Settling a Car Accident Case: Drafting Your Demand

ThinkstockPhotos-84461514You’re representing someone injured in a car accident and you’ve reached the point at which you’re ready to send a demand letter to communicate a settlement offer to the defendant’s insurance carrier. But what should that letter include? To get you started, here are some sample provisions to include in your letter as well as drafting suggestions.

Your demand letter should include a complete summary of injuries, treatment, and losses to date. Attach relevant documentation in support of the plaintiff’s claim, such as medical reports, billing records, and the police report.

You may also want to attach any available photographs of the accident aftermath, such as those of the plaintiff’s injuries and vehicles involved in the incident, including stills from any available video footage.

In drafting the statement of facts and description of injuries, use whatever level of detail is necessary to support the plaintiff’s claims. Here is sample language to give you an idea of how much detail to use:

FACTS

On January 17, 2016, at 3:10 p.m., Ms. Parkton was driving northbound on Beach Street in Beachtown, CA. As she entered the intersection at West Avenue, your insured, who was headed westbound on West Avenue, failed to stop at a red traffic signal light, entered the intersection at a high rate of speed, and struck my client’s vehicle, causing it to spin uncontrollably until it crashed into the guard rail on the west side of the street. The guard rail broke loose and my client’s vehicle plunged 13 feet onto the beach rocks below.

INJURIES

My client received the following injuries:

  • Broken collar bone (left);
  • Broken arm (left);
  • Cracked ribs (4);
  • Concussion;
  • Facial cuts and bruising; and
  • Bruising on torso and extremities.

You’ll next want to list all of plaintiff’s medical bills to date, followed by a description of his or her general damages, such as pain and suffering.

Finally, you make your settlement demand, e.g.,:

Taking into consideration the liability factors, the appearance of our client, the appearance of your insured, and the nature and extent of the injury, I have evaluated my client’s claim to be $1,000,000 and hereby offer to settle the case for that amount.

You should condition your demand on the insurance carrier on the following:

  1. furnishing you with a copy of the complete insurance policy insuring the plaintiff;
  2. notifying you in writing of its acceptance before your stated expiration date;
  3. furnishing you with the proposed release and other closing papers for review within 10 days after acceptance; and
  4. promptly exchanging the settlement draft for the fully executed release and settlement documents following your review and approval of it.

If your practice includes tort cases, you should check out CEB’s California Tort Forms From Expert Litigators, with over 130 key forms that you need to commence or respond to a variety of personal injury actions. Chapter 2 includes a complete sample demand letter as well as many other forms to use in an automobile case. For discussion of the principles, authorities, causes of action, and defenses in automobile cases, turn to CEB’s California Tort Guide, chap 4.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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