A demand letter is a document drafted by your attorney and sent to the insurance company in an effort to resolve the case. The demand letter is an important piece of your case, as it marks the first formal demand for settlement sent from your attorney to the insurance company involved in your case.
A demand letter is the starting point of the settlement process. It is usually the first time all of the important facts are presented to the insurance company. It also allows an attorney to tell the insurance company exactly what it will take to settle the case outside of court. Often times, insurance companies will response with a counter-offer, generally an amount far lower than is demanded. This opens the door to negotiations between the insurance company and the attorney to try to settle the case outside of court. If an amount is reached that is satisfactory to the client, then the case can be settled outside of court.
A demand letter is generally a tool used to communicate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, they can also be used, and often are used, to communicate with your own insurance company to pursue coverage from any applicable uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This is generally only the case where your own insurance company denies coverage of the claim under your uninsured or underinsured policy.
When the policy limits are much lower than the value of the claim, the demand letter can be used to “open up” the policy and allow your attorney to seek more than the policy limits in your case if the insurance company rejects the demand. If you end up having to go to trial and you get a verdict that is more than the policy limits, you can use the demand letter to show that the insurance company acted in bad faith in failing to protect their insured and settle the case within policy limits. The demand letter can be a powerful weapon in obtaining an excess judgment.
Unfortunately, though, you do have to make the demand letter for the policy limits first, and, therefore, sometimes the insurance company will accept it if the value of the injuries appears to be more than the limits. It can be disappointing at those times because you will have to settle for the policy limits, rather than being able to seek the full value of your claim.
Yes, if you want to have the ability to seek more damages than the policy limits later on in the case. It is a prerequisite to a potential bad faith/negligent failure to settle claim that may exist down the road. See O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1 [pertaining specifically to motor vehicle collisions]:
(a) Prior to the filing of a civil action, any offer to settle a tort claim for personal injury, bodily injury, or death arising from the use of a motor vehicle and prepared by or with the assistance of an attorney on behalf of a claimant or claimants shall be in writing…
Georgia law requires very specific information to be contained in a demand letter for motor vehicle collisions [it is also a good guide for other types of claims as well]. Per O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1, a demand letter must contain at least:
The law supplies the bare minimum of what must be contained in a demand letter. However, a good demand letter will include more than the bare minimum. In addition to the legal requirement, demand letters often include:
Below we’ve included examples of the various parts of a typical demand letter:
Writing demand letters can be a daunting task, even to some attorneys. Not only must you gather all of the required and relevant information, but you must also weave this information into a compelling narrative that tells the insurance company WHY they should settle the case in your favor.
Attorney Bethany L. Schneider, of Schneider Injury Law, has a wealth of knowledge and experience in personal injury. She has written many successful demand letters. If you have been injured, call Schneider Injury Law at (404) 800-3060, or email Bethany directly, at email@example.com, for a free case consultation.