Let's face it. No one wants to go to court and accessing the services of a high quality Lawyer can be expensive and time consuming. Although there are times when the complexity and/or sensitivity of your legal matter requires a Lawyer, often you can set the ball in motion with a well-constructed demand letter. You may be surprised at how effective a demand letter can be. A demand letter is typically the starting point for negotiations and sometimes, it may even help you avoid using a Lawyer and/or going to court.
So, what is a demand letter?
A demand letter is a document that you send to another person that you feel owes you something (often that something being money). The demand letter should explain your side of the story, the amount you have incurred in bills and the total amount in settlement you're requesting.
Why send a demand letter?
Sending a well-constructed demand letter signals to the recipient that you are serious about your intentions. Often, people do not realize how serious you are about collecting, and your demand letter helps bring clarity to the matter and your intentions. It also provides the recipient the ability to repay and/or settle the matter before you take the next step towards taking the matter to court. Even if you don't settle the case, explaining your position in a formal demand letter will not only help organize the matter but will also provide a good summary for a lawyer, should you wish to retain one.
Designing the demand letter
Keep your goal in mind! The purpose of writing and delivering a demand letter is to encourage the opposing party to assess the situation in a business-like manner. Always be professional and courteous when building a demand letter. Stick to the business at hand and avoid personal attacks and insults as they often bring no value to resolving your legal matter. Additionally, letters should be drafted properly, on a computer word processor as opposed to being written by hand. Include all the facts (not only the ones that support your side) and provide details around how you came to the amount you are asking for. Set a short deadline and supply an actual date to remove any ambiguity. Conclude your letter by explicitly stating that you will pursue legal remedies if your demands are not met.
What to do after the demand letter is written?
Make and keep copies of the letter before sending. Ideally, your demand letter should be delivered via certified mail with a return receipt requested. This way if you do proceed to Court, you have proof that the letter was delivered and received. Most individuals and businesses use email now and it is totally fine to email all communication as long as you receive a response. If you do not, make sure to send the letter by certified mail. Make sure to keep all post office receipts and responses and if you send by email, make sure not to delete it and keep copies of all replies.
Hopefully you found this article a good starting point to help you design and build your demand letter. If you’ve built your letter and you’d like a set of “legal eyes” on it before you have it delivered, please reach out. We’re always happy to help.
Shana Nodel J.D
Principal Lawyer & Head of Litigation