If you've been rear-ended in a car accident that wasn't your fault, you should send a demand letter to the at-fault driver's insurance company. An effective demand letter can help you settle your car accident claim before you file a lawsuit.
In this article, we'll break down the key components of a demand letter and provide you with a sample demand letter that you can use as a guide for your own letter.
If you've been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault, you'll want to file a "third-party" claim with the at-fault party's insurer. In most states, the at-fault party bears financial responsibility (typically through an insurance company) for injuries and other losses caused by the accident.
First, you'll send the at-fault driver and that driver's insurance company a car accident notification letter to let them know that the accident happened and that you were injured.
Next, you'll put together a convincing written claim— called a "demand letter"—asking for a specific amount of compensation for your vehicle damage, injuries, time away from work, and pain and suffering.
An effective demand letter:
Learn more about what to do after a car accident that isn't your fault.
If you're at fault for an accident or you're dealing with an underinsured or uninsured driver, you'll likely be filing a "first party" claim with your own insurance company. Here are some tips on negotiating with your own insurance company.
A persuasive demand includes information and documents that back up your version of events and your settlement demand.
Supporting documents in a claim involving a rear-end collision might include:
Fortunately, fault in a rear-end collision is often clear cut—the trailing driver is almost always to blame for the accident. You're unlikely to get much push back from the insurance company on the question of liability (legal responsibility) for the accident.
But you'll still have to show with a police report or witness statements exactly how the accident happened and put to rest any suggestion that your own carelessness contributed to the accident.
You'll also have to show the nature and extent of your injuries and provide documentation of other losses like medical expenses, lost income, and "pain and suffering."
Be sure to keep the original documents and only attach copies to your demand.
Your demand letter should end with a brief summary of your strongest arguments for compensation and a settlement demand figure.
To arrive at the final number, review how a damage formula works. You can even use a settlement calculator to run the numbers and get a ballpark estimate of what your case might be worth. If you want an informed and complete analysis of your claim, talk to a lawyer before making a settlement demand.
You should always start your negotiations in your demand letter with a request for compensation that is higher than the amount you would accept to settle your case. Negotiating with an insurance company is a bit like negotiating with a used car salesman. You start off with a high demand, the insurance adjuster often responds with a low offer, and then you eventually agree on a number somewhere in between.
Be careful not to make your demand outrageously high. The number in your demand letter should be higher than what you would accept to settle your claim, while still realistic and grounded in your supporting documents. For example, if you think your claim is worth between $2,000 and $4,000, make your first demand in the $4,000 to $8,000 range.
Use this sample demand letter as a guide when drafting your own letter to the at-fault driver's insurance company. Be sure to include copies of documents that support your claim and describe your losses.
Mr. August Edwards
Southern States Insurance
P.O. Box 10203
June 18, 20xx
Re: Your insured: Francine Helton
Claimant: [Your Name]
Date of loss: April 1, 20xx
Claim No.: 33DD45-P9 (Always use the insurer's file number on all correspondence related to the claim.)
Dear Mr. Edwards:
I have finished my medical treatment, and so I am enclosing all of my medical records and bills on this case. (Always make sure that the insurance adjuster has all of your medical records and bills relating to your injury when you send a demand letter. Adjusters typically won't make a settlement offer until they have your entire medical file.)
As you know, I was injured when your insured, Ms. Helton, rear-ended my car as I was sitting at a red light on Main St. in Tulsa. The police came to the accident scene and gave Ms. Helton a ticket for tailgating. I understand that Ms. Helton paid the ticket and didn't try to appeal it. She was clearly negligent and at fault for the accident. (Your discussion of liability should be short and to the point, especially when liability is strongly in your favor, like in a rear-end collision case. First, you should explain how you got hurt. Second, you should explain exactly how the other driver was at fault for the accident. And that's all that you need to say.)
I felt low back pain as soon as Ms. Helton hit my car. I told Ms. Helton and the responding police officer about my pain right away. The officer offered to call an ambulance for me, but my car was drivable, and I just wanted to get home. I laid down on the sofa for the rest of the day. It was a Saturday, and I didn't have to work. I couldn't get off the sofa the entire next day.
