A demand letter is a letter which states a legal claim and makes a demand that the recipient perform some obligation or correct a legal wrong. Sending a demand letter is a preliminary tactic which is used to induce another party to take some particular action such as making a payment to the party sending the letter.
Demand letters are often used when informal efforts to resolving a dispute fail and they are often used prior to filing a lawsuit. Demand letters are usually drafted by attorneys.
How to Write an Effective Demand Letter?
Before you draft a demand letter by yourself or through an attorney, it is important to consider who you are sending the letter to. It is important to consider whether the recipient is a friend or relative, someone that you will maintain a personal relationship with or whether it is a contractor, business or individual with whom you may have future interactions.
The type of letter that you send will be determined to a large extent by whom you are sending it to. In any case, when drafting a demand letter, it is important to avoid strong emotions and stick to the facts.
Prior to drafting a letter, it is important to have a detailed record of all your communications with the other party such as the date, time, the individual that you spoke to and the nature of your conversations about the problem.
It is also useful to keep a copy of documents such as contracts, bills, invoices, correspondences and statements. An effective demand letter will have features such as:
- Being Typed: You can use your own computer or if you do not have one, many public libraries have computers which you can use for free or for a small charge.
- Clearly Identifying the Issue: You should state clearly and concisely the purpose of the letter and the issue that it is trying to resolve. If there are multiple issues which are involved, you can list them in a particular order and describe each of them.
- Reviewing the Facts: It is important to state the facts in time order and be concise.
- Being Polite: It is important to avoid personally attacking the other party. The more you attack, the more the other party will respond in a similar way and this will reduce the chances of resolving the dispute.
- Asking for Exactly What You Want: It is important to avoid leaving the other party guessing and state clearly what you want and why you are asking it.
- Setting a Deadline: Notify the other party that they have to respond by a specific date.
- Bringing Up the Possibility of Legal Remedies: State that you will promptly pursue legal remedies against the other party if they do not meet your demand.
It is important to make and keep a copy of each letter before sending it and also retain a copy of the post office receipts. You can also send your letter by regular and certified mail with a return receipt requested.
Keep in mind that threats, especially empty ones that are just meant to scare the reader, will not work to your advantage. That can work against you if the issue does go to trial and the judge discovers that you attempted to “shake down” the other party by obscuring the facts and the law.
What About Personal Injury Cases?
In personal injury cases such as car accidents, sending a demand letter is a key step in settling the claim. It may be possible to settle the claim and avoid further litigation by drafting an effective demand letter. A demand letter in a personal injury case will include:
- Relevant Facts: You state or restate (even if the insurance company is already aware of the circumstances) the facts surrounding the accident. Stick to only the facts and avoid injecting emotions into the descriptions.
- Description of the Other Party’s Fault: Explain how the other party caused the accident and how you were injured because of the other party’s negligence. You should provide evidence through materials such as police reports, witness statements, accident photos and any other relevant documents that you may have.
- Lost Wages: It is important to get a letter from your employer which reflects the lost time, the amount of lost wages or your pay level and include a statement which details the lost time and wages because of the accident.
- Medical Expenses: Include a chart or list of medical expenses and mention where you were treated, who treated you and what you were charged for the treatment.
- Other Damages: If you suffered any other losses or damages because of the accident, make sure to include them in the letter.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Drafting an effective demand letter can take expertise. In this context, it is important to consult with an experienced civil attorney near you who can help you draft an effective demand letter and represent you in court if necessary.