lead driver would only receive one-half of their damages. For example, if the jury awarded the lead driver $200,000 in damages, the amount received would be $100,000.

Who Is at Fault for a Chain Reaction Rear-End Crash?

Rear-end accidents might involve several vehicles. A rear-end crash begins a chain reaction with each vehicle colliding with the vehicle in front of it. Liability for a multi-vehicle rear-end accident can be challenging to determine.

Multiple drivers could share liability for the car accident. As a result, an accident reconstructionist and other experts may be required to sort out fault.

What Should I Do if I Am Involved in a Rear-end Crash in California?

You should report the accident to the police by calling 911 and not admit fault at the accident scene. As soon as possible, seek medical attention for your injuries and consider seeking legal advice from a Los Angeles car accident lawyer. 

The insurance company may try to shift blame to the other driver to avoid paying a claim. You might need an experienced accident attorney to investigate the crash to gather evidence proving you did not cause the accident.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim arises from tort law. A tort is an omission or act that causes harm or injury to a person. The claim is a civil action seeking compensation for injuries and damages caused by another party.

Personal injury cases are based on claims of negligence, strict liability, or intentional wrongdoing. Examples of situations that can give rise to a personal injury claim include, but are not limited to:

Wrongful death claims fall under personal injury claims. A wrongful death occurs when an accident or injury causes the death of a person. For example, a person dies from the injuries they sustain in a car crash.

Legal Elements of a Personal Injury Claim 

Some product liability claims, dog bites, and activities involving abnormally dangerous activities are based on strict liability. You do not need to prove the party intended to harm you or was negligent. You only need to prove the other party was responsible for causing your injury. 

However, most personal injury claims are based on negligence. You must prove the legal elements of negligence to recover compensation for damages. You must have evidence proving each of the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

Duty of Care

A legal duty of care in tort law requires a person to take steps to protect others from injury. 

For example, property owners have a duty of care to protect invitees from dangerous conditions on the property. Motorists have a duty of care to follow traffic laws to avoid accidents. Doctors owe a duty of care to their patients to provide medical care that meets the accepted standard of care.

Generally, everyone has a duty to act with a reasonable level of care to avoid harming or injuring another person.

Breach of Duty

A person breaches their duty of care when their conduct falls short of the reasonable person standard. The jury determines what level of care a reasonably prudent person would have used in similar situations. If the defendant failed to meet that level of care, the jury might find the defendant was negligent. 


The breach of duty must have been the direct and proximate cause of the person’s injury. 

For example, a driver ran a red light and hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The driver’s breach of duty (failure to obey traffic laws) was the direct cause of the pedestrian’s injuries. Had it not been for the driver running the red light, the pedestrian would not have been injured.

Generally, a person is not held liable unless they could reasonably foresee that their actions could place another person in harm (proximate cause).


The victim must suffer damages to recover compensation for a personal injury claim. The person could prove that the other party was negligent in breaching their duty of care. However, if the breach of duty did not cause any damages, the at-fault party is not required to pay any money to the victim. 

What Damages Can You Receive for a Personal Injury Claim?

Damages in a personal injury claim can include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.

Economic damages are the financial losses incurred by the victim. Examples include:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Past and future medical bills
  • Household chores and personal care
  • Past and future lost wages and benefits
  • In-home and long-term nursing care
  • Diminished earning potential

Non-economic damages are the intangible losses the person experienced because of the accident and injuries. Examples include:

  • Physical pain and suffering caused by injuries
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • Emotional suffering and mental anguish
  • Diminished quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life

Punitive damages are not compensatory in nature, even though the injured party receives the damages. Instead, these damages “punish” the at-fault party for acting with malice, fraud, or oppression. Punitive damages are only awarded in a small number of personal injury cases. 

Is There a Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury Claim?

The California statute of limitations provides the deadlines for filing lawsuits. Allowing the statute of limitations to expire means you lose the right to pursue a legal action to recover compensation for damages. 

The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of personal injury case. Most personal injury cases in California have a two-year statute of limitations. However, claims against government agencies must be filed within six months of the injury date. 

Because exceptions and special circumstances could accelerate or pause the statute of limitations, it is always best to seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident or other personal injury.