The Demand Letter Serves to Inform the Party at Fault That the Victim Intends to Pursue a Claim for Injuries and Other Associated Damages
A demand letter is written by a client’s attorney. It describes a dispute and demands that the letter’s recipient cease or take a specific action. It encourages the recipient to take steps to resolve a dispute so that it won’t have to go to court. It’s drafted with the attorney’s client’s interests foremost in mind, stating the harm suffered and the relief requested. It has a professional tone but often threatens a lawsuit if the recipient doesn’t act accordingly. A well-crafted letter lays out the rewards and risks of the dispute in a way that favors the client. It tries to convince the opposing party that the chance of success litigating the issue is low or that the inconvenience and expense of litigation are too high.
Some states require a demand letter before steps are taken to file a personal injury claim. In New Jersey, it is not a legal requirement, but it’s a strategic step. That’s because demand letters become part of the paper trail that can provide useful evidence if the opposing party’s good faith is questioned later. As stated earlier, the writer must be skilled at keeping two priorities in mind at all times. He or she must present the client’s goals and interests in the forefront while adopting a tone and format that keep the opposing party’s perception of the letter in mind.
Significance of a Demand Letter in a Personal Injury Case in NJ
The purpose of a demand letter is to seek compensation for the injuries and damages resulting from an incident. In the realm of personal injury law, a demand letter is a formal written communication sent by the injured party or their attorney to the party or parties responsible for the injury or their insurance company in order to start negotiation.
It is part of the pre-litigation negotiation process and can be beneficial in several ways: 1) It can encourage the opposing party to negotiate and settle without going to court, saving time and expense. 2) The letter brings clarity to the issues, providing a sharp focus on the plaintiff’s grievances and demands and substantiates expenses incurred. 3) It establishes a record of the plaintiff’s effort to resolve the matter amicably, in good faith, without resorting to litigation. This record of good faith effort can be beneficial to the plaintiff later in court.
Essential Documentation Necessary Along with the Demand Letter
The letter must include substantiating evidence to support your claim, including copies of medical receipts and bills, medical records, photos of the accident site, statements from witnesses, photos of the injuries with statements from treating doctors, photos of property damage, police reports, and statements from your employer about lost wages and missed work. You will need a considerable amount of evidence if you’re seeking damages for a permanent injury. The higher the dollar amount you’re asking for, the more evidence you will need.
Breaking Down the Components of a NJ Demand Letter
It will have all the elements of a business letter, including a header and closing that include your attorney’s contact information and a salutation to the responsible party or their attorney. Next comes a short, clear introductory paragraph that states the purpose of the letter. Then, the writer dives into the background and facts with a concise summary of events that describes who was involved.
Next, the writer explains the legal basis for your claim by describing the applicable laws and regulations that support your case. At this point, he or she delves into the defendant’s liability and negligence and explains how they breached their duty of care or acted negligently. The writer outlines the injuries, damages, or losses you suffered as a result of the incident. This includes all the supporting documentation described above. Next, he or she clearly states the amount of compensation you are seeking. You must provide a specific breakdown of how you arrived at this figure.
The letter includes a reasonable deadline by which you expect a response. If you are open to negotiation or settlement, name your terms and conditions (i.e., lump-sum payment or a payment plan). Close with your contact information, including your address, phone number, and email. Sign the letter in ink, followed by your typed or printed name. If you’re including any supporting documents or exhibits, list them as enclosures.
How to Organize the Expenses in Your Demand Letter
It’s best to put your expenses into categories; common ones are medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Then, provide an itemized list of each type of damage you are claiming. Take this example of medical expenses:
- Hospital bills: $10,000
- Physician fees: $5,000
- Medications: $1,000
- Total medical expenses: $16,000
You need to state the methodology you used to arrive at each cost. For example, if you calculate future lost earnings, describe the basis for your projection, such as average earnings and the number of future work years. You will need to provide copies of the bills that back up your claims of expenses.
Timing Can Make a Difference in the Outcome of Your Case
“Timing is everything” is a popular statement for a reason – it tends to be true. Here’s when you’re ready to send a demand letter:
- When you’ve collected sufficient evidence.
- When you understand your case and all its merits and weaknesses.
- Early in the legal process, rather than after filing a claim.
- Before the statute of limitations runs out. On most personal injury claims, that’s two years from the date of the incident.
- After considering the other party’s perspective, timing your demand letter when the other party is open to dialogue can increase the chances of a successful resolution.
- When you’re prepared to take legal action, your readiness to pursue further legal steps can be a factor in negotiations.
- When it aligns with your legal strategy, sending the demand letter must fit with your overall legal strategy.
- Not in the midst of holidays. These may be times when the opposing party is distracted or may not be able to respond promptly.
Ultimately, the best time to send a demand letter is when you are well-prepared, understand your case, and have a clear strategy for resolution.
Thoroughly Construct Your Demand Letter with Our Skilled Attorneys
An attorney experienced in writing effective demand letters, such as those at Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh, plays a crucial role. First, we can assess your case and its merits. With our experience, our attorneys can discern the appropriate amount of compensation to seek. We can weigh factors such as liability, causation, and damages. Then, when it comes time to write the demand letter, our knowledge of the relevant laws, regulations, and legal precedents will be vital to your case.
Our personal injury lawyers can also help you gather the evidence you’ll need to support your claims. We can help you accurately calculate damages, ensuring that all categories of losses, including economic and non-economic damages, are itemized. We know how to develop a legal strategy that guides the content and approach of your demand letter and will consider the best way to present your case to maximize the likelihood of a favorable response. Following the demand letter, our legal team can negotiate with the opposing party to reach a settlement favorable to you.
In the actual writing process, our lawyers know the precise and effective language to use. We keep the letter free from errors that could undermine your case, and can develop a strategic approach to negotiation and settlement, taking into account your goals and the strengths and weaknesses of your case. With decades of experience, our lawyers can advise on when to push for a settlement and when to consider other legal remedies.
Trust the Experience of Our NJ Injury Lawyers with Your Demand Letter and Beyond
As you can see, there are many facets to writing an effective demand letter. Your best chance for a favorable outcome that compensates you for all the pain and suffering you have endured is to call upon a talented team of personal injury lawyers like ours at Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh at 732-440-3950. Get experienced help from a New Jersey personal injury attorney with a track record of success in Howell, Holmdel, Wall Township, Red Bank, Belmar, Freehold, Middletown, and Long Branch. Contact us today to discuss your case in a cost-free, no obligation consultation.