Sample Personal Injury Demand Letter - Bicycle-Car Accident Claim

If you're a bicyclist with an injury claim against a vehicle driver, follow this template in drafting your own demand letter to the driver's insurer.

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Was a police report filed?
  • This is a sample demand letter for a motor vehicle on bicycle collision claim where the bicyclist suffered significant injuries, including a broken wrist and ankle ligament damage. The bicyclist required both occupational and physical therapy and had an extensive recovery period. Finally, the bicyclist also lost work time.

    We are not your lawyer, and this sample letter is not a replacement for qualified legal advice. It is for instructional purposes only. If you think you have a personal injury claim, you should consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. This is especially true if the facts are complicated, your injuries are serious, or there are difficult legal issues involved. An attorney can guide you through the process and help you to maximize the value of your case.

    Example Demand Letter

    Walter Blancmange

    664 Crescent View

    Palo Alto, CA 00000


    June 15, 20xx

    Maria Teeuw

    Claims Adjuster

    Continental Insurance Company

    900 Cramer Avenue

    San Francisco, CA 00000


    Re: Your Insured, Sameer Mehendale

    Claimant: Walter Blancmange

    Claim No.: AQ 65393

    Date of Loss: January 13, 20xx


    Dear Ms. Teeuw:

    As I told you in my claim notice letter of February 7, 20xx, I was injured in an accident with your insured, Sameer Mehendale, on January 13, 20xx, in the city of Palo Alto, California. This letter is my pre-filing settlement demand.

    Facts

    I was riding my bicycle in the right lane of Amstel Road, a four-lane street. Mr. Mehendale, carelessly driving his large Range Rover, suddenly and without warning cut over from the middle lane into my lane without looking, and hit me with the back of his SUV. (Be sure to make the negligent driver the bad actor. Walter does that here by saying that the insured "hit me" instead of saying "I ran into the back of your insured's SUV.") As you must know, the rules of the road in California give a bicyclist the same right to occupy a lane of traffic as an automobile. The collision occurred at about 10:00 a.m. on a clear morning. Visibility was good. The road was clear and dry.

    My Injuries and Medical Treatment

    The collision knocked me off my bicycle, into the SUVs bumper, and to the ground. Even though I was wearing a protective helmet, the force of my impact with the pavement knocked me unconscious. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance.(Wearing a helmet is an important point. First, failure to wear protective equipment may be evidence of negligence. Second, the fact that Walter was knocked unconscious despite the helmet is a dramatic detail.)

    At the hospital, I was diagnosed with several severe injuries, including a concussion, a broken left wrist, and damaged ligaments in my right ankle. My injuries were so extensive that I was admitted to the hospital. The staff placed a cast on my left lower arm. (Walter was probably kept overnight in the hospital more for observation of his concussion than for his other injuries. But it is true that his "extensive" injuries caused him to be admitted to the hospital. Learn more about detailing injuries and losses in a demand letter.)

    Upon my release from the hospital, I was unable to put weight on my right leg. I had to use crutches to get around. But because of my broken left wrist, I could only use a crutch in my right hand. I was in great pain not only in my ankle and wrist but also in my back and neck. I suffered from severe headaches. Because my injuries and the pain they caused made it incredibly difficult to get around, I was confined to bed for a week following the accident. (Having to spend a week in bed might not show up in the medical records, so it's a good idea to mention it here.)

    My broken wrist remained in a cast for four weeks. After the cast was removed, I did three weeks of intensive occupational therapy as prescribed by my orthopedist, Dr. Kiek Bak. Dr. Bak has told me that my wrist, while still painful and limited in range of motion, is likely as good as it will get. It still swells and is sore from time-to-time. Dr. Bak says that additional occupational therapy may help with range of motion, swelling, and pain. (This lets the adjuster know a couple of things. First, the wrist is probably at maximum medical improvement. Second, the orthopedist has offered future treatment should Walter choose it. Future treatment means future medical expenses, which the adjuster will want to avoid.)

    Dr. Bak also prescribed physical therapy for my damaged ankle ligaments. After two months of therapy and four more months of recovery and exercises, my ankle is still stiff and painful when I rotate it or put weight on it. Dr. Bak cannot say whether the ankle will ever return to its pre-accident condition. (Be sure to mention the doctor's opinion on the likelihood of permanent or long-term injury.)

    Mr. Mehendale's Negligence

    I was already in the right lane when Mr. Mehendale swerved into it, cutting me off. Under well-settled California law, I had the right of way in my lane. There was nothing obstructing Mr. Mehendale's ability to see me, had he bothered to look or pay attention. Mr. Mehendale was completely at fault for the accident.

