Although many personal injury lawyers offer free consultations for promising cases, they’ll demand a cut of at least 30 percent of your case’s winnings should they choose to take you on as a client. Depending upon the size of your potential payout, you may not be willing to part with this kind of money. Fortunately, it’s possible to initiate many personal injury cases without the help of a lawyer using a properly-formatted “demand letter.” About 30 percent of potential defendants served with well-written demand letters opt to settle their cases before they land in court.
You’ll find multiple templates for quality demand letters with a simple Google search. You don’t need to be an expert in legal parlance or even much of a writer to get your point across. What you do need is a command of the facts of your case, clear records to back up your claims, and an unwavering confidence in the rightness of your cause. Once you’ve thrown down your chips and sent out your letter, don’t involve a lawyer until it becomes clear that it won’t be effective. Otherwise, they may demand a cut of any pre-filing settlement.
If your demand letter is to be addressed to a private individual or the proprietor of a small business, ensure that it is devoid of aggressive language or wild assertions about your counter-party’s motives. Instead, outline your case in polite, factual terms.
Briefly review the sequence of events that led to your dispute. If your injury happened in a traffic accident, describe the driving maneuvers that caused the crash and clearly state why your counter-party is at fault. To strengthen your position, present your account of the incident as settled fact and include police reports, claims adjusters’ assessments and any medical or repair bills to back up your assertions.
Next, present an ultimatum. Using the evidence that you’ve attached as your guide, demand compensation for your injury. For the purposes of your demand letter, don’t include any extra “punitive” damages that can’t be tied to specific injury-related costs. If your counter-party refuses to settle your claim out of court, you’ll be able to attach such damages to your pending case. For larger personal injury cases that make it to court, you may wish to retain a lawyer: They will earn their fee many times over by coercing your counter-party to exceed your initial request for punitive damages.