Negotiation is when you try to end a problem or dispute with another person, by reaching an agreement.
The first step is to think about how you would like to settle (resolve) the dispute, and what you think the other party might accept. Then, suggest a settlement to the other party. For example, if the other party has damaged or lost your goods, you could try to negotiate with the other party to pay you the replacement value of those goods.
You can negotiate by talking to the other party, or by writing a letter, or both. If the other party has a lawyer, you should speak to their lawyer rather than directly to the other party.
Negotiation can take place at any time, for example, when you first demanded your goods back, when you are thinking about starting a case, or even after a court case has started.
If you need help negotiating with the other party, you should consider whether to try mediation. This is where an independent third party can assist you and the other party to discuss your issues and hopefully come to an agreement. For more information, see Mediation.
Written correspondence that includes a settlement offer usually has the words 'Without Prejudice' written at the top. This means that your offer to settle the case cannot be used against you in a court hearing. For example, if you lent a television to someone who won't give it back, you could make an offer to settle the dispute by accepting $100 instead of the return of the television. If you have made this offer 'without prejudice', your letter can't later be used as evidence that the television was only worth $100.
Sometimes you should not put 'Without Prejudice' on the top of a letter. For example, if you decide to go to court you may want to show that you made an offer to settle.
Before you write a letter of offer, you should get legal advice on how to write the letter.
Although negotiating with the other party can be very informal, if you are able to reach an agreement you should write down what has been agreed. For more information, see Put it in writing.
For more information about negotiating with the other party, see the Negotiation section of the Legal skills topic.