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What Happens After My Lawyer Sends a Demand Letter

Claudia Diaz - Small Claims Procedure - April 13, 2023

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    Once your lawyer has sent a demand letter to a business or individual involved in a dispute with you, it's important to discuss your next course of action. In the event that your lawyer is unable to take your case any further after sending the demand letter, or if you can only afford to have the letter sent, there's no need to panic. You still have other options available to assert your legal rights.

    Did you know People Clerk can help you navigate small claims? Learn more.

    This article will help you assess possible next steps after your lawyer sends a demand letter. These steps may include sending a final demand letter or suing in small claims court

    Possible Outcomes After Sending a Demand Letter 

    Generally, after you send a demand letter, there are three possible outcomes:

    1. Your demands are met. In an ideal situation, the recipient of the demand letter agrees to your demands, and you both reach a final settlement soon after sending a demand letter

    2. You get a response, but the recipient wants to discuss further. In this instance, the recipient of the letter may just want to discuss the logistics of a possible settlement or discuss specific demands further. 

    3. Your letter is ignored, or the other party refuses to meet your demands. In some cases, the recipient of the demand letter may choose not to respond. This could indicate that they are not taking your claim seriously, or they simply don’t agree with your terms.

    Continue Reading: Do demand letters work?

    Below we discuss what to do if you find yourself in the second or third scenario described above. 

    Continue to Work With Your Lawyer to Reach a Settlement 

    If the recipient rejects your demands or proposes a compromise, the negotiation process may begin

    Here are some factors to consider when deciding to engage in negotiations with an attorney: 

    • The costs. Legal fees can add up fast, especially if you're not sure how long the negotiation process will take. It's a good idea to talk with your lawyer about what to do next and get their take on your case so far.If you decide to move forward without your lawyer for any reason, don't worry - there are still things you can do by yourself. 

    • The complexity of your case. If your case is especially complex or the dispute at hand concerns a specialized area of law like negligence or personal injury, it may be worth continuing to employ a lawyer to help with negotiations. Note, some lawyers take cases on a contingency (meaning payment is based on the outcome of the case), so cost may not be an issue. 

    • The value to the lawyer. You may find that the lawyer who helped you write your demand letter doesn’t necessarily want to continue working on the case if the demand letter doesn’t work because it will cost more to litigate or negotiate the case than what the case is worth. 

    Resolve Your Dispute in Mediation 

    Mediation is a very common form of dispute resolution. Mediation is a meeting between you and the recipient, conducted by a neutral third party called a mediator. In mediation, you and the recipient can further discuss or negotiate ways to resolve the dispute at hand. Mediation also tends to be very successful when both parties have a prior relationship. For example, in landlord-tenant cases, this tends to be the case. 

    Here are some facts about the mediation process: 

    • Mediation is an effort to see if the parties can come to a mutually agreeable solution or settlement.

    • Mediations are usually run for free or at low costs by volunteer mediators throughout most cities. Run a Google search for “mediation near me” to find mediation centers or groups in your city. 

    Send a Final Demand Letter on Your Own 

    Sometimes, it takes more than one demand letter to get someone’s attention. Or you may want to make a different argument or add additional information in your final demand letter. 

    If you're unable to continue employing your lawyer after they've sent a demand letter, it's important to seek their advice on what your next steps should be. One possible option is to send a final demand letter on your own, using your preferred method. However, it's important to discuss this with your lawyer to ensure that you're taking the appropriate course of action.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that can help you create a final demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Sue in Small Claims Court 

    Unfortunately, not many people know that small claims court is a great option for people who are trying to resolve disputes without the need for an attorney or where hiring an attorney doesn’t make sense. Usually, disputes that fall within the small claims limit your case may not be worth it for a lawyer. That is why small claims courts were designed to provide an affordable and efficient way for people to resolve various types of disputes in an informal setting.

    If after your attorney sends a demand letter, you don’t receive a response, consider suing in small claims court on your own. 

    Here are some quick facts about small claims court:

    What are some common types of lawsuits filed in small claims court? 

    Your landlord did not return your security deposit.

    Someone hit your car and won’t pay to reimburse you for the costs of fixing your car. 

    Your clients won't pay you for services rendered or issue unjustified chargebacks

    You lent someone money, and they won't pay you back.

    You hired a mechanic or contractor to perform a service, but they don’t perform as promised. 

    How much can I sue for in small claims court? 

    The amount you can sue for in small claims court is known as the small claims limit. This amount varies by state and even by court. 

    If you want to sue for more than the small claims limit, you will have to waive whatever amount is over the limit or consider suing in a regular court (however, this is going to be more expensive). 

    How long do you have to sue in small claims court? 

    States have set deadlines, called statutes of limitations, that let you know by when you should sue someone. 

    These deadlines will vary by state and by type of claim

    How much does it cost to sue in small claims court? 

    States have made filing in small claims court accessible. 

    Most small claims court charge between $10-$75 to file a lawsuit. 

    Some small claims courts also offer court fee waivers, which means if you apply, you could pay $0 to file and serve your lawsuit. 

    Who can represent you in small claims court? 

    Small claims courts were intended to allow individuals to file, and represent themselves without the need for a lawyer

    Some small claims courts, like California small claims, don’t even allow lawyers to represent individuals at the initial small claims hearing. 

    Did you know People Clerk can help you navigate small claims? Learn more.


    Claudia Diaz

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.

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