Like it or not every business these days has to be concerned about the ever-present chance of being sued. It used to be that only businesses in high risk industries (such as healthcare, construction, law enforcement, etc.) needed to worry about this phenomenon. That is no longer the case. Partly due to the sad state of the economy, people have become a lot more willing to file lawsuits–sometimes for what appears to be unsubstantiated, fraudulent or frivolous reasons. Since this has become one of the main threats to all businesses, it behooves everyone to do what they can to reduce their chances of being sued. Here are some practical suggestions:
Educate yourself on the types of lawsuits that are most prevalent and how to best deal with them
Many business owners think that they can just depend on their attorney but this may not be enough. Once a lawsuit has been launched, by all means, let your lawyer deal with it. You, however, need to stay well aware of the basics, including things which you may ignorantly do that might encourage legal action against you. By finding out what lawsuits are most popular these days, you might work to develop strategies in line with the vulnerabilities inherent in your type of business.
Regularly meet with your attorney in order to set up a lawsuit prevention/management plan
Your lawyer, depending on the type of business you are in, should be well-equipped to tell you what areas you are most legally vulnerable in and what preventive measures may be available for your use.
Institute and regularly update a worksite safety program
This may include general topics dos and don’ts for all employees, written instructions on what to do during emergencies and accidents, and equipment (such as eye-washing stations–sometimes useful even for facilities that do not have large inventories of chemicals) to get and make available at your place of work.
Abide by local and national laws and guidelines
Some businesses get in trouble because they fail to meet a guideline or abide by a law. One glaring example is the requirement by OSHA that companies keep ingredients specification sheets for all chemicals kept on the premises. By simply letting employees know about the specific dangers of a product, you can win a lawsuit against someone involved in an accident–if you can prove that the person violated the instructions or guidelines you clearly posted.
Keep up with worksite repairs, upgrades and renovations
If someone falls, for example, because you did not repair a weak railing (after you were informed of such), you will greatly increase the of chances of losing any legal claims against you. A basic component of damages being awarded usually includes failure to take a particular action–or displaying some other type of negligence, incompetence, or malfeasance. In other words, businesses don’t lose lawsuits filed against them unless there is compelling evidence that they were at fault somehow.
Develop and implement a comprehensive employee training program
Many lawsuits come about because one employee (especially heinous if such a person is a supervisor) ignorantly or maliciously violated a basic rule of civilized behaviour. A common problem is sexual harassment. Investing in training programs or classes that let everyone know what not to say or do may be worth your worthwhile. Other areas to educate your employees about are personal injury threats, anger management, racial sensitivity, and the proper way to react to violent (physically or verbally) customers.