In an ideal world, someone whose negligence brought you injury or property damage will compensate you properly for what happened with no questions asked. That doesn’t always happen, though, which is why you may need to send a demand letter first if you want your due compensation.
Of course, you cannot scribble anything out and expect it to work. A lot of thought and care must go into the process of crafting a demand letter if you want it to produce the intended result. In certain scenarios, even a demand letter that does not cause a defendant to act right away can prove useful.
Feel free to use this article as a guide if the need ever arises for you to compose a demand letter. This article will also offer tips regarding how and when to send the letter.
Find out more about this important document by reading on.
What Is a Demand Letter?
To start, let’s first discuss the proper definition of a demand letter.
Demand letters are formal documents that are sent by one party to a separate party. Their purpose is to request some form of compensation from the recipient. The compensation sought could come in the form of money or perhaps something else that the sender has in mind.
According to Investopedia, you don't need a demand letter if you want to file a lawsuit against someone. Still, the letter may bolster your case if you craft it correctly.
Calling a demand letter, a warning would be a bit strong. It would probably be more accurate to describe it as a reminder you send to another person that they still have not fulfilled their legal obligations to you.
Why Do You Need to Write a Demand Letter?
Given that they don't require you to have demand letters in the process of filing a lawsuit against another party, one may think that it is not worth the time to write. In a sense, yes, the demand letter is not guaranteed to do anything for your case, but there are still genuine benefits you can glean from this document.
A Demand Letter Can Open Up a Discussion
In cases where you and the other party immediately had disagreements, discussions can break down rather quickly. The facts in the case and your recollection of what happened may be different from how they remember that incident. It's only natural for the other party to be resistant to your demands if they believe their account is accurate.
This is where the demand letter comes in.
You can use the document to provide an accurate recounting of the events that took place. Upon seeing those facts, the recipient of the letter may become more amenable to talking again.
A Demand Letter Can Lead to Acknowledgment of Facts
The chances of the recipient accepting everything in the letter and complying with all of your demands are low. However, sending that demand letter could still prove beneficial.
Upon restarting the conversation again, the recipient of the letter may send you a response. In that response letter, the other party may agree to certain things they did not acknowledge previously. That's a huge win for you, and it could be important if the case makes it to trial.
A Demand Letter Can Speed Up the Negotiation Process
Waiting for the other party to respond so that you can pay your hospital bills is frustrating. On top of their negligence harming you, their stubbornness is also an inconvenience.
If the other party knows that they are responsible, they may try to stall things as long as they can, hoping that you will grow tired of trying to draw a response out of them.
By sending a demand letter, you can emphatically show the other party that you have no intention of dropping this matter without compensation first. If they were dragging their feet before, the demand letter should serve as notice that they need to act.
Plus, outlining your demands clearly may also make it easier for the party to decide what to do next. A resolution may come about sooner rather than later because of that.
A Demand Letter Shows the Other Party That Settling Could Be Smarter
There's something about receiving a letter that makes a matter seem more official. You were happy upon learning that you made it into your dream college but seeing and holding that acceptance letter is different.
For the other party in your case, receiving the demand letter may have a somewhat similar effect. They may have previously been downplaying your demands in their head. They may have assumed that you are only trying to squeeze them and that you’ll eventually quit if they ignore you long enough.
Getting that letter in the mail lets them know that you are serious about your demands. It could also be the kick in the pants they need to start negotiating with you properly.
Court cases are not something people volunteer for. There’s a good chance the other party in your case will become more open to settling once they read your demand letter.
A Demand Letter Can Save Both Parties Time and Money
Going to trial is often regarded by many as a last resort because it can be bothersome. You’ll likely need to go to the courtroom on more than one occasion, which means clearing out your schedule more often.
Legal fees also must be considered. The accused may end up having to pay extra if they decide to go to trial.
Negotiating using letters can save all the parties involved plenty of time and money. That idea may come through to the recipient after reading your letter.
When Should You Send a Demand Letter?
The demand letter should not be your first attempt at negotiation. That would be an ultra-aggressive move, and it may not be needed.
Start first by negotiating with the other party. After obtaining their contact information at the scene of the accident, give them a call and talk about how things will go from there. The hope is that they will be receptive to your demands and accept the facts of the case.
