A demand letter is one that notifies a negligent party of a legal claim. It is a demand for payment of financial damages a victim suffered after being injured. In some states, a demand letter is necessary before filing a lawsuit. This is not the case in California.
Demand Letters Put the Defendant on Notice
A demand letter may be useful and in some instances is able to urge the other side to make a settlement offer. Sometimes, the recipient will respond to the demand letter, outlining the reasons why they do not feel they are obligated to pay. Their reasons for not being required to pay may or may not hold water, however, it does provide a decent representation of the arguments the person/entity will rely on in court.
Elements of a Demand Letter
There are certain things that must be included in a demand letter. The letter uses facts about the case and injuries to persuade the insurance company or negligent party to issue appropriate compensation. Some components of a demand letter are:
- Facts: The letter lists facts detailing the incident.
- Injuries: A detailed account of injuries the person endured and the degree of pain and suffering is attached.
- Medical Costs: All medical treatments and care the person received due to the incident are listed along with their costs.
- Lost Wages: The injured person’s lost wages, bonuses and other lost income are listed in full detail.
- Liability: The letter includes a section describing the liability issues in the accident.
- Payment Demand: The letter concludes with a rendering of the amount to compensate the injured party.
Once the letter is completed, it is submitted to the person/entity from whom the injured party seeks compensation. Copies of the letter are necessary for future use. It is essential to use certified mail with a return receipt requested to make sure the letter was delivered.
Items That Should and Shouldn’t Be in a Demand Letter
There are specific things that are used in a demand letter and others that are best left out. For instance, the letter should be worded so as to:
- Describe the accident/incident concisely but completely
- List events in chronological order
- Be polite, not threatening or insulting
- Provide what is needed to ensure just compensation
- State clearly what the next course of action will be if the demands are not met
- State what is owed and when it is expected
- Make the letter more readable by keeping it short
Benefits of a Demand Letter
There are good reasons for writing a demand letter even when it is not mandatory. The letter can promote settlement since putting it down on paper makes it appear to be a formal complaint, which is often taken more seriously than verbal requests for payment. This show of determination might suggest to the receiver that the sender is prepared and ready to pursue the matter. When the defendant has a choice of settling or facing the time and cost a lawsuit might bring, settlement may seem to be more palatable.
Another benefit is that writing out the particulars of the case helps organize the client’s memory of the incident and the details. This comes in handy as the attorney prepares the claim.
What Happens After a Demand Letter Is Submitted
Several things can occur after a demand letter is submitted:
- The insurer will accept the demands, and a settlement is reached. Acceptance without some back and forth argument is rare.
- The insurer or another party (the defendant) may make what is basically a counter offer. This is usually the start of negotiations to reach an amount both parties are comfortable with.
- Denial of the claim by the insurer is generally not made. This is not in the best interests of the insurance company since taking the claim to court is a risk for them.
- The insurer or defendant may not respond to the demand letter. When this occurs, the case will likely go to court.
If you have questions about writing a demand letter, contact the Law Offices of David Azizi to discuss how it many pertain to your important case.