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Personal Injury Claims in New York: What Is A Demand Letter?

Accidents happen every day. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39.5 million Americans seek professional medical attention for injuries each year. If your accident was caused by the carelessness or recklessness of any other party, you may be eligible to recover financial compensation through a personal injury case. 

A personal injury claim generally does not start with the filing of a lawsuit. In fact, only a small share of personal injury cases go to trial. A legal tool called a ‘demand letter’ is an important initial step in many personal injury claims. Here, our Albany personal injury lawyers explain how a well-drafted demand letter can help you get the full financial compensation that you deserve. 

What Is A Demand Letter?

A demand letter is a statement of your claim. You can use a demand letter to notify the defendant (and their insurance company) that you suffered an injury, you believe that they are liable for your damages, and you intend on seeking financial compensation. In most personal injury cases, a demand letter starts the settlement negotiation process. 

Five Key Elements Of An Effective Personal Injury Demand Letter

A demand letter can be a very important part of a personal injury case. When used effectively, a demand letter will let the defendant (and their insurance company) know the strength of your case and your intention to pursue the full financial compensation you are owed under New York state law. Here are five key elements of a well-drafted personal injury demand letter: 

  • A Description/Account of the Accident: A personal injury demand letter should always include a comprehensive, well-prepared description of your accident. The details of the accident in a demand letter should answer all of the big questions—including what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. This is your opportunity to lay out your side of the case. The more compelling your story, the more likely the defendant/insurance company will take your claim seriously. 
  • A Statement of the Defendant’s Liability: A personal injury demand letter should provide details relevant to liability. Under New York law (N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 1411), most personal injury cases fall under the state’s comparative negligence standard. In effect, this means that every percentage point of liability matters. The other side is far more likely to come to the table and negotiate a personal injury settlement if they are convinced that they can be held liable in court. 
  • An Overview of Your Damages: A personal injury demand letter should also provide an overview of your damages, including a specific request (demand for financial compensation). Your damages should be well-documented. Even when liability is undisputed, defendants and insurers still try to settle claims for less by challenging the validity of an injured victim’s damages. 
  • A Reasonable Deadline for Response: A personal injury demand letter should include a timeline for a response. Without a timeline for a response, the defendant/insurer may simply let your case fall to the back of the line. It is important to determine a reasonable deadline for response. You do not want it to be too short or too long to start good faith settlement negotiations. 
  • Clear Notice of Intent to Take Legal Action: Finally, a demand letter should provide a clear and unambiguous notice that you intend to take legal action if the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction. In general, this means that you will notify the defendant(s) and all implicated insurance companies that will file a personal injury lawsuit if necessary to get the financial compensation you deserve. 

Every personal injury claim involves its own unique set of facts, circumstances, and challenges. A formulaic demand letter is not good enough for your case. A skilled Albany personal injury lawyer can craft a fully customized demand letter focused on getting you and your family the best possible outcome. 

Call Our Albany, NY Personal Injury Attorneys For A Free Consultation

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our New York personal injury lawyers have the specialized skills and real world experience that you can rely on for the best results. We will take your case as far as needed to maximize your financial support. If you have any questions about personal injury demand letters, we can help. Give us a call now or contact us online for a free initial consultation. From our legal offices in Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse, we represent injured victims throughout New York.

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