What is a Demand Letter?
In many personal injury cases and civil disputes in Massachusetts with other parties including insurance companies and corporations, a demand letter is typically drafted and sent that outlines the nature of the claim or dispute, why and how the claimant has been injured or aggrieved, the damages sustained, and a demand for a resolution that often includes compensation.
In a personal injury claim, your personal injury attorney will wait before sending the demand letter to the defendant’s insurer or adjuster or to an entity that is self-insured until certain documents and events have occurred including:
- The claimant has totally recovered or reached maximum medical improvement
- All medical bills and expenses have been obtained and documented
- Wage loss and other employment records have been gathered
- If relevant, school records have been subpoenaed
- The treating physician and other medical providers have provided their opinions on the claimant’s medical status and prognosis, and that the medical treatment was reasonable and necessary
- The issue of liability or responsibility by the defendant is resolved or strongly supported by police or traffic accident reports, expert reports, witness statements, photographs and other evidence as well as the legal arguments that form the basis for the defendant’s negligent conduct and responsibility
- Your personal injury attorney has outlined how the claimant’s injuries have affected her daily living activities, employment, emotional state, future care and life
- All damages are given a numerical value
- A demand for compensation in a particular amount is made with a time limit for the defendant to meet or litigation will ensue
The demand letter for personal injury matters gives the insurer a blueprint for the claimant’s damages and arguments and why the claimant feels she is entitled to certain compensation as well as allowing the insurer to present the demand to a committee or to the authority that decides what to offer in lieu or litigation. In most cases, the insurer will make a counteroffer with arguments as to why a lesser amount is more reasonable in this particular case.
Demand Letters in Other Claims
Demand letters are also necessary in other claims. If certain services were either not delivered or were performed unsatisfactorily, then the demand letter places the opposing party on notice of what the claimant’s complaint is and why the service or task was not made to the claimant’s satisfaction. Include in the letter copies of receipts for repair payments you had to make, photos of the inadequate work performed, cost of medical visits if relevant, and other losses you incurred. If there were emails exchanged or discussions about the work, include those with a summary of your discussions that will remind and support your arguments.
In all cases, it is important to keep the tone of your demand letter as professional as possible and not to insult or degrade the other party. Draft the demand with a timeline of the events. If your English or grammar is lacking, have someone else assist you so that your letter is easily read without distracting run-on sentences and spelling errors.
Give the other party an opportunity to remedy or correct the issue by either re-doing the work, issuing a refund, or paying the aggrieved party a certain sum for out-of-pocket losses and other subjective claims. This may include the time you spent having to fix the problem and/or the anxiety or distress you incurred because the task or service was not delivered as promised.
Set a deadline for the other party to resolve the issue. Conclude the letter with your intent to seek legal remedies if the matter is not resolved by a certain date.
If you should have to go to court, including small claims court, the demand letter shows that you made a good faith attempt to settle the matter that the other party ignored or chose to make an unreasonable offer. In small claims court, it gives the judge a summary of what occurred and why you deserve the compensation you are seeking.
A Chapter 93A Demand Letter
In certain cases, a demand letter should be sent pursuant to Chapter 93A: Regulation of Business Practices for Consumers Protection. This statute was promulgated to protect consumers from unfair business practices including misrepresentation, devious, deception, and other unfair conduct. For instance, a car repair facility may have used defective parts or overcharged you for certain items, failed to honor a warranty, or failed to advise you of certain information about the product or misled you.
This type of demand letter gives the other party 30-days to remedy the issue or litigation will be seriously considered. Depending on the amount in controversy, it will be taken to small claims court or a district court if the damages are substantial. In Massachusetts, the small claims court limit is $7,000.
If you plan to send a Chapter 93A demand letter, there are certain requirements you need to include:
- Full name and address of the consumer with phone and email address
- Full name and address of the defendant or business
- A complete description of the unfair, misleading or deceptive business practice
- A clear summary and explanation of your claimed damages
- What you are demanding such as a dollar amount to resolve the matter
- Not required but we recommend that you send the demand letter by certified mail so as to have a record that the demand was received by the defendant. Also, the 30-day period begins to run on the date the defendant receives the letter so you have a record of when the period begins.
At the top of the demand letter, state that this is a “Massachusetts Demand Letter—Official 30-Day Notice Pursuant to Chapter 93A, Section 9, Consumer Protection Act.” It is also not required but it is highly recommended that you advise the other party that if this matter is resolved in the consumer’s favor that the defendant may be liable to pay treble (triple) damages and any legal costs incurred by the consumer.
If you wish, you can download a template for the demand letter or retain an attorney to write the letter for you.
Under the Act, there are certain options the consumer can take if the opposing party fails to respond or declines to settle with you. These are:
- If the amount in controversy is less than $7,000, your matter goes to small claims court
- Housing court—for landlord/tenant disputes such as failure to return the deposit, the matter is handled in housing court
- Mediation—you and the opposing party can mediate the matter if you both agree. A third party meets with the parties to discuss their positions, strengths and weaknesses, and suggests a satisfactory resolution. This can be relatively inexpensive and gives the party an opinion on the validity and value of the claim and validity of the defenses.
- District or Superior Court—this is reserved for more substantial claims. You should retain the services of an attorney to handle these claims.
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
By retaining a personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain, you can be assured of professional and experienced representation that thousands of clients over the years have trusted. If a consumer matter, our attorneys can advise you and handle your claim. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your claim.