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What is a Demand letter?

Posted by Bradley Thayer | Dec 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

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One of the things I enjoy about the practice of law is meeting and working with new people with varied experiences and backgrounds and learning about who they are, what they do, and the way they live.  Drawing from my journalism background (I obtained a journalism major in my undergraduate education and held multiple jobs in that field), I focus on getting to know my clients and presenting their stories in impactful ways.  In my representation of my clients, my goal is to try to get the adverse insurance company and its representative to see my client as more than a file on their desk or a claim number.                                                         

Once my clients have treated with and worked with their medical providers to fully understand their injuries and the future implications of those injuries, if any, and they have a solid understanding of the impact on their everyday life that those injuries have had or will have, then our office orders up all of the medical records and bills and obtains wage loss documentation, among other pieces of information, to fully flesh out the extent to which the client has been damaged by the incident. 

Armed with all of that information, it provides us the ammunition to put together what is called a demand letter.  The aim of the demand letter is to paint a complete and compelling picture for the adverse insurance carrier and its representative of who the client is, how the client was injured, the extent to which they were injured, what it took to move past their injuries, and the impact that those injuries had on the client's life.  Beyond that, the demand letter puts a value on the client's various damages.  

Each case is unique with its own strengths that deserve highlighting, but a very general outline of what a demand letter might look like follows:

  • A description of the client and who they are as a person;
  • A description of how the collision occurred and any contributing circumstances and subsequent effects;
  • A description of the injuries suffered and the course of treatment required to address the incident related injuries and symptoms;
  • An itemization of the economic damages, or those damages like the medical bills or wage loss for which tangible documents like a bill or receipt or tax return can help establish the value of;
  • A description of the non-economic damages, like past and future pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, inconvenience and interference with the normal and usual activities of life (these things that there is no receipt or other documentation to assist in establishing);
  • A description of the applicable state's law on liability and damages as discussed earlier; and,
  • An evaluation by the attorney of the strength of the client's claims in light of everything else included in the demand letter.

Again, this is just a rough sketch of what a typical demand letter might look like—this is not legal advice.

It is, however, our opinion that the demand letter has value and not just as a mechanism to have the adverse insurance company see you as an actual person who has been injured versus a claim file or number.  The demand letter also has value to the extent that it shows the adverse insurance carrier that the client is represented by an advocate that truly understands his or her case and the strengths of that case and—if the letter is done well (with compelling language and visuals)—it shows the adverse insurance carrier and its representative that the attorney and the client are capable of presenting the client's claims in an effective and compelling way.  The reason this is of value to clients is that it shows the adverse insurance company that, to the extent a lawsuit is filed and the case goes to trial, the attorney and the client will be able to make a compelling and effective presentation to the jury hearing the case and asking the jury to award damages to the client. 

Insurance companies act pretty fundamentally in response to risk.  If the insurance company believes that a compelling and effective presentation of a client's case to a jury poses a risk that the jury will make a significant award to the client, then that insurance company is more likely to act favorably in terms of compensating that client more fairly.

In light of the above, sending demand letters on behalf of my clients is a core part of my practice.  If you'd like to discuss whether or not you would be benefited

by having an attorney represent you under the circumstances you are facing, please give our office a call and we would be happy to chat with you about your questions and concerns.

About the Author

Bradley Thayer

Brad Thayer is a partner at the Schauermann Thayer firm. Brad is licensed in both Oregon and Washington. He has been practicing law since 2015. He was presented the 2018 Rising Star Award by the Clark County Bar Association. Brad's practice focuses on automobile collision, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian injury, dog bite, and myriad other types of injury and insurance cases. During his free time, Brad enjoys following the Portland Trail Blazers, playing basketball, going to concerts, and playing the drums. He especially enjoys hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and exploring other Northwest wonders.

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