These are general comments, not just on the area of law on this web page. These are GENERAL COMMENTS, applicable to many different areas; not just accident matters. This WILL NOT WORK in many instances, and candidly, you will do better by hiring a lawyer, in most instances.
In the course of my work, I frequently get inquiries from people in a variety of subjects. While the subjects and circumstances vary, there are some common threads:
- The people calling me think they can resolve their problems by means of direct face-to-face communication, or by telephone;
- The people calling me think they must hire a lawyer; they might, in might be easier for them to do so, but it is not always necessary; and
- Professionally drafted business-oriented correspondence, or email, could make unnecessary the delay and expense of hiring a lawyer, and "running off to court".
The most common scenario is a disagreement between the caller, and whomever it is they are dealing with. As I am writing this article, I just got off the phone with someone with a relatively small personal injury claim, one which did not warrant them hiring me, and one which I could not justify, from a business perspective. Frequently, the issue is a business transaction, or an insurance claim. It could be anything.
One reason that people get into these situations, is that they were raised in homes, where honesty and honor were taught and stressed. As a result, they believe that everyone with whom they deal, respects the same virtues of honesty and honor, as they do. However, unfortunately, in today's society, people are often required to deal with people or companies for whom such virtues are unimportant.
As well, written communication survives, in a way that spoken communication, or even face-to-face interaction does not. Once the phone is hung up, and once the face-to-face interaction is over, it disappears. However, that letter is still in the file, and the email is still in the inbox.
I am not suggesting that you refuse offers of verbal or face-to-face communication that may resolve your problems. After all, the point here is to try to avoid, if at all possible, hiring a lawyer. Therefore, if there is a phone call from "the other side", or if someone from "the other side" visits you, or if you are forced to visit them, you must immediately write them a letter, or send them an email, confirming what happened in that conversation.
Also, it is not sufficient that you write the letter/email, e.g., one week, or two weeks, or six months after the event you want to confirm in writing. You must do so immediately. There is no doubt that this is a pain in the neck, but if you want to be taken seriously, you have to communicate to the seller that you intend to be taken seriously.
The structure of the initial communication should be as follows:
- A description of the history of the accident, transaction, interaction etc., leading up to the dispute. Use specific dates, and persons names, if possible, and if relevant;
- Bring that history of the claim current, to the time of the communication;
- Explain your current concerns. For example, in an accident claim situation, you might say, that you contacted the insurance company on (a specific date), some months back, and you have heard nothing from them, in response to your prior note, a copy of which is enclosed. Other situations will call for different descriptions of what it is you are concerned about.
- Explain in gentle and self-deprecating terms, that you have brought good faith in goodwill into the transaction, (e.g., in an insurance claim situation, that you have provided all information requested on a timely basis), and that you feel it is appropriate for you to expect reciprocal good faith in goodwill.
- A suggestion here, of what it is that you want to accomplish. In an accident claim situation, you might note that, e.g., all you are looking for is the payment of medical bills, or some modest amount of money, etc. You should also be able to indicate in gentle, firm, and professional tones, what you intend to do, if you hear nothing further. Make sure you have something to threaten them with, and do not make threats you are unwilling to follow up on. Invite them to be reasonable, and to join your effort to "keep this out of the hands of lawyers, which will only wind up costing money to all concerned."
Most importantly, be nice.
When should you use a certified letter, return receipt requested? That is a judgment call, and it will depend on your situation. I cannot advise you on this question, particularly in a General Information website post, such as this.
However, I do want to stress that where you consider it important to send a letter by certified mail, make sure that you request some type of written confirmation back from the post office, that "the other side" received the letter. US Post Office has a convenient "green card", which is commonly used for that purpose.
What you do, when the intended recipient refuses to pick up that certified letter, at the post office?
What I do is that, when I send out that certified/return receipt letter, I also send another copy of the exact same letter, by regular non-certified mail. I also make sure that the letter reflects that I have sent the letter both by certified mail, and by non-certified mail.
While we all like to complain about the US Post Office, the fact of the matter is that it is one of the most efficient organizations in existence anywhere in the world. It is so reliable, in fact, that if a letter is not returned as "undeliverable", there is a strong presumption, respected as evidence in many courts, that the intended recipient, got his/her letter.
Therefore, I send out both the certified/return receipt letter, at the same time as I send out the non-certified letter. Eventually, the post office will return the certified/return receipt letter. However, if the non-certified letter is never returned, it makes clear that the intended recipient willfully refused to pick up the certified/return receipt letter.
The purpose of this, is to establish a "paper trail", that will be necessary when you hire me, or another attorney for any legal action that may be required.
Text messages do not count. They do provide some proof of communication, after the communication has ended, but the problem is that text messages are difficult to convert into written forms that can be shown to judges or juries. Email is far better.
The Ultimate Purpose of Written Communication
Everybody in today's society has a boss. It could be a claims adjuster's supervisor, or the immediate supervisor, to the person you are dealing with, whether they work for the government, or for private industry.
Words disappear, after they are spoken. So too, does face-to-face communication. However, the written word survives. Therefore, when the claims supervisor, or the manager of whoever it is you must deal with, when that person reviews the file dealing with your matter, your letter or email will be there.
Therefore, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to communicate that you want to be taken seriously. You do not do that by throwing your weight around, or by means of bluster, or rude/aggressive behavior.
You simply write a letter, in polite and businesslike language, enclosing documentation supporting your position. Ask politely, for whatever it is that you want. Do not ask for anything you are not entitled to receive.
Writing a letter like this does not guarantee success, but more often than not, it almost seems to turn the burden and onus, to the other side, to show why you are not entitled to what it is you are asking for.
While I would be honored to have the opportunity to represent you on a claim, the whole point of writing letters as I am suggesting, is to spare you from having to hire me, or anyone else. Hopefully, you will not need to hire a lawyer.
However, if you do, I have 30 years of experience in civil litigation, negotiating and trying personal injury claims of all types. You can contact me as follows:
Text/Call: (586) 727-1900
Good luck, and I want you to call, to let me know how you did ….. especially if you don't need to hire me!!