If you or your personal property were harmed by the wrongdoing of someone else, you can settle out of court and avoid the hassle and expense of a lawsuit. If you decide to do this, however, you should document the process of payment or restitution in writing in case any questions arise later. Discuss the matter with the other party, then formally submit your request for restitution in writing. He can then respond in writing with the payment or replacement item and you both should be legally covered.

Begin the letter by typing your address. Skip a line and type the full date. Skip an additional line and type the recipient's name and his address on separate lines. Skip one more line and type"Dear Mr./Ms. (Last name)" followed by a colon.

Start the first paragraph by giving a brief overview of the incident and making a direct request for restitution. Make the request specific and justify it; people are more likely to respond to specific requests than vague ones. For example,"On April 22, 2011, your son Dave backed into my custom-made bird bath and shattered it. I am asking you for the sum of $525.90, the cost of replacement plus shipping."

Detail the incident in subsequent paragraphs and be clear that the purpose of the description is to define the incident for both of your records. Be brief, but give the approximate times and important details. Keep your language professional and avoid accusatory language; if the person is willing to make the situation right, you do not need to berate him or her or be rude.

Close the letter by stating that the payment or the replacement will close the matter and that you agree not to pursue the incident in court if your neighbor makes the payment or replacement. Reiterate the payment amount or replacement item. Provide any contact information that did not appear in the heading, such as your email address or telephone number.

Type "Sincerely," followed by three line spaces. Type your full name. Print the letter and sign it. Make a copy for your records and mail the original with signature confirmation so you have evidence that the person received the letter.


If you are unsure if the responsible party is willing to settle, consider having a lawyer review your letter first to ensure that it is appropriate and is a reasonable first step toward settling the matter. If it goes to court you will need to demonstrate that your attempt to settle the matter was reasonable and adhered to local and state laws.