On Monday, I dragged myself to work. I am a production assistant at Channel 8 in Tulsa. I do most of my work sitting at my desk, but I also have to walk around and visit other offices on most days. By mid-afternoon on Monday, I was in extreme pain, and my boss insisted that I go to the doctor.
I saw my primary care physician and he diagnosed me with a low back strain. He told me to stay out of work and off my feet for a week. He gave me a prescription for four days of prescription strength Tylenol and told me to take over-the-counter Tylenol as needed when my prescription ran out.
After a week of full bed rest, I saw my doctor again and he said that I could return to work, but that I should continue to take it easy (no lifting) for another three weeks. At my next check-up, he said I could resume my usual activities, but that I should be careful not to overdo it for another four to six weeks. (Say exactly what your diagnosis is and do your best to summarize the high points of your treatment chronologically.)
As recommended, I took a full week off from work. When I returned, I was uncomfortable for the next month. It was painful to sit at my desk too long. I took Tylenol every day for at least a month after the injury. I had trouble sleeping most nights because of the pain.
I am a runner and a cyclist. I had to take a full month off, per doctor's orders, which was very frustrating. I couldn't work on my car like I had planned to do or keep up with routine housekeeping and yard work. I wasn't even allowed to carry files around at work. (Say how the injury has affected your life. You want to explain clearly and concisely your injuries and your pain and suffering. Don't exaggerate. Just explain what your injuries were and how they affected your life.)
I continue to suffer occasional stiffness and sleep disruption. (Mentioning continuing problems might motivate the adjuster to settle your claim quickly to avoid liability for medical treatment you may require in the future.)
My medical bills total $1,000.00. I paid $100 in co-pays. My health insurance paid the remainder of the bills, but they sent me a letter claiming a lien of $500.00 on any settlement that I may get in this case. (If you have to repay your health insurance—and you almost always have to—make sure that you tell the adjuster.)
My medical bills for my treatment, as shown in the enclosed medical and billing records, are:
TOTAL $1,000 (You always want to put together a chart listing your medical bills, even if you only have a couple of bills. Don't make the adjuster comb through all your records to figure out how much they total.)
As I mentioned, I work for Channel 8 in Tulsa. I missed one week of work. I earn $1,500 per week. I am enclosing Dr. Judson's letter excusing me from work. Accordingly, my lost earnings claim is $1,500. (State your lost earnings claim briefly and clearly. Make sure that you have a doctor's note saying that you needed to be out of work for the entire time you missed.)
My total special damages are $2,500 ($1,000 in medical bills and $1,500 in lost earnings).
This might seem like a small claim, but it's serious to me. (This is always a nice touch in a relatively small case. Remind the adjuster that a case doesn't have to involve six figures to be important.) Your insured, Ms. Helton, slammed into my car and disrupted my life. She is clearly liable for the accident. I demand $8,500.00 to settle this case.
I hope to hear from you soon, no longer than 30 days from the date of this letter. (If you don't hear from the adjuster in a month, follow up with a phone call.)
After you send your demand letter, you'll have to wait to hear back from the adjuster. The adjuster might agree to your demand right away or make a reasonable offer to settle your claim.
Or your claim might take a bit more work. The adjuster might ignore your demand letter or reject your claim outright.
If an adjuster doesn't respond to your demand, be persistent. Confirm that the adjuster has your entire file and ask for an explanation for the lack of response.
If an adjuster makes an unreasonably low offer, ask the adjuster to give you reasons for the lowball offer and explain in writing why the adjuster is wrong about your claim.
Learn more about what to do when an adjuster doesn't respond to your demand letter and how to respond to a low personal injury settlement offer.
You can talk to a lawyer at any point during the car accident claim process. A lawyer can:
Learn more about how a car accident attorney can help you. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.
For more tips on putting a demand letter together, check out: Demand Letters in Injury Cases.