    No Comparative Negligence

    I was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision because Mr. Mehendale swerved so quickly and without warning. (Here, Walter explains to the adjuster why Walter was not at fault in the collision. This goes to legal issues called "contributory negligence" or "comparative negligence." Under contributory negligence or comparative negligence rules, if the claimant is also at fault, the claimant may be completely barred from recovery, or the claimant's recovery may be reduced. If the adjuster raises your contributory or comparative negligence as a defense, then at a minimum you must carefully research the law in your state to see what impact it might have on your recovery. Better yet, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.) I was traveling under the speed limit and was correctly positioned to the right side of the right lane. (While a bicycle rider is legally obliged to keep a careful lookout and take reasonable steps to avoid a collision, Walter tries to preempt any claim that he failed to do so by emphasizing the insured's carelessness and his own safe bicycle operation.)

    I am an experienced cyclist who has been using a bicycle for regular local transportation for more than ten years. I ride an average of 100 miles a week, most of that in city traffic. I have ridden on that particular stretch of Amstel Road several times a week for the past seven years, so I am very familiar with traffic patterns there.

    I have never before had any problem riding on Amstel Road, and in fact have never had an accident or been issued a traffic citation in all my years of cycling. For all these reasons, it is clear that I was not at all comparatively negligent regarding the accident. (Here too, details of the accident plus Walter's riding experience combine to show why Walter was not at fault, giving the insurance adjuster very little daylight in which to dispute liability.)

    Economic Damages

    In addition to the police report, I've attached all of my medical records and bills. Here is a summary of my medical expenses to date:

    Item Cost
    Lifesaver Ambulance Service $1,160
    Amstelhof Mem. Hospital (emergency room) $2,410
    Amstelhof Mem. Hospital (radiology) $1,880
    Amstelhof Mem. Hospital (inpatient) $6,440
    Kiek Bak, M.D. $2,290
    Karen Clausen (occup. ther./wrist) $2,050
    Jolle Demmers (phys. ther./ankle) $2,600
    TOTAL $18,830

    Because of the collision, my injuries, and the time I had to spend in therapy, I missed eight days of work in my capacity as an editor for Sunlight Software. As the enclosed letter from the Sunlight personnel office indicates, my salary is $6,800 per month. My lost income, therefore, was $2,720 (8 days multiplied by approximately $340 per day).

    In addition, I fell behind on a project with a deadline and was forced to work at home for three consecutive weekends, for which I received no compensation. At $340 per day, those extra six days of work add another $2,040 in lost income.

    My total economic losses to date come to $23,590. Given my ongoing pain and discomfort, I likely will incur future medical costs for doctor's visits and therapy. I'm estimating those future expenses at half the amount for past therapy, or $2,325, though the actual cost is likely to be much more. I'm prepared to present medical testimony to prove the need for future care and treatment. Including this conservative estimate of costs for future care, my total economic losses, past and future, total $25,915.

    Noneconomic Damages

    As a further result of the collision and my complicated recovery, I have been unable to ride my bicycle since the accident. Bicycle riding was not merely an occasional recreation for me—it was both an inexpensive and practical means of transportation and my primary source of exercise. Long evening and weekend rides have also, for many years, been a relief from stress. I am now 54 years old. Because I don't know if I'll ever be able to ride again, I'm in serious jeopardy of losing an irreplaceable part of my life.

    Because of Mr. Mehendale's gross negligence, bordering on recklessness, I suffered serious injuries including head trauma, a wrist fracture, and ankle ligament damage. Six months post-collision, I continue to experience pain and discomfort daily. I'll likely have to live with these conditions for the rest of my life. Had I not been wearing a bicycle helmet at the time of the accident, my head injuries might well have been fatal. (Though uncertain, the possibility of permanent or even fatal injury is an important factor and should be mentioned.)

    A major source of recreation, relaxation, and enjoyment of life, regular and long-distance bicycle riding, has likely been taken from me permanently. I seek fair and reasonable compensation for all of my noneconomic losses, past and future. These extraordinary facts and circumstances justify noneconomic damages of five times my past and future medical expenses ($21,155), or $105,775. (This paragraph does a good job describing how Walter's life has been seriously disrupted by his physical injuries and the resulting "pain and suffering" and "loss of enjoyment of life" damages. Noneconomic damages of five times past and future medical expenses is aggressive and likely unrealistic for settlement, but perhaps Walter wants to give himself room to negotiate down, which is a smart tactic.)

    Settlement Demand

    The total of all my damages is $131,690. I demand this sum in full settlement of all my claims, past and future, against Mr. Mehendale. If we are unable to reach a settlement and I am forced to file suit, my trial demand will be considerably higher. (The adjuster knows you'll ask for more at trial, but it never hurts to give a friendly reminder.)

    This demand is an attempt to settle my claims against your insured. If I must file suit and the case goes to trial, evidence of this settlement offer will not be admissible at trial.

    Please let me hear from you within 30 days from the date of this letter.


    Yours sincerely,

    [signature]

    Walter Blancmange

    Some content excerpted from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo).

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