Litigation is like lightening; it can never be accurately predicted. So, the best defense against both is to avoid them altogether. While it’s possible to seek shelter and stay out of harm’s way during a storm, avoiding a professional liability lawsuit can be much more complicated.
Being diligent in all areas of your business could be an asset if you face a professional liability lawsuit, even if you have professional liability insurance, but it can’t always prevent one.
If you own a small-business and you’re being threatened with a lawsuit, your best defense is preparation. Assume that a lawsuit could be coming at any time and you may be ready if it actually does.
Here are 3 key strategies to maximize your odds of successfully defending your business against a professional liability lawsuit:
#1. Document all communications with your clients
During the course of a lawsuit, your lawyer may ask you for a particular document or certain facts relating to an important incident. If you’re working from memory alone, you’re going to have trouble presenting a cohesive defense. You will have much easier access to information about your lawsuit if you have left a thorough paper trail. Depending on your type of business, that trail might include:
- Written contracts
- Work documents
- Invoices and receipts
- Confirming emails sent after meetings and phone calls
- Changes to contracts and proposals
Just keep in mind that overly-complicated documents may hurt your case. If a mediator or jury can’t follow the information in a key document, they could easily assume that your client couldn’t either.
#2. Work with your lawyer
The relationship between lawyer and client can come under considerable strain during the course of a lawsuit. A good working relationship can increase the odds of a positive outcome and reduce your anxiety considerably. You and your attorney are a team. Here are some teambuilding hints to improve your odds of winning:
- Keep your lawyer informed by disclosing everything that might pertain to the dispute. Don’t hold back. Lawyers are trained to sift through information and determine what is useful and what is not.
- Prepare summaries, timelines, and other materials. Be as accurate as possible. Your lawyer will base your claims and defenses on this information.
- Respond promptly to all requests. Your lawyer may have to work under a very tight deadline. The more time you give your lawyer to digest the material you provide, the better job your lawyer can do of using that material to prepare important legal papers.
- Keep your lawyer apprised of your schedule. You will need to be present at certain events in a lawsuit. Most of these events can be postponed or moved up to accommodate your schedule, but your lawyer must have enough advance warning that you won't be available.
Assess the professional liability lawsuit honestly
Your first instinct after being hit with a lawsuit might be to fight the claim with all available means. After the initial emotions have subsided, however, and you can approach the dispute objectively, you might discover that it makes sense to settle. An honest assessment might make you realize that that you were in error to some extent, or you may come to the conclusion that a sustained legal battle would drain your financial resources.
You should realize that most lawsuits settle, and that the court system is designed to put pressure on both parties to settle. You continually need to reassess whether defending the lawsuit makes economic sense. If you see yourself spending a large amount on legal fees, settling the lawsuit is probably a good move. Remember that your time is worth something. So is your peace of mind.
Protection starts with the right business insurance - call today!
To learn more about Professional Liability Insurance, which helps you pay for the cost of lawsuits and other expenses for which you are legally responsible, and for all your Business Insurance needs contact American Insuring Group online or call us at (800) 947-1270 or (610)775-3848.