Have you received a threatening letter from an attorney?
If so, you’re probably weighing your options and calculating your risks.
Here are some tips for gauging the validity of the threat and for determining how to respond.
Assess the Facts and the Laws
Most letters from an adversarial attorney will state the facts at issue, recite the pertinent laws and then explain how the laws apply to the facts.
The lawyer’s job is to present the law in a way that’s most favorable to his client. Therefore, he will rattle off numerous cases, regulations, and statutes that make it seem like the entire weigh of the law is against you.
Don’t be deterred.
Objectively review the facts and research the laws at issue. Also look for any defenses that may help your case.
(If the laws and facts involved are too numerous or too complex, then you should hire your own lawyer.)
Generally, the stronger the opposing attorney’s case is, the more likely he will be to file a lawsuit.
Consider the Amount in Controversy
The more money that is at issue, the more likely a person will be to sue.
I’m discussing here the genuine amount in controversy, not some ridiculously inflated number that an attorney came up with.
If someone is owed $10,000 or less, it may not be worth that person’s time and money to employ a lawyer and take the matter to court–even if the case is a winner.
On the other hand, if someone has a legitimate claim against you for $15,000 or more, you can almost guarantee that he will hire an attorney and come after you.
Demand Letters Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 93A
Massachusetts General Law chapter 93A permits a consumer to mail a demand letter to a business that, in the consumer’s opinion, has engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices.
If you receive one of these letters, you should answer it within 30 days. If the claims against you are valid, then you should propose a reasonable settlement offer in your reply letter.
Ignoring the demand letter or failing to make a reasonable settlement offer puts you at risk of paying treble damages (i.e., three times the amount owed) if the matter is brought to court.
If you have any questions about legal letters or notices, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.