Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What is a Demand Letter?

A demand letter states a claim and makes a demand
for restitution or performance of some obligation.  The person making the demand is alleging a legal wrong by the recipient of the letter.  The demand letter is a shot across the bow, a warning that the person making the demand is prepared to proceed to litigation, if necessary. A demand letter is not legally necessary, but provides the recipient or party at fault the opportunity to examine and settle the claim informally or by submitting the claim to an insurance provider, if one is available, without going through expensive litigation.

Typically, a demand letter may have some or all of the following sections, depending on the particular facts surrounding the claim:

·       Description of the Accident/Incident
·       Discussion of Accident/Contract Liability
·       Description of Personal injury/Property damage
·       Description of Veterinary/Medical treatments
·       List of Veterinary/Medical Bills/Lost Income Statements
·       Injury Settlement Demand

The Animal Law Center, LLC (ALC) prepares many demand letters for its clients seeking restitution for various reasons.  Most address veterinary malpractice issues or contracts involving animals.  But a demand letter may be useful in any number of other situations.

A demand letter is only designed to push the claim forward. Each demand letter closes with a date by which the recipient must respond, either personally or through a representative such as an insurance adjuster.  What steps occur following a failure to respond will depend on the particular circumstances of each case and the client wishes.

A demand letter is not the same as a complaint, which would be filed in a lawsuit, and it is seldom as specific or detailed as is necessary when filing a lawsuit.  It is often more of a notice to the party believed responsible for the loss, rather than an in-depth legal document.  It is quite common for the party receiving the demand letter to simply send it to their insurance carrier, rather than respond directly. 

While sending a demand letter is often beneficial, it is not common for the party at fault or their insurance carrier to simply pay or even negotiate regarding the demand.  Instead, it is often only a first step in trying to recover losses suffered by the claimant.

ALC sends a draft demand letter to the client for review, after which it is finalized and delivered to the party at fault. ALC will negotiate with the party at fault, if appropriate, or with their representative, usually an insurance adjuster. ALC will negotiate the claim to a successful conclusion or until the party at fault or the adjuster denies the claim. At this point, it may be useful to push for further negotiations or it may be time to file a law suit.

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