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What Is a Demand Letter?

Posted in Personal injury on February 5, 2020

All personal injury settlements begin with a demand letter. Sometimes, a good demand letter is enough to successfully resolve a case. Other times, it simply marks the beginning of a longer negotiation process. Familiarizing yourself with demand letters is important if you recently suffered a personal injury and wish to seek restitution for your medical bills and other damages. If you need further assistance crafting, sending or responding to a demand letter, contact an attorney.

Is a Demand Letter a Legal Document?

A demand letter states a legal claim you are making against a party for allegedly causing or contributing to your injuries. It names the defendant, describes the incident and makes a clear demand for restitution because of the at-fault party’s legal wrongdoing or breach of contract. A demand letter becomes a legal document when you serve it upon the defendant. You do not necessarily need a lawyer to write one for you, however. You can create a demand letter by typing up a formal and professional document that includes all the required information and contains your signature.

Can You Ignore a Demand Letter?

You may receive a demand letter if someone believes you are legally responsible for his or her injuries, property damages or other losses. While you can technically ignore a demand letter, this will not make the issue disappear. Instead, ignoring a demand letter could mean the loss of your ability to negotiate with the claimant to achieve a settlement. Your claim will go directly to court, potentially costing you more time and money. Instead of ignoring the letter, take it to an attorney for review. An attorney can help you dispute fault and/or negotiate a fair settlement with the claimant.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Write a Demand Letter?

Unless you have history writing demand letters, you may prefer a lawyer’s assistance. A personal injury lawyer will know precisely how to craft the demand letter, how to phrase its text, how much money to demand and what information to include.

  • Your full name and contact information
  • The defendant’s name and address
  • A description of the accident
  • A breakdown of your medical bills and other costs
  • Information related to your injury and treatments
  • An amount you are demanding to settle the case
  • Supporting documentation

A settlement letter should be short, simple and concise while still providing all the information the insurance company or defendant will need to successfully review the case. One of the most important parts of the letter is the actual settlement demand. Demanding too little could undervalue your claim while demanding too much could lead to a denial. Work with a lawyer to get all the details of your demand letter right.

What Is the Next Step After a Demand Letter?

Once you or your attorney drafts a demand letter, you will serve it upon the defendant. Request a receipt for proof the defendant received the document. From there, you will wait until the defendant issues a response. Most insurance companies try to respond to demand letters or claims within 30 days.

Expect to receive a response within 30 to 45 days from the defendant. After a positive response, you will enter into settlement negotiations. You and your lawyer will have the chance to accept the settlement amount or reject it and negotiate for more money. Negotiations can take weeks or months depending on the case. If your demand letter receives a negative response or claim denial, you may proceed to take your case to trial.

What Happens If I Don’t Get a Response From a Demand Letter?

If the defendant ignores your demand letter, this does not drop the case. Instead, you will have the power to file a lawsuit against the defendant. File your claim within your state’s deadline or statute of limitations. Use an attorney to help you complete the claims process and handle an injury trial on your behalf. A trial could result in greater compensation than a settlement, but it will take longer to resolve. Both legal processes have pros and cons, and both start with a demand letter.