The Demand Letter in a Car Accident Case

Find out what to include in an effective demand letter after a car accident.

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

A demand letter is one of the most important steps in a car insurance claim after an accident. In the demand letter, the injured claimant sets out the facts and circumstances of the accident and resulting medical treatment, and sets the stage for injury settlement negotiations to begin in earnest. A well-drafted demand letter usually sparks the sort of constructive negotiations that can lead to successful resolution of your injury claim, so let's discuss how to put together an effective car accident settlement demand letter.

Before Drafting the Demand Letter

After a car accident, once you've opened a claim with the other driver's car insurance carrier, and you have been released from a physician's care—or are otherwise confident that you have reached the point of maximum healing—you (or your attorney) can typically start crafting the demand letter.

Gather all the information you will need in order to craft a coherent and forceful argument for why you are entitled to a fair settlement. That means obtaining the police report, any witness statements, medical records and bills, lost wage information, as well as any notes made during the course of recovery from your injuries.

Relate the Facts

While it may seem unnecessary to recount the circumstances of the accident in your demand letter, it is important to do so. This allows you to offer the insurance company your version of events, and provides the insurer a glimpse of the type of testimony a jury would hear should the case proceed to trial.

Recall the exact sequence of events leading up to and during the accident, including which direction you were heading, which direction the at-fault driver was going, the weather conditions, and any defensive maneuvers taken by you to avoid the collision. Back up your version of events with the police report and any witness statements. This section should clearly establish fault for the car accident—that the other driver's negligence was the cause, in other words. If the police report contains a citation against the other driver, include this information, as this is strong evidence of liability.

Injuries and Medical Treatment

Provide a detailed account of the injuries you sustained in the accident, and all resulting medical treatment. Begin with any pain or symptoms felt at the scene of the accident and state whether you received medical care from emergency services at the accident site. Cite to any treatment report prepared by paramedics at the scene. Take the time to provide details about all medical treatment from the date of injury until you stopped actively treating the injury. Try to use appropriate medical terminology when describing your diagnosis and treatment (ie., "displaced fracture" instead of "broken leg"). Set out the names of physicians or clinics visited, the dates of the visits, and what occurred at those visits.

Learn more about how your medical treatment can affect the value of your personal injury settlement.

Medical Expenses

After providing a detailed account of all related medical treatment, you should provide an itemized list of all your medical bills. Make sure to include the cost of any ambulance transportation, prescription medication, and medical devices such as crutches. Even if your health insurance company paid your medical bills, you should include the full amount of the medical bill charged. Copies of any medical bills should be attached (If possible, ask your treatment providers for copies of the medical bills that do not contain health insurance payment information).

Lost Wages

You may be entitled to recover any income lost as a result of the accident. Provide information relating to the amount of time missed, and your income. Obtain wage information from your employer to verify your income and days of work missed. If you had to use vacation time in order to cover your time off, include this information as well. Self-employed or temporary workers should provide detailed information about how any lost wage amount was calculated. Learn more about making a claim for lost income after an accident.

Miscellaneous Losses

Tell the insurance company about any other losses or inconveniences suffered. For instance, if you had to miss your sister's wedding because you were laid up in the hospital, don't hesitate to provide this information. While there is no precise monetary value to calculate for missing out on the enjoyments of daily life, these types of intangible losses can and should be considered in determining the overall value of your injury claim.

Making a Monetary Demand

After you have set forth, in detail, all the facts and circumstances of the accident, medical treatment and expenses, and lost wages, you should sum up the letter with a specific demand for money as compensation for all your combined losses. Recognize that the amount you demand is generally going to be significantly higher than the reasonable amount you can expect to actually recover. Your initial demand is high because you will need room to negotiate (if you start at your bottom line, you have nowhere to move!).

Sample Demand Letters in Car Accident Cases

To get an idea of what your demand letter might look like, check out these examples:

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