To start off, lets define what a demand is. Demands come in many forms, but when it comes to personal injury, a demand is a written formal request for payment to settle an outstanding claim or legal matter. More simply, its an offer stating the amount of money it would take for your client to settle all claims and dismiss or refrain from filing a lawsuit against the party that caused harm. Accordingly, it is important that it is presented well.
Writing a demand is an art form. It is an opportunity to lay your cards on the table and show the seriousness of your claim or case. The language that you use needs to strike a balance between presenting the objective facts and being persuasive. You need to build your case and demonstrate the consequences if the terms of your offer are not met (i.e., that suit will be filed, attorney’s fees incurred, etc.).
There are multiple pieces needed to create a persuasive and effective demand. To start, consider dedicating a portion of the demand to introducing your client. Give a background. Humanize the name and the injuries sustained. Next, discuss liability. Demonstrate the facts that indicate who is at fault. Following, go through the damages. In a personal injury case, that will mostly mean going through your client’s medical treatment resulting from the incident. Do not skim over the damages. Take time to articulate the affect/impact of the negligence on your client. Next, outline the terms of your settlement. Identify the monetary amount that would be required to settle, set a deadline for response and payment, and describe the nature of the release you are providing. Finally, close your demand out with a punchy conclusion, reiterating your offer and position.
A good demand provides evidentiary support of your position. Documents that you will want to provide include the police and/or incident reports, photographs of injuries and/or property damage, medical records, medical bills, and any documentation of consequential damages that arose as a result of the incident at issue. This list is not exclusive and not restricted to just documents. Videos, 911 dispatch calls, and recorded witness statements may all need to be included. The point is to demonstrate the evidence that you have to support your claim and to present what a jury will potentially consider should the case go to trial.
Why is preparing a good demand important? Simply put, it can end your case. Lawsuits can be time consuming and, at times, difficult for the injured party to relive the events that resulted in their injury. A demand offers an opportunity to compromise with the other side and allow everyone to move on. Demands can save further litigation costs, consequently reducing a client’s expenses.
There are multiple types of demands. For motor vehicle collisions, you can send pre-suit policy limits demands pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1, also referred to as “Holt Demands.” Certain material terms must be included in Holt demands (e.g., the demand amount, parties to be released, time of payment etc.). These terms are conditions of settlement and if not met, there is no settlement. Grange Mut. Ins. Co. v. Woodard, 300 Ga. 848, 797 S.E.2d 814 (2017).
Once suit is filed, you can send an offer of judgment pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68 up to 30 days before trial. This device can be used by either side and is intended to push forward a legal resolution short of trial. The consequence of rejecting a demand made pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68 is that it can shift the costs of attorneys fees to the other side who rejected the offer from the date of rejection through the entry of final judgment, if certain criteria is met.
Another effective demand is an unliquidated damages demand. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-14, a plaintiff can send a certified demand for a specific amount of money to resolve the case. If that amount is not paid within 30 days, and at trial plaintiff receives a verdict of at least the amount demanded, then the plaintiff can receive interest on the amount demanded. The idea being, had the other side been reasonable and accepted the demand when originally offered, there would have been no need for the additional time and expense that comes with taking the case to trial.
Ultimately, to ensure you send out an effective demand, you want to hire an experienced attorney who has communicated regularly with claims representatives and written multiple demands. At Finch McCranie, LLP, we dedicate our time to diligently and vigorously representing our clients. With over 50 years in personal injury work, our firm can confidently represent your claim. Call for a free consultation at (404) 658-9070.