When Should the Car Insurance Company Respond to My Demand Letter?

Tips on how to get a faster response from an insurance company, and what to do if you don’t hear back from an adjuster.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

If you've been injured in a car accident that was someone else's fault, you'll likely send the other party (or their insurance company) a demand letter asking for compensation for your losses (damages). A demand letter is your attempt to settle your car accident claim before you file a civil lawsuit.

But what happens after you've sent a demand letter? In this article, you'll learn about:

  • demand letter timelines
  • factors that affect an insurance company's response time
  • common responses to demand letters, and
  • your options when you don't get the response you want from an insurance company.

What Is a Demand Letter?

A demand letter is a crucial step toward settling a car accident claim. An effective demand letter sets out:

  • why the other party was at fault for the car accident
  • the nature and extent of your injuries
  • your damages (medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering), and
  • your settlement demand figure.

Along with your demand letter, you should include documents like police reports, photos of the accident scene, witness statements, medical bills, and other records that support your claims.

How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Respond?

Waiting for an insurance company to respond to your demand letter is challenging. In most cases, you'll get a response within a few weeks or months. Insurance companies have a financial motive to settle cases as efficiently as possible.

But there is no guarantee that you'll receive a response to your demand letter. When you make a claim against someone else's insurance policy, called a third-party claim, you have no contract with the insurance company. You might get a delayed response or no response at all to your demand letter.

Factors That Affect an Insurance Company's Response Time

Each car accident claim plays out on its own timeline. Some of the factors that influence how quickly or slowly an insurance adjuster might respond to your demand letter include:

  • the size of your settlement demand (the higher your demand, the more time it will take to investigate)
  • the amount and complexity of your medical records and bills
  • whether there is a dispute about who was at fault for the accident (liability)
  • the at-fault party's policy limits
  • whether you have pre-existing injuries or conditions, and
  • the size of the insurance company and the adjuster's caseload.

Common Responses to a Demand Letter

If you get a response to your demand letter—in four weeks or four months—it will likely be one of the following:

Denial. The adjuster might tell you that the insurance policy involved doesn't cover your accident or that your demand is beyond the insured's policy limits. You might also hear that the adjuster has decided that you, and not the insured, are liable for the accident.

Offer. Negotiations with an adjuster often begin shortly after the adjuster receives your demand letter. The adjuster might call you and respond with an offer. You can accept the offer or respond with a counteroffer until you eventually reach a car accident settlement.

Request for Evidence. An insurance company against which you've filed a claim typically has a right to see evidence of yours that shows how the accident happened or how badly you were injured. For example, an adjuster might ask you for the names of witnesses you mention in your demand letter, medical records, or medical reports. You might even get a request for an independent medical examination (IME).

Tread carefully when an adjuster asks you for evidence. Don't let the insurer take any piece of evidence away from you, even temporarily. If you have questions about whether it's a good idea to share evidence about your case with an adjuster, talk to a lawyer.

Acceptance. In rare cases, an adjuster might agree to your initial demand and settle your car accident case.

How Do I Get a Faster Response To My Demand Letter?

If you don't hear from an adjuster within two or three weeks of sending your demand letter, call the claims department to ask when you can expect a response.

If an adjuster needs time to review your demand, politely ask for a date by which the adjuster will contact you with a response. Confirm the date with a letter and follow up if you don't hear from the adjuster by that date.

Or, if you want to try to take charge of the timeline from the start, you can include a deadline in your demand letter. For example, you might end your letter with something like, "I look forward to receiving your reply no later than 15 days from the date of this letter."

Your deadline, of course, isn't binding on the adjuster, but it might motivate a more timely response.

If following up with the adjuster doesn't work, ask to speak to the adjuster's supervisor or the claims manager in the department. The downside of this tactic is that you might appear over eager to settle your claim, so the insurer might make you a lowball settlement offer.

Learn more about your options if the adjuster doesn't respond to your demand letter, or makes an unreasonable offer.

If All Else Fails—File a Lawsuit

If your patience runs out, you can always file—or threaten to file—a lawsuit to kick start negotiations with the insurance company.

Adjusters and insurance company executives don't like lawsuits. Going to court is expensive, time consuming, and unpredictable. Filing a car accident lawsuit will let the insurer know that you mean business, you believe in the strength of your claim, and you're willing to stand up for your legal rights.

But if the insurance company doubts that you can prove your claim or thinks your settlement demand is unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence, you could be in for a long fight. The litigation process is likely to be costly, time consuming, and unpredictable for you too.

Need Help With the Demand Letter Process? Talk to a Lawyer

If you have questions about the demand letter process or would like help writing an effective letter, talk to an attorney. An attorney can answer your questions and help you strategize a game plan for your car accident claim.

Most car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee, so you probably won't have to pay your lawyer unless you win your case. Learn more about how an attorney can help with your car accident claim. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

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