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Do you have a dispute with someone that you want to resolve before resorting to legal action? A settlement demand letter is an effective way of trying to a settle dispute before taking someone to small claims court. A settlement demand letter is a written offer addressed to someone who has wronged you. In the settlement demand letter, you can make an offer to try to induce settlement. To learn more about settlement demand letters read the article below.
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Why is a Settlement Demand Letter Important?
A strong settlement demand letter can be a useful tool if you are trying to settle a claim outside of court. Here are four good reasons to first send a settlement demand letter before suing the other party in small claims court:
Depending on the state you are filing a small claims court lawsuit in, you may be required to demand payment from the other party before filing. A settlement demand letter is one way of completing this requirement.
A settlement demand letter signals to the other party that you are serious about the dispute but willing to discuss a settlement without escalating the problem.
Sending a written settlement demand letter assures you there is a record of how much the other party owes you and why they owe you that amount. So while a settlement demand letter can be made orally, we recommend written demands. There is also no restriction on trying to settle via text message, but writing a letter is more formal and the other party will likely take you more seriously.
The most important reason to send a settlement demand letter is that it may lead to a resolution without having to go to court.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney to Write a Settlement Demand Letter?
We often see people ask whether they need an attorney to write a settlement demand letter. The choice is yours; you decide whether you want to hire an attorney to write a settlement letter. If you are thinking of hiring an attorney weigh the costs versus the benefits. Legal fees can add up quickly but depending on your case it may be worthwhile.
For example, if you were in a car accident that resulted in damage to your car and personal injuries you may want to consider speaking with a personal injury attorney before writing a settlement demand letter and making an offer to the other driver.
If you are looking for sample demand letters for minor car accidents that resulted in property damage but no personal injuries, take a look at the article we wrote here.
What to Include in Your Settlement Demand Letter?
Even if the other party seems reluctant to settle, there may be a strong incentive to accept, since the alternative could be a lengthy and costly lawsuit.
Here are a few suggestions of what to include in your demand letter:
Include details about the dispute at hand. For example, is the dispute between you and the other party about property damage? Or does the other party owe you money?
Make sure to include a settlement offer and the terms of the settlement. For example, if the other party agrees to pay for damages they caused to your property include a timeline for the payments and how the payments should be made.
Include your contact information so that the other party can reach you in case they would like to accept your offer. The best way to communicate with the other party is in writing, include an email address along with any other form of communication you are comfortable with.
Include where you would like to receive payment. Consider using Venmo or Paypal if you know the other party well. If not include your mailing address so they can mail a check to you.
Include a deadline to respond to you. You may want to consider giving the other party 14 days to respond to you and state that if they do not respond within that time, you intend to sue them.
Sample Settlement Demand Letter
Below is a sample settlement demand letter. In this sample, the dispute is between two neighbors over damages to water pipes. This template can be easily modified for your particular dispute. The most important thing to consider when using this template is to add as many case-specific details as possible.
How to Send a Settlement Demand Letter
How should I send my settlement demand letter? It is recommended you send the letter via email or mail. For letters that you mail, consider the following:
Tracking. Make sure to track your settlement demand letter. With tracking, you will know if the letter reached the other party’s mailbox.
Signature Required. You do not necessarily need a signature request. When you send a letter with the receiver's signature requested, the postal carrier must hand-deliver the letter and the person must sign for the letter. If you are sending this letter to an individual, it can be difficult for the post office to obtain the signature.
We don't recommend sending demand letters to individuals at a home address with a signature required. If the other party is not home to sign and receive the letter it will not be delivered. However, a signature required mailing does work better when you send the letter to a business that is open during regular delivery hours.
Once you have sent your settlement demand letter keep it in your records. You can bring it to the small claims court hearing and show it to the judge. This is especially helpful if the person you are suing claims they didn't receive a settlement offer from you.
Next Steps After Sending a Settlement Demand Letter
Did you send a settlement demand letter to the other party but couldn't settle your dispute? At this point, you may want to consider taking the other party to small claims court.
Small claims courts handle a variety of cases at a low cost. This is because small claims courts were intended to be affordable and user-friendly. In some small claims courts, attorneys are not even allowed to represent you! If you are currently disputing with another party consider filing a small claims lawsuit, especially if the other party is reluctant or has outright refused to settle.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.