After an automobile accident, your main channel of communicating and negotiating with the insurance company will be in a Demand Letter. This is a letter sent to the company, outlining the details of the accident and your resulting insurance claim. It focuses mainly on items that the insurance company should be responsible for reimbursing, such as damages and pain and suffering.
Be sure to cover as much information as possible - if the company doesn’t know a part of your case, they can’t effectively provide coverage. A demand letter should include at least the following basic information:
- Descriptions of the damage to your automobile
- Estimates or actual statements of repair costs
- Any physical or emotional injuries you have received, including any resulting effects of the injury (such interference with employment capability due to the injury)
- Medical costs/hospital expenses associated with the accident
- Lost wages or income
- Any amount of damages
- Reasons why the insurance company should compensate you
- Reasons why the other party’s insurance company might be accountable
- A Demand Statement for a specific amount of total money to be reimbursed
This is only a basic list; the more information you provide in a demand letter, the better the chances for success in attaining your insurance claim.
What Are Some Characteristics of a Successful Demand Letter?
Without a doubt the most important characteristics of a good demand letter are accuracy and honesty. If you do your part in providing a reasonable assessment of the costs of your claim, then the insurance company will reward you with a fair amount of compensation for your losses.
You can still employ basic bargaining skills, but understand that insurance companies can easily spot any frivolous or suspicious claims for excessive money. In terms of negotiating reimbursement for damages and losses, the demand letter is going to be the initial point of contact, so be sure to place your “best foot forward”. Make a good impression by being organized while providing plenty of details and information.
Although it is called a demand letter, you don’t need to be demanding - make sure the reimbursement estimates are reasonable. All of your expenses need to be caused by the accident or directly related to the incident in order to recover.
Will I Need to Provide Other Information in Addition to the Demand Letter?
Possibly. The insurance company may request that you verify your demand claims using documents of support, such as receipts or copies of other reports. After the accident, it might be helpful to organize such documentation into the following two groups:
- Damages: Damages include such things as the physical damage done to the car, associated repair costs, lost wages, and any other related expenses. Be sure to collect all receipts and pay stubs as well as any future projected expenses.
- Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering refers to any injuries that you may have incurred due to the accident. Documentation might include medical bills, medicine prescription reports, counseling costs, and loss of consortium.
After you have finished collecting all the required verifying documentation, you may wish to group them all into a package to be sent to the company in addition to the demand letter. The informational package might also be useful in the event.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Negotiate My Insurance Claim?
Although the law does not require you to obtain a lawyer in order to file an insurance claim, it might be in your best interest to retain the services of an experienced lawyer. They will be able to help you organize the information needed for a successful demand letter, and they can inform you as to your options under the law. Finally, in the event that a lawsuit is anticipated (for example, for emotional distress claims) it helps if the lawyer is already familiar with the details of your claim.