Settlement Demand Letters and Personal Injury Litigation
The Settlement Process
The vast majority of personal injury cases ultimately are resolved through settlement, rather than through trial. There are various stages at which personal injury cases are most likely to settle. Knowing this will enable you and your attorney to concentrate your settlement efforts around these opportunities.
The first chance for settlement occurs shortly after the medical treatment is completed. After gathering your medical bills and reports, you or your lawyer evaluates your case and then informs the insurance company of the settlement demand. Sometimes that is all it takes to wrap up the litigation.
SETTLEMENT DEMAND LETTER
It is essential that you or your lawyer prepare a comprehensive and professionally written settlement demand letter. Three sample settlement demand letters can be found starting on p .117. The settlement demand letter summarizes the strengths of your case and alerts the insurance company to its potential financial exposure. As at all other stages of your case, you are trying to create a certain impression. If the settlement demand letter is not as close to perfect as possible, the settlement value of your claim, in the insurance company’s eyes, will drop dramatically.
If your letter is well organized and professional in appearance, the insurance company will assume that you are likely to present an effective case at trial, thereby exposing the company to significant financial risk. That is the ultimate goal of the settlement demand letter. If the letter has typos and is poorly worded and organized, the insurance company concludes that you will be similarly poorly organized for trial. The company will be less concerned about getting hit for a big jury verdict, since putting on an effective trial takes tremendous organizational and communication skills.
The letter must be prepared on a computer and printed on professional looking stationery. It must not have any typographical errors. Write the letter in the active voice to make all your points forcefully. A passively worded letter subconsciously affects the reader in a way that is to the writer’s disadvantage. For example, you should write, “The impact injured my left shoulder” rather than, “My left shoulder was injured by the impact.”
You should not waste any words in this letter. Get right to your strengths, make your points, and then make your settlement demand. This is not a creative writing contest. You should use short sentences. If you are attempting to convey two separate ideas, use two separate sentences.
You should attempt as much as’ possible to write like a lawyer. That does not mean that you should throw in a lot of extra meaningless words like hereto-fore and thereinafter. That will only show your inexperience and insecurity. Rather, you should clearly, directly, and forcefully itemize all of your losses, damages, and reasons that you are entitled to a substantial settlement.