When you're trying to recover compensation for vehicle damage after a car accident, at some point you or your attorney will probably send a demand letter as part of the claim process. Such a letter may be sent to the driver who caused the accident, an insurance company, or an attorney representing the driver who collided with your vehicle -- you might even send the letter to your own insurance carrier if you're pursuing a claim under your own collision coverage. (Learn more about different types of car insurance coverage).
In this article, we'll outline the kinds of information you'll want to cover in your demand letter, and the documentation you might wish to include to help strengthen your claim.
What to Include in a Vehicle Damage Demand Letter
The demand letter represents the first step in the vehicle damage settlement negotiation process. In the letter, you will spell out your vehicle damage claim, including the details of the underlying accident, how you dealt with the damage to your vehicle, and the costs you faced as a result of the accident.
With that in mind, your demand letter should include:
- Detailed account of the auto accident, including where the accident occurred, what you were doing at the time, what the other driver did, and what happened as a result. Methodically answering the questions "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" may help you recall the incident in more detail.
- Synopsis of the towing, inspections, repairs, and other services required due to the accident. Include a breakdown of everything, including parts and labor required to fix your vehicle. If your vehicle needed additional repairs, or multiple attempts were needed to find and fix a problem, include these as well. Learn more about vehicle repair options after a car accident.
- Description of any other losses you incurred as a result of the accident, such as missing work or personal appointments, cost of a rental vehicle, and anything else you can think of.
- Mention of any witnesses to the accident, including names and a summary of their statements, if you have this information. (Learn more about witness credibility and car accident claims.)
- A demand for a specific dollar amount that you will accept to settle your vehicle damage claim and release the other party from liability.
- A specific deadline by which you expect to hear from the recipient of the demand letter. This may be expressed in terms of a future date or a number of days from the date on the letter.
If you have documentation of any of the details you list in your demand letter, include copies of this information as well. Some types of common documentation involved in vehicle damage claims include:
- photographs of the accident scene or of the damage to your vehicle
- written statements from anyone who witnessed the vehicle accident
- written estimates of the costs of vehicle repairs
- receipts from towing companies, auto repair shops, auto parts suppliers, or any other vendor involved in the repair of your vehicle
- receipts from alternative transportation you used while your vehicle was being repaired, such as buses, taxis, or a rental car company, and
- records from your employer showing the amount of time you missed from work and your wages, if the accident (and doing the footwork to get your car fixed and back on the road) caused you to miss work time (even if you just used your accrued paid time off).