One party initiates a personal injury lawsuit against another party by filing and serving a complaint with the civil court. A complaint is a legal document outlining various aspects of a case. It can include a brief description of the accident and each allegation by the injured party against the defendant.
The plaintiff must pay a filing fee to file the complaint with the court. A filed summons must accompany the complaint. An authorized individual, such as a process server, must deliver both documents to the defendant.
Here we explain the components of a complaint and how it differs from a demand letter.
What’s the Difference Between a Complaint Letter and a Demand Letter?
The primary difference between a complaint and a demand letter is the circumstances involved. To initiate a claim, you submit a demand letter with the at-fault party’s liability insurance company. A complaint is a legal document filed with a court during a third-party lawsuit.
As the injured person in an accident, you should hire an attorney to compose a demand letter to the insurance carrier.
A demand letter often includes the following:
- Description of the incident – You must describe the events leading up to the accident in your own words. That might include explaining why you believe the other party should be liable for your injury.
- Proof of fault – You must outline the at-fault party’s actions and how they contributed to the accident. You can describe what they did in the moments before the incident. Also, you can include eyewitness statements and copies of official documentation such as police reports and accident scene photos.
- Medical treatment – You must also describe the type of treatment you sought for your injury. The letter should include a treatment timeline with the doctors’ names and dates of each treatment. You should also explain whether your injury improved or caused problems such as an inability to work.
- Compensation – The last part of the demand letter involves the proposed settlement amount. You must provide a figure indicating the expenses you have from the accident and an estimate of future costs you might have due to a permanent or disabling condition. The settlement amount you indicate in the letter should be enough to compensate you for your losses.
A demand letter begins negotiations with the insurance adjuster. The adjuster will review the letter and corresponding evidence you provide to determine whether to accept your proposed settlement or counter with a different number. If the insurer denies your claim or refuses to settle for an amount you believe is fair, filing a lawsuit may be your next step.
A complaint formally notifies the defendant of the legal action someone is taking against them. You must file the complaint with the court to initiate legal proceedings.
You must also file a summons and serve both documents on the defendant. The summons informs the defendant of the lawsuit and instructs them how to respond. Typically, civil lawsuits require defendants to respond by filing an answer to the complaint with the court.
What Is Included in a Complaint Letter?
A civil lawsuit begins with a complaint. Settling a personal injury case during an insurance claim is possible. However, a lawsuit may be necessary if the insurance company doesn’t offer an adequate settlement.
You can name the insurance carrier and the party responsible for harming you as defendants in the complaint. The document must start by identifying the parties in the civil action. You can also briefly describe how the accident occurred and the types of injuries you sustained.
You must also list the allegations of the defendant’s conduct. If there is more than one allegation, outline each in a numbered list. Each allegation should include the legal basis for holding the defendant liable. Since personal injury often involves negligence, you can explain how the defendant’s negligent actions caused your injury and why they should be financially responsible.
You must also include the legal remedy you wish to recover from the lawsuit. Personal injury cases often involve monetary awards to pay medical bills and compensate the injured party for their pain and suffering and other non-economic losses. You can address the value of your case and the compensation you seek from the defendant.
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