The demand letter is almost always the first step you take after determining your legal claim. In order to write an effective demand letter, there are some specific strategies and requirements it must contain.
What Is a Demand Letter?
A demand letter is a document that contains the legal complaint. It includes statements of what the defendant legally did wrong, and the amount of money the plaintiff is asking for. You can ask for money or personal property from the other party. A demand letter is essentially a letter that demands personal property or money from the other party and states that the plaintiff intends to sue if defendant does not give them what they are asking for. If defendant responds and returns the money or property, then the parties will not need to go to small claims court.
A demand letter is most common in small claims cases. A small claims case is one where the plaintiff is not seeking a substantially high amount from the other party. For example, in California, a small claims case is for complaints that deal with $10,000 or less in damages.
Many states, including California and Nevada, require that a demand letter be sent to the other party (defendant) before bringing a small claims lawsuit to court. The court will ask for confirmation receipts before starting the lawsuit. Remember to bring a copy of your demand letter to court. Hiring an experienced attorney can help you organize & build your case.
Reasons for sending a demand letter:
- Small claims court
- If plaintiff decides to proceed with any lawsuit without an attorney
How to Send a Demand Letter
Your demand letter should be legible, and so our attorneys advise that you type out your demand letter rather than hand write. Hand writing a demand letter gives the defendant an excuse to say that they do not understand the demand letter, therefore they did not respond to it.
- Mail: If sent by mail, it should be registered and have a tracking number to prevent any future problems of defendants claiming they did not receive it. Signature delivery is also recommended.
- An undelivered message (whether via mail or email) should make the plaintiff look for other alternatives to send the demand letter.
A demand letter should be sent to a home address rather than a place of business, to prevent any third parties from getting hold of it and the demand letter getting lost.
What to Include in a Demand Letter
- Your name, address, and contact information (email and phone number)
- The most important step is the summary that details exactly what happened and what legal claims plaintiff has. This paragraph should be stated right away. This should be summarized in a couple sentences. It should state the damage and what plaintiff has suffered as a result of defendant’s actions. Failure to mention any brief history regarding the claim could result in your entire demand letter getting ignored, and the court clerk who may ignore your claim. It is important to be as chronological as possible.
- Refrain from making any physical threats, speaking unprofessionally, or using any inappropriate language.
- Be as direct and to the point as possible so the defendant can clearly understand what they did wrong and what they should return
- Include as many dates as possible to draw out the story
- If seeking monetary damages, it should state a certain dollar amount and how that amount was determined
- Your demand should also cite specific laws that have been broken (city or state laws)
- When you want the defendant to respond to your demand letter (it is advised to give defendant about 2 weeks)
- State the legal consequences as to what happens if defendant does not respond. This includes taking the lawsuit to court.
- Keep the letter professional and refer to them as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” And sign the letter with “sincerely”
- Keep in mind that what you say a demand letter could also be used against you in court if you do end up going to small claims court
What Happens After You Send the Demand Letter
- Defendant could respond with another letter denying any allegations. If this happens, then both parties must go to small claims court.
- Defendant could also respond by asserting some type of counterclaim where they are stating that plaintiff is the one that actually violated laws instead of them, and defendant is entitled to money damages instead.
- Defendant could respond admitting liability and how they are to pay back plaintiff. Defendant could also mention any settlement amounts to prevent going to court.
How Long Should A Demand Letter Be?
The length of your demand letter is based on the circumstances of your case. For example, the more complex the case, the more likely the demand letter will be longer. There is no minimum or maximum set of pages set by the court. However, it is very important that you be brief, and state all the required elements of your claim. Usually, a long demand letter may not be read properly by the court.
It is very important that you maintain several copies of your demand letter. Usually, a court will require that you bring the copy of the demand letter in front of the judge if the defendant does not respond to the demand letter. Always be prepared and have multiple copies.
For more information on how to write a demand letter, or assistance on writing a demand letter, contact our personal injury attorneys today. We are available 24/7 via phone and email, and have offices located in every major city in Nevada and California.
Writing a demand letter could be very complex, since there are certain requirements that must be met. We recommend using an effective attorney to get your message across to the liable party.
Our attorneys have represented personal injury lawsuits for several decades – see our recent results. We understand that it could be very confusing to navigate through the legal process. That is why we are here to help every step of the way. To get legal help regarding your claim, contact us today.
***Disclaimer: This blog is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this blog, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.