Settlement Demand, Settlement Brochure, or Demand Package?
When a personal injury law firm refers to “working on your settlement demand ”, they are usually referring to all the documents and supporting information that goes with a request for a settlement to the insurance company. Some firms call this a “settlement demand package” or a “settlement brochure”. This information is sent to the insurance company for the person responsible for the accident, and to your own insurance company in certain situations. Similar to a car accident when you are making a claim for your underinsured motorist (UM) benefits.
Generally, a demand is a summary drafted on behalf of the injured client that includes how the accident happened, who is at fault for the accident, and details the injuries and damages that resulted from the accident. Sometimes the summary is a couple of pages, but usually, it is 3- 6 pages depending on the complexity of the case. In a serious injury case, this summary can be 10 – 20 pages. The supporting documents in both a simple case or a more complex case can be several hundred pages.
This is why if your attorney’s firm tells you they are “working on your demand”, it may take a while to complete. It can take several weeks, if not months, to gather all the necessary records. Keep in mind that under most circumstances, your case isn’t ready for a demand to be made. This won’t happen until you have completed your medical treatment. Your doctors will also have provided an opinion on the prognosis of your injuries.
“Prognosis” simply means what is the likely course or outcome of your injuries. Once your attorney has that information, they can usually proceed with putting together a demand package on your behalf.
Most demands are organized into the following sections.
This section simply introduces the claimant to the insurance company and provides some general biographical information, such as the claimant’s age, family status, and employment information.
This section explains why or how the attorney has determined that the other party is at‐fault for the accident. This will include information from witnesses or law enforcement that indicates who was at fault or was ticketed in a car crash case. This section will usually include photographs of our client’s injuries and the damages to the vehicles involved. It may also include photographs of the accident scene or any other visual evidence of what happened. We can also use Google Maps and Street View to see what the accident scene looked like previously.
This can be the most complex and important part of a settlement demand. This section summarizes all the medical treatment that the claimant received due to the injuries caused by the accident. Keep in mind that most car accidents, for example, will result in medical treatment that can last for several weeks and often several months, depending on the severity of the injuries.
Our firm typically provides a chronological summary of the treatment and a list of all the diagnosis codes that were provided in the medical records (ICD codes are numerical codes for different diseases or conditions). In addition, and the reason the demand package can be several hundred pages is because we include all of our client’s medical records for the insurance adjuster’s review.
We highlight important information such as the initial evaluations and any referrals to other specialists or for MRI imaging. When the doctor releases the patient from treatment, they may also give an opinion on the percentage of disability, referred to as an impairment rating. This rating is a factor in how the claim will be evaluated by the insurance company. A higher impairment rating is a result of how severely the claimant is injured. The doctor will also make a determination about whether the injury is permanent. Under Florida’s “no-fault” law, the claimant must have suffered a permanent injury, permanent scarring or disfigurement, or loss of an important bodily function in order to qualify for pain and suffering damages (described below).
Therefore, being honest, detailed, and very specific about your injuries after an accident is important. Your medical records document what your physicians did to treat your injuries as well as their opinions about your prognosis. In addition, they also contain statements you made and your reports of pain at every visit. If you minimize your pain or fail to be specific, it will be reflected in your records. To properly advocate for our clients, every medical record from every provider is reviewed when preparing the demand.
The insurance company needs to know every penny that a claimant has in damages, so we make sure to obtain every single bill from every doctor. Most clients see more than one doctor (i.e. primary care doctor, chiropractor, orthopedic specialist, neurologist, pain management, etc.). They may also have one or more MRIs, and have been to physical therapy too. It’s essential to get all of the records and bills to know the total amount of expenses the client incurred.
These damages also include future medical expenses when recommended, and past and future lost wages. You only get one chance to resolve your case. If you are going to have additional expenses in the future, you have to collect them now. There’s no “do-over” and you can’t reopen the case later.
These damages are the most litigated part of most accident cases. These damages are for what’s commonly referred to as “pain and suffering” damages. Florida Statute 627.737 is Florida’s no-fault injury threshold law. According to the statute, you are only entitled to these damages if your injury was permanent within a reasonable degree of medical probability, caused significant scarring, or caused a significant loss of an important bodily function. The question of whether a claimant’s injury was permanent and meets the required threshold is highly litigated in most lawsuits.
The Florida standard jury instruction describes these damages as pain and suffering, disability or physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life. There is no exact standard for measuring such damage, so the instruction just says the amount should be fair and just in the light of the evidence. This is again an area that requires specifics and detailing how the accident has affected the claimant’s life.
Conclusion and Settlement Demand Amount
This section concludes the demand with a request for settlement and any terms that are required. Typically, these terms would be deadlines to receive payment and any other conditions. It will be up to the attorney to estimate the value of the claim. Your attorney will determine what is the best negotiation strategy to get the highest amount possible for the client.
Sometimes this strategy may be to make an offer. At other times it is to request that the insurance carrier make the first offer. The strategy depends on the case, but that’s why having an attorney draft and review your settlement demand package is necessary. There may also be circumstances where the at-fault party doesn’t have enough insurance and the demand must be drafted in a way that demands the full policy limit with no ambiguity about what it will take to resolve the claim.
See Part II of this article to learn about how insurance companies evaluate the claim after receiving the settlement demand. If you need help or have questions about your personal injury settlement demand, please contact our team at C. Todd Smith Law for your free case evaluation.