We’re still talking about separating someone from their money, so you cannot be surprised if they push back against your claims. You should consider sending the demand letter if negotiations over the phone break down.
Sending it before any trial begins is also smart because you can use your correspondence with the other party to support your claims. You can also send a copy of the demand letter to a court clerk if you believe that your case is heading to trial.
Who Should Write the Demand Letter?
There are three ways to go about composing a demand letter. You can write it yourself, have a lawyer write it, or write it yourself but have a lawyer proofread and/or edit it.
Technically, there is no wrong way to write a demand letter. You’re taking a risk writing it on your own without consulting with an experienced lawyer first, however.
Writing it on your own is risky because you could be opening yourself up to liability, and because you're writing the letter alone does not mean the other party has to do the same thing. They may have enlisted the help of a lawyer to find flaws in what you're saying.
Suddenly, you may find yourself playing defense even though you were the victim in the case. The desire to save money is understandable, but you could wind up costing yourself more in the long run by not partnering up with a lawyer.
The Contents of the Demand Letter
The demand letter doesn't have to be long, but it should be detailed. Remember, they could use the letter in the trial itself, so sticking to the facts will serve you well when writing it.
Listed below are the items you should remember to include in the demand letter:
- Facts about the accident – Mention when and where the accident took place, what exactly happened, and how you were injured and/or how your property was damaged.
- The Aftermath of the Accident – Explain how you responded to the after-effects of the accident. Talk about any repair or hospital bills you have and clarify how much you’ve spent already.
- Point Out How the Other Party Is at Fault – Discuss how the other party’s actions led directly to the accident. This is also a good opportunity for you to cite any evidence provided by the responding police officers or witness testimonies you gathered.
- Your Demands – Detail what you expect from the other party in terms of compensation. Talk about how much money you are seeking in a settlement and say why that amount is appropriate.
- The Deadline – State that you want a response promptly. Include a deadline in your demand letter that you intend to pursue further legal action if there is no response.
How to Compose the Demand Letter
Now that you know what to put in your demand letter, you can start writing it. The tips below should help you write it correctly.
Maintain a Professional Tone
Once again, it helps to remember that your demand letter could be evidence in court. Knowing that, do you really want the judge seeing a full page of you berating and insulting the other party?
Don't let your emotions get the best of you and write the letter as you would a professional document. Maintain a neutral yet professional tone, address the other party politely, and refrain from making any threats or insults.
The facts of the case will do more to tilt the case in your favor than any insults or expressions of anger will.
Don’t Go Overboard with Your Demands
One of the reasons why you should consult with a lawyer when writing a demand letter is because he/she can help you come up with more realistic demands. Since you’re likely seeking general damages along with actual damages, you cannot refer to your bills as a price point.
Your lawyer can cite some earlier cases to come up with a realistic monetary demand.
Being more reasonable with your demands will also show the other party and potentially the judge that you are not out for blood. You only want fair compensation.
You have no reason to beat around the bush any longer. The other party knows why you're sending the letter, so say what you want to say. LegalZoom also notes that shorter demand letters are preferred because they are easier to examine for judges and clerks who often have packed schedules.
Additional Tips for Writing the Demand Letter
When writing your demand letter, it would be best to use a computer. Aside from appearing more professional, a printed letter also protects against allegations that you made alterations.
You should also send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt. Going that route ensures that the other party will receive the letter, and you can also use the receipt as proof that they did indeed get it.
What Happens after Sending the Demand Letter?
Once you send the demand letter, the other party may respond in one of three ways.
First, they may deny the claims in your letter and even state in a separate letter that you have the facts wrong or something of that nature. Keep all those response letters you receive because they may come in handy during a trial.
The other party may also decide to ignore your demand letter and hope you will stop. At that point, your only real move is to press on with the case.
It’s also entirely possible that the other party will read the letter and decide that they will be better off accepting your demands. Hopefully, that’s what happens if you ever need to send a demand letter of your own.
Writing a proper demand letter is easier for experienced lawyers. Allow us at the Saeedian Law Group to help with that particular task. Drop by our office or call us today to get your case moving in the right direction.