Litigation can be costly, time-consuming, and unpredictable. Often, you can resolve a dispute without going to court by simply sending a demand letter to the opposing party. You can use a demand letter to ask someone to pay compensation for causing you physical or financial harm. Or you can use a demand letter to ask someone to do or stop doing something that affects your legal rights. Even if the other side does not agree to all of your demands, sending a demand letter may be the first step in working out a compromise that is acceptable to both sides. If you get most but not all of what you want, going through litigation in pursuit of your remaining goals may not be worth the time and effort, especially if the outcome is uncertain.
A demand letter can motivate the other party to take you seriously. Sometimes another person who owes you a debt or who is infringing on your rights may believe that you will not stand up for yourself. Writing a strong demand letter and threatening to file a lawsuit or go to small claims court can change that impression. Your demand letter should clearly explain why you believe that the other party should pay money to you or change their behavior. Assuming that you have a valid position, the other party will need to decide whether they are ready to take the fight to court or whether it would be smarter to work through the dispute privately.
Tips for Writing a Demand Letter
Even if you think that the other party knows the events that have occurred, you should lay out everything that has happened in the demand letter. If the letter turns out to be unsuccessful, and you need to take the dispute to court, you may be able to show the demand letter to the judge as background on the facts. You should write the demand letter on the computer rather than by hand, and you should keep a copy for reference.
The demand letter should be courteous and professional. You should put aside any personal bitterness toward the other party. If you insult them or use disparaging language about their actions, they may be less willing to heed your demands or reach a compromise. The purpose of a demand letter is not to vent your emotions but instead to rationally persuade the other party that it makes sense to comply with your demands. They should reach the conclusion that going to court and expending substantial time and money on a lawsuit would not be worthwhile because they likely would lose anyway. If the dispute involves a confidential matter, they may decide not to go to court because it would expose private information.
You should make clear both what you want and what will happen if you do not get what you want. As explained above, what you want could consist of paying money or taking a certain action. The demand letter should provide a certain time within which the other party needs to comply. You also should explicitly state that you will bring a lawsuit (or a case in small claims court) if the other party fails to comply with your demands.