Threatening legal action is common in any dispute, disagreement, or negotiation. Although, very few of them actually reach a court of law. However, you do need to understand what you are facing; so how can you respond and safeguard yourself when the other party tries to intimidate you with legal action?
No one wants to battle in court, but you still need to be prepared on how to respond, negotiate and settle matters without bowing to the pressure if you aren’t in the wrong. Talking to the professionals in the legal world, we have here the best ways to help you prepare and respond appropriately.
“It is not uncommon for an adversary to make threats of bringing a lawsuit in order to intimidate a person. Any threats of impending legal action can be scary to a layperson. Nevertheless, it is important for a person to keep in mind that filing a lawsuit can be time-consuming and expensive. Making legal threats is easy but bringing an actual lawsuit takes real dedication and financial resources.” (David Reischer, Esq.)
“Typically, an adversary will threaten to bring legal action with the hope of obtaining the surrender of an opponent at no cost. The best thing that a person can do when threatened with a lawsuit is to speak to an attorney and obtain a legal consultation. An attorney will be able to address the legal issues and let you know whether a claim has any merit.
“An attorney should be able to put a person's mind at ease if there is little or no actual legal risk and possibly help a person to take proactive steps to help mitigate against any specific type of legal risk. In some cases, an attorney may even be able to help negotiate a settlement of the matter by writing a threatening legal letter of their own.” (David Reischer, Esq.)
“It is not uncommon that sometimes just letting the other side know that you have hired an attorney is sufficient to get the other party to back off. Merely letting the other side know that you will not be intimidated and have every intention of defending your claims is sufficient to get the other side to compromise and obtain a settlement of the matter.”
David Reischer, Esq. Attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com
“My best advice which I always give clients is -DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! Keep records of everything (but don't record conversations without all the parties' knowledge unless your state allows it.) Also, don't let emotions get in the way when negotiating. Cool heads prevail. You don't have to answer Friday night emails immediately or return every call on the spot. Next, get an attorney whenever possible, even if it is just for the consultation to know whether you have a valid case and get guidance because, as Abe Lincoln said, `A man who represents himself, has a fool for a client’.”
Elizabeth Ricci, Esq. Immigration Law Expert, Rambana & Ricci, PLLC
“In a negotiation, intimidation tactics must be treated like a housefly: a trifle, a distraction. As an unbothered person, you will keep any response to a threat very polite and very simple. Stay focused on the basics and avoidance of unnecessary. One can certainly get lucky in a negotiation in various ways, but in order to give yourself the best foreseeable chance at the most positive reasonable outcome, you must remain focused on two strategic directives:
1) Continue to advance the negotiation (i.e., don't let it stall, both sides will need to stay engaged if the negotiation is to be productive), and;
2) Maximize and leverage the power of the unknown;
“The first directive requires only that you ultimately make some kind of counter-offer, rather than expecting the other side to negotiate with themselves.
“Very counter-intuitively, the second directive is also very easy and is best achieved via the avoidance of over-explanation. Especially when the other side thinks they have intimidating leverage, a basic response without inessential factual context or argument will promote the feeling on the other side that they don't know how much they don't know, and maybe we don't know what we think we know.
“After all, they wouldn't be negotiating with you at all if they were certain about the outcome of the negotiation. By keeping your messaging short, direct, and argument-free, you maximize the potential scope of the unknown from your opponent's perspective and minimize the appearance that you are desperate to win the negotiation.
Opponent: We will be filing a civil complaint about damages exceeding $1,000,000 if you do not send a cashier's check for $100,000 in the next seven days.
You, initially: Thank you for this correspondence. We will provide a prompt response.
You, a few days later: I apologize for the delay in responding as I had other pressing matters to attend to. Without any admission as to liability, we will remit $20,000 to you upon receipt of an executed copy of the enclosed release.
Opponent (to themselves): We must be missing something. How much will it cost us to figure out what? How much will it cost us to win in court even if we're not? Well hey, $20,000 is $20,000.”
J. Harrison Fulk, Family Law Attorney, and Partner at Cox & Fulk LLC.
“First, it is important to note that not every person threatening legal action will respond to how you react in the same way. This is why you need to assess the nature of the threat and its deliverance before you offer a rebuttal. If the threat is less severe or the person seems like they might want to be seen or have their problem solved, approach the situation by acknowledging their frustration and offering a compromise. More often than not, this will end the debacle before any real legal action is taken. Most legal threats of this nature are emotional, so all you have to do is get past that barrier.
“However, if this approach does not work or if the person is aggressive toward you, you might have to take an aggressive approach in return. If you have a legal team or representative, make sure they are present at all times of communication with this person and make it clear that you are willing to fight back. This might call their bluff and help you reach an end to the situation.”
Brian Donovan, CEO Timeshatter