If you've been injured in any kind of accident that looks like it was someone else's fault, before you rush to court and file a personal injury lawsuit, it's usually wise to send the other party (or their insurance company) a short, clear letter demanding fair compensation for your losses (damages).
It may seem too good to be true that a simple letter can result in the other side agreeing to an acceptable compromise, but the vast majority of personal injury cases settle, and an effective demand letter is all it takes to initiate a successful resolution in a large number of these disputes.
Most people who know they have harmed you (physically or financially) probably expect you won't pursue them, but things often change if you write a firm demand letter, laying out the reasons why the other party is liable for your losses, and stating that if you fail to get satisfaction you plan to talk to a personal injury lawyer and possibly file a lawsuit. For the first time, the other party must confront the likelihood that you won't go away but plan to have your day in court. They must face the fact that they will have to expend time and energy to publicly defend their position.
1. Review the history of the dispute. At first this may seem a bit odd—after all, the other party knows the story of the underlying accident—but remember: If you end up in court, the letter can usually be presented to the judge, who doesn't know the facts.
2. Be polite. You catch more flies with honey, as the saying goes. Avoid personally attacking your adversary (even one who deserves it). The more disparaging you are, the more you invite the other person to respond in a similarly angry vein. Instead, you want the other person to adopt a business-like analysis:
With luck, the other party will decide it makes sense to compromise.
3. Ask for a specific resolution. For example, ask for a specific amount of money to be paid by a set date.
4. Threaten the alternative of court. Conclude by stating that you will file a lawsuit if your demand is not met.
Check out our Sample Demand Letter below, to get an idea of what this kind of correspondence might look like. To see sample letters that might be sent in specific kinds of personal injury claims, visit our Demand Letters section.