How do I Write a Small Claims Demand Letter?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Typically, a small claims demand letter is written in business format. You’ll usually need to include your full name and contact information as well as the full name and contact information of your intended recipient. You’ll typically need to sign and date the letter as well. Besides these basics, a demand letter should clearly state its purpose and make a request for settlement within a specific amount of time. To let the recipient know you are serious about taking action, you may also do well to inform him of what you plan to do if your demands are not met.

A small claims demand letter should be written in a formal business format.
A small claims demand letter should be written in a formal business format.

The first paragraph of a small claims demand letter should usually include a clear statement of who you are and what you want. You may introduce yourself by name and include other identifying information that relates your name to the recipient. If, for example, the recipient is a client of your small business, it makes sense to introduce yourself as the owner of the business. After introducing yourself, you may then state the purpose of your letter. For instance, you may state that you are writing about a financial claim you have against the recipient.

The majority of small claims cases are settled outside of court.
The majority of small claims cases are settled outside of court.

Your letter may also briefly review the details of the case. If, for example, the recipient owes you money for a shipment of products, you will likely want to include that in your demand letter. You may also do well to state the exact amount of money the recipient owes you, so there won’t be any misunderstandings later.

A small claims demand letter typically includes a specific demand as well as a deadline by which you want the action to be taken. For example, you may ask the recipient to pay the money you are due within a certain number of business days or by a specific date. After you have clearly stated what you expect from the recipient and the time frame you are allowing for settlement, you may follow up by writing what your next course of action will be if he fails to comply. For example, you may inform the recipient that you will pursue the claim in small claims court if he fails to pay by the deadline.

Sometimes small claims matters can be emotionally charged, but a small claims demand letter is supposed to stick to the facts and maintain a firm, business-like tone. You should typically avoid emotional explanations and threats. You may also do well to avoid adding in unnecessary information and details, as your words may be used against you in court.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@Animandel - Your best bet would be to appeal to the garage in a business sense. Most businesses are careful not to create any bad word of mouth from customers. Explain your situation, and maybe the garage will agree to do something to help you out. If you had to buy the part, but they put it on for free then you would save a nice chunk of money, and you wouldn't have to go through the whole small claims filing process.


@Animandel - You can try writing a letter to the garage that you think damaged your car. There is no harm in trying, but I wouldn't pay you if I owned the garage. How does the garage know that they actually damaged your car? You could have had someone else working on your car between the two oil changes. Or who is to say that the place that told you about the problem didn't actually cause it?

If you are really determined then I'm guessing you will have to go through small claims procedures and try to get a small claims judgment in your favor. However, the burden of proof lies with you, so I don't see a judgment going in your favor. That's just my opinion.


I went to the service station to have my oil changed the other day. This is something that should not have taken very long, so after I had been sitting in the waiting room for over half an hour after they pulled my car into the garage bay, I started to worry. I should say I started to worry more than usual. Whenever I take my car in for any type of service I have a fear that the service person is going to come back and tell me I need a new motor, or a new transmission, or some other new something that costs way too much money.

Anyway, the guy comes back and tells me I need a new oil pan because whoever changed my oil the previous time tightened the plug too much and stripped it. The cost is going to be around $500 according to the mechanic. He told me I should take the car back to the last place I got the oil changed and have them pay for the new pan.

I am considering writing a payment demand type of letter asking the garage that did the previous oil change to pay for at least some of the cost of the repair, but I am not sure how much good this will do.

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