What happens when my business gets sued?
This is a question that creates anxiety among many business owners both small and large. Not knowing if or when you can be sued can always be a worry. Understanding the legal process of being sued can create a sense of comfort if your business ever does get sued. Getting sued can come from many different avenues. The reasons could be employment discrimination, intellectual property infringement, breach of contract, fraud, or other suits. The process of being sued is similar in most instances.
Knowing the process of being sued can alleviate unnecessary stress as a business owner. Once a lawsuit is filed and you are served papers, it is important to contact an attorney. They can explain the lawsuit and help to make the most reasonable decisions to save money. Lawsuits are expensive whether you win or lose the suit. That is why getting an experienced opinion early in the process can be a wise move. Depending on your case you may have to seek a specialized attorney. If it is a patent infringement suit, you should seek a business or patent litigator. Likewise, if the case is based on employment discrimination, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced employment litigator.
Communications after suit has been filed against you should be with your attorney and not with the plaintiff. It is necessary to respond to the complaint within a certain number of days, usually 30 days. There are procedures that must be followed or you may lose your case on procedural grounds. For example, not filing a response on time or not fully making an argument in response to the complaint may allow the court to dismiss or grant a motion to dismiss the case. This would mean that you would have to acquiesce to the wishes of the court and plaintiff.
After an attorney is hired, the response to the complaint should be created. It should be a response that reflects the desires of the business. It must answer all the complaints that the plaintiff has expressed. During the process the business should also notify their insurance company of the pending suit. Some insurance companies will cover lawsuits, while others may not.
As a business you must keep all the records and not destroy them. These records may be requested down the line by the plaintiff. Rarely does a case go to trial these days. Most often there is a compromise followed by a settlement of the case. These talks should be had with your attorney on what the best options are for you. It may be wise to settle some cases and wise to fight others. A defense attorney should know when to be aggressive and when to compromise. Settlement can save your business a lot of money because court costs and attorney’s fees can engulf the revenue of a small business. Coming to an agreement may not only save you money, but may also save your business.
If the case does proceed to trial, your business should be prepared for a long arduous journey. There can be a lot of ups and downs fighting within the legal system. There are times that taking a case to trial may be wise. For example, if it is an IP infringement case and you have valid information that you did not infringe, then you should fight back.
You should also know that if the case proceeds to trial that the judicial process is a slow process. The case may take months, but often it will take years for a case to be heard and completed. Patience and stamina will be your allies as you proceed through this process.
Overall, whether you choose to fight or to compromise there will be plenty of stress and anxiety that comes from being sued. Finding legal counsel that is knowledgeable and vigilant in protecting you interests may be your best investment. The key is to not panic and remember that there are solutions to being sued. Understanding the legal process can help to alleviate some of the common uncertainty that comes from the legal world.