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Attorney Demand Letters

Plaintiffs’ counsel put a lot of energy into writing what are called “demand letters” that set forth the injured victim’s case and attach the medical records.

I sometimes use the phrase “demand” even though I don’t like it. Inherently, battles with insurance companies in these cases are adversarial. So, because we already have enough friction, the wisdom of loading our terminology with demand is probably a bad idea. Really, if we are going to call it a demand, we should load it up so it is more like “Terms of Your Surrender If You Want to Avoid War.” A better name that would be more conducive to settlements would be “Resolution Without Litigation Package.”


Anyway, surrendering to the term for convenience, the question becomes: does a good demand letter increase the quality of the insurance companies’ settlement offers? I think it depends on the case.

My humble opinion: If you write a treatise about a soft tissue injury case, you are sending a “tell” to the insurance company that you really don’t know what you are doing and that you don’t understand how the game is played. At best, you accomplish nothing and, at worst, you are diminishing your credibility. (Really, I think the risk of this multiplies exponentially if you don’t have a proven track record with that insurance company at trial.)

Does that mean a demand package beyond the medical records is a waste of time in smaller cases? No. But I would save the opus. Make the critical points and get out.

Usually, in more serious personal injury cases, a more substantive demand is worth making, sometimes before a lawsuit is filed and sometimes after the claim is filed, to summarize the case and the risks not only for the adjuster, but for the defense lawyer and the adjuster’s supervisor monitoring the case. The most important part of the demand letter: If you have a claim that can exceed the defendant’s insurance policy, you want to make sure you are spelling this out very clearly.

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