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The Demand Letter: What It Is and Why It’s an Important First Step

In many legal cases, especially those which involve debts, your lawyer may attempt to reach a resolution upfront. Doing so promotes judicial economy, which is just a fancy way of saying it saves the court system the time and expense of a trial.

But why should that matter to you? Because a well-executed demand letter saves you time and money, too.

Where to Start

First, the legal team at Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren will send the opposing party an introductory letter notifying them that WBW will be looking into the incident at hand. In short, this letter usually states the date(s) of the incident, briefly summarizes what happened, and provides the opposing party with WBW’s contact inf

So then where does the “demand” part come in? A strong demand letter is drafted after your counsel has a chance to review all of the facts of the case. This may take time because a good investigation into your claim includes gathering photos, recordings, documentation, witness statements, and any other information that supports the claim. You want your counsel to take the necessary time to gather the evidence required to compose a compelling demand letter. A well-written demand demonstrates that you understand the issues at hand and are ready to litigate if an agreement isn’t made.

How a Demand Letter Works

When the necessary information-gathering is complete, the demand letter is sent (usually via certified mail) to the opposing party. Once that letter is received, the other side has a specific window of time in which to respond. The timeline will be outlined in the letter and the amount of time allowed for a response can vary, but most demand letters give the other side around thirty (30) days to reply. Also specified in the letter are directives on how to respond – usually in writing and by sending the requested monetary compensation to cover your damages.

What Else Goes in a Demand Letter?

When drafting a demand letter, it’s important to stick to the facts and concisely outline what you are seeking. Important documents that support the claim should be included. Attacks on the other side should not.

“Negative emotions, threats, or embellishing the details may hurt your case in the long-run,” says WBW attorney Joe Cargile. “Credibility is key. A demand letter that lacks credibility affects the case if you eventually wind up in court.”

Does a Demand Letter Work?

Do most cases settle before filing a lawsuit? Honestly, the short answer is no. Despite best efforts, most demand letters are not met favorably. The opposing party may respond with a counteroffer or may refuse the demand entirely (in writing or by failure to respond). In a situation when a resolution cannot be reached with a demand letter alone, the next step for your legal team is usually to file a lawsuit. Still, the demand letter served an important purpose – it demonstrated to the opposition that you are serious about rectifying the dispute. It also sets up your argument for attorney’s fees.

“Reasonable demands from either party can be navigated,” says Cargile. “At the end of the day, we’re all just people seeking a fair outcome. When that can be reached without going to trial, it saves both parties the time, money, and stress that comes with most lawsuits.”

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