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How to Write an Effective Demand Letter

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Lawyers often send demand letters before filing a lawsuit. Demand letters notify adverse parties about a dispute and what's expected of them. They can also be advantageous if the plaintiff ends up filing a lawsuit. letters learn what arguments the adverse party will use if a lawsuit is filed. Demand letters may also be useful during litigation such as showing the defendant knew about the issue and refused to remedy it or; to help establish a timeline of events.


The results of sending a demand letter depend on how effective it was at persuading the adverse party. An effective demand letter will convince the adverse party you are serious about starting litigation and the risk of losing a lawsuit is more than coming to an agreement with you. In contrast, an ineffective demand letter might confuse the adverse party, convey the wrong message, be ignored, cause hostility, and have worse results than not sending a demand letter in the first place. Therefore, you need to know what makes a demand letter effective and how you can incorporate those aspects into your letter.





Content:

  1. When to Send a Demand Letter

  2. Addressing Demand Letters to the Right Recipient

  3. What to Include in Your Demand Letter

  4. Demand Letter Checklist

  5. Example Demand Letter



When to Send a Demand Letter


Sending a demand letter at the wrong time can affect how an adverse party reacts. It can catch the adverse party off-guard or have happened too long ago that the adverse party disregards it. Generally, demand letters are sent when another person either: (1) fails to fulfill an obligation or; (2) engages in conduct that violates another person's rights. Common examples include:

  • Non-Payment for a product or service,

  • Violating another person's right to use or have possession of property,

  • Non-delivery of a product, or

  • Failure to complete a service.

Demand letters are commonly sent as a last resort after you've tried to resolve the issue in other ways. However, some causes of action notably require the plaintiff to have made a written demand within a certain amount of time after an event. For example, under the Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Act, tenants must send their landlord a written demand for their deposit within six (6) months after moving out, or the tenant forfeits the money.


Addressing Demand Letters to the Right Recipient


It seems obvious that you need to send the demand letter to the right recipient. However, it's not always clear who that is when there are multiple parties involved. Some questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Is the recipient an individual or a business?

  • Who would take responsibility for the wrongful conduct?/ Who was in control of the situation?

  • What relationship do the recipients have with each other (e.g., employee and employer, subcontractor and general contractor, etc.).

Generally, you should send a copy to each potential defendant. When the recipients have a shared relationship, oftentimes the correct recipient will contact you. For example, if you send a copy of the demand letter to a parent company and its subsidiary, the parent company will usually step forward (assuming you get a response). However, it's more complicated when there are multiple potentially adverse parties that have competing interests. The recipients might try blaming another party or simply deny they're the proper party to satisfy your demand.

Tip: Mail your demand letter as certified with a return receipt requested. By doing so, you will know and can prove when the adverse party received the letter.


What to Include in Your Demand Letter



Remember, the purpose of a demand letter is to notify the adverse party about their wrongful conduct or lack of, or other condition that violates your rights/interests, and to persuade them that they stand to lose more from a lawsuit than complying with your demand or reaching a different settlement. Accordingly, your letter should clearly identify who you are, what you're asking for, and the reason for your demand. This usually involves writing a summary of what happened and how their actions were wrong. The summary should emphasize the facts and circumstances that best support your side. In contrast, if it is necessary to include unfavorable facts, you should generalize and use broad, ambiguous language to describe them.


Next, clearly state your demand(s) (e.g., amount of money, the action you want them to take, actions you want them to stop, etc.) and a deadline to comply. Include any specific manner you want the payment to be made such as a check by mail, or cash delivered to a specific address. Last, include the possible consequences of the recipient's failure to comply with your demands. Make sure you include your contact information, so they know who to contact and where to make payments.


Martuch Law writes frequently sends demand letters illustrating the above described. After the opposing party failed to pay an account balance, we sent a notice of default and a demand for payment. The letter emphasized the client's fairness and generosity to the opposing party, such as waiving late fees and allowing them to pay the balance in bi-weekly installments. Then the letter describes how the opposing party took advantage of the client. It points out how the opposing party misled the client on several occasions, which subjected them to suffering greater financial loss. The letter reminds them that they've only made two (2) out of the five (5) installments and both were paid late. Last, the letter highlights that the opposing party received numerous reminders to make a payment, but never did so despite their assurances. The client is portrayed as nothing but the good guy who got scammed by the opposing party. Next, the letter identifies the causes of action the client has against the opposing party and all the potential liabilities, which added up to a much higher amount than originally owed. Finally, the client demanded the opposing party pay the full balance and attorney fees and expenses within ten (10) days of receiving the letter, and failure to do so would result in filing an action against them for the maximum amount permitted. An example of a demand is letter below demonstrating one way to structure a demand letter.

Tip: Use the appropriate tone in your letter. The wrong tone in an otherwise well-written demand letter could have unintended results such as offending the other party and diminishing the likelihood of reaching a settlement.


Demand Letter Checklist

  • Is the letter addressed to the right party?

  • Does the letter include my name, contact information, and details needed for the recipient to identify me?

  • Is the letter dated?

  • Does the letter clearly state the subject and purpose at the beginning?

  • Have I summarized the important background facts with detail like dates, quantities, dollar amounts, names of people involved, and relevant locations?

  • Does the summary portray me in a favorable way?

  • Does the summary portray the adverse party (directly or through its actions) in a negative way?

  • Do the facts support a cause of action?

  • Is my demand clearly stated with instructions on how to make payment?

  • Did I provide a deadline to comply?

  • Did I describe the consequences of non-compliance?


Takeaways

  • Sending a demand letter may be beneficial for resolving a dispute without court proceedings or provide your potential case with an advantage.

  • Demand letters are usually sent when other attempts to resolve a conflict fail.

  • Make sure you send a copy of your demand letter to the right person or parties involved.

  • Include enough information so the recipient can easily identify who you are, the reason for your demand letter, what you're demanding, the deadline to comply, the method for compliance, the consequences if they fail to comply, and how to contact you.

Example Demand Letter

Example Demand Letter
.pdf
Download PDF • 131KB

View an example demand letter. The example is for demonstrative purposes and might not be appropriate for use in all circumstances. Please see our Legal Disclaimer.


Hire an Attorney to Write Your Demand Letter


Martuch Law is skilled at putting together persuasive demand letters that have succeeded in getting results without the client having to file a lawsuit. Writing a demand letter without a knowledgeable attorney can be frustrating and result in mistakes. Let us handle finding the right laws, causes of action, and determining the important supporting facts. With over a decade of experience writing complex, academic, and creative works, we know how to get your story across.


Demand letters are a limited scope & unbundled service provided by Martuch Law. Meaning, you don't need to pay a retainer or get full representation. Instead, you only pay a flat rate for a demand letter. We'll send you a copy of a draft demand letter before it's mailed. You can track the letter and find out when it's received. We'll direct any responses to your demand straight to you and discuss possible options for your next step.


Contact us to schedule a free, no obligation, consultation about your legal issue and send a demand letter.





* Click the link to read Martuch Law's Legal Disclaimer

 

1437 S Boulder Ave., Suite 1200

Tulsa, OK 74119

(918) 928-6174



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