A “demand letter” in a civil tort suit
In a civil tort suit, one procedural aspect that is often missed by those not familiar with the intricacies of the different steps that “should” be taken – causing the party suing for damages to gain a lesser amount than they might otherwise be entitled to – is the mailing of a “demand letter” to the opposing party (or parties) for unliquidated damages. The requirements for this “demand letter” are listed under the Unliquidated Damages Interest Act, at Code Section 51-12-14 (Interest).
That section states that written notice needs to be given by “registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery”, and a failure to pay the amount demanded within “30 days from the mailing or delivering of the notice” will entitle the claimant to receive interest “if, upon trial of the case in which the claim is made, the judgment is for an amount not less than the amount demanded”.
The Code section limits this, though, because an offer by the other party (parties) to meet the demand (before it expires), plus interest “under this Code section through the date such notice is given” – also using a written notice sent by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery – takes the right to interest away (after the thirtieth day following the date on which the notice of the offer is mailed or delivered). This is true “even if, upon trial of the case in which the claim is made, the judgment is for an amount not less than the sum demanded pursuant to this Code section”.
Under subsection (b), the notice needs to specify that it “is being given pursuant to this Code section”.
The annual rate for the interest is given under subsection (c) as being “equal to the prime rate as published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, as published in statistical release H. 15 or any publication that may supersede it, on the thirtieth day following the date of the mailing of the last written notice plus 3 percent, and shall begin to run from the thirtieth day following the date of the mailing or delivering of the written notice until the date of judgment. This subsection shall apply to all civil actions filed on or after July 1, 2003.”
Concerning liquidated damages (interest on them), subsection (d) says that “[e]vidence or discussion of interest on liquidated damages, as well as evidence of the offer, shall not be submitted to the jury. Interest shall be made a part of the judgment upon presentation of evidence to the satisfaction of the court that this Code section has been complied with and that the verdict of the jury or the award by the judge trying the case without a jury is equal to or exceeds the amount claimed in the notice.”
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