We all hate getting sued. It seems as though lawsuits are a part of doing business these days. But they may not have to be and there are steps that you can take to both avoid getting sued, and to avoid loss.
Institute Policies and Procedures For Safety’s Sake
Whatever we do, there are always things we can do more safely. While instituting steps to ensure safety makes sense, many people just do not take the time to ensure safety.
Drive safely. Make it a point not to text or talk on the phone or engage in any other activity that might distract you from paying attention to the road when driving. Your primary obligation as a driver is to pay attention to the road. If you are putting on your makeup while driving, you are failing in your duty to pay attention to the road.
If you run a business, institute policies and procedures that include regular safety inspections to ensure that the premises is safe. If there is a problem that you are aware of but cannot remedy immediately, post a warning. Think about those big yellow and orange warning signs in grocery stores that cover a spilled item until someone can clean it up. Slip and fall accidents are common, do your best to ensure a customer’s safety.
If you invite people into your home, you must ensure that the premises is made safe for them. This is not an absolute duty, but you must take reasonable steps to ensure safety. Pick things up off the floor, dry a spill, fix a broken step, provide a handrail for steps. If these are things that you cannot get to, post a warning that apprises people coming onto the property of the potential hazard.
These are reasonable steps to take. And negligence is the absence of reasonable behavior. Be reasonable and cautious and never take safety for granted.
Running a Business That is Inherently Risky?
In some businesses and activities, risk is an inherent part of the business. Think about skydiving, bungee jumping, river rafting. Businesses such as these and many others put people at risk of injury and even death sometimes. Waivers should be required of every person involved in this kind of activity. A waiver is an acknowledgement that the person engaging in the activity assumes the risk inherent in the activity. When signed, it limits a person’s ability to sue.
Be Willing To Arbitrate
More businesses these days are requiring participants to sign a waiver of their right to sue. Basically, an agreement to submit to binding arbitration is a waiver of the right to sue.
Incorporate Rather Than Run a Sole Proprietorship
Any business that is run as a sole proprietorship opens all of your personal assets to a hungry plaintiff if you are sued. Incorporating your business will separate your personal assets from your business assets. And while the act of incorporating your business will not prevent you from being sued, it will make sure that a plaintiff cannot take your house or seize your other assets.
If Someone is Injured Think About Early Mediation
If someone is injured and you think a lawsuit is in the offing, think about settling early. You can mediate a potential claim early without admitting liability and you can settle, if it is appropriate, and save a bundle in legal costs and potential exposure to liability later. A mediation is a structured settlement negotiation. Make sure that you work with a trusted and professional mediator and make sure that the settlement agreement includes a relinquishing of the right to sue later.
Carry Enough Liability Insurance
Carrying sufficient liability insurance will not prevent you from getting sued, but it can help you or your business prevent a monetary loss that you may be ill equipped to mange without insurance.
Minimize your risk. Act prudently. And keep a cool head. It is the best way to limit your exposure to liability and loss.