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What Is a Demand Letter?

Posted in Legal Terminology

Every personal injury claim starts with a demand letter. The demand letter is the initial contact the claimant makes with the defendant, or the allegedly at-fault party. It is a letter that states clearly and succinctly the nature of the injured party’s complaint and the amount of compensation he or she requires to settle the matter. A powerful demand letter could be all it takes to settle an injury claim. In other cases, however, the plaintiff may need to proceed to court to achieve a monetary award for damages.

Albuquerque attorney writing a demand letter

Do I Need a Lawyer to Write a Demand Letter?

If someone in New Mexico caused your injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, contact an injury attorney right away. Working with a personal injury lawyer in Albuquerque on every aspect of your case, including the demand letter, could build a stronger claim and improve your chances of obtaining a fair compensatory award. A lawyer can help you draft a strong, clear and convincing demand letter seeking an appropriate amount of compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. A lawyer can also identify the correct defendant against which to bring your complaint. Whether the defendant responds or not, your attorney can assist you with the next steps of your claim.

Is a Demand Letter a Legal Document?

A demand letter becomes a legal document upon drafting it and sending it to the defendant, but it does not start as a special form the claimant must get from the courts. A demand letter can be something the claimant simply types and prints, then mails to the defendant. A plaintiff could also send a demand letter via email. Once the plaintiff draws up the demand letter, however, it becomes an important legal document in the case. It can be the document that ultimately leads to a settlement, or at least proof that the claimant tried in good faith to resolve the matter before going to court.

A demand letter typically consists of a few main parts. The first is the claimant’s full name and address. The second is a succinct description of the event that is at the heart of the complaint, along with known facts of the case. The third is a list of damages and injuries the claimant suffered, along with evidence supporting each loss. The fourth is a sentence explaining that the claimant is prepared to take the case to court, if necessary. The fifth – and most important – is a specific amount the claimant is demanding as a settlement if the defendant wishes to avoid going to court.

Can You Ignore a Demand Letter?

If you are the person receiving a demand letter, ignoring it will not make the issue go away. Failing to respond to the person’s complaint by the deadline will simply give the claimant the right to take the case to court. This could mean higher expenses for your insurance company than a settlement would have cost. In most states, you will have 45 days from the date you received the demand letter to respond. Your insurance company may be able to extend this deadline by requesting an extension with a valid reason, such as needing more time to investigate the accident in question. Your response should contain your insurance company’s decision to either accept or deny the claim.

How Long After a Demand Letter Does Settlement Take?

If the insurance company receiving the complaint agrees to settle the claim, resolving the case could take a few months from the date of sending the demand letter. The insurance company will typically have 45 days from receiving the letter to respond. A positive response could elicit a settlement check within two weeks. If the insurance company denies the complaint, however, the case may proceed to court. A personal injury trial could take several months to a year or longer to reach a final judgment.