What Steps to Take if Your Business Has Been Sued in Miami

business has been suedWhen a client, customer, employee, or competitor sues your business, you may feel overwhelmed and indignant. But don’t let emotions guide your decision-making during this time; follow these simple steps to protect your business.

Review your case with a competent attorney.

The thought of getting served notice of a lawsuit against your business should motivate you to retain a business attorney in Miami Florida. Though having a retainer relationship with a business lawyer will add to your business expenses, it is as valuable as insurance.

It’s important to note that even if you have a business attorney in Miami on retainer, you’ll want to make sure they specialize in the type of case you’re facing—and if they don’t, ask for a recommendation. If you don’t have an attorney on retainer, you’ll want to find a lawyer among Miami business litigation attorneys with expertise in these kinds of cases; don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials.

Whether you have a Miami business attorney on speed dial or you need to look for one, you will want to immediately review the relevant papers with them. Check the caption and service information to make sure your business is actually part of the lawsuit.

Also ask the attorney to break down the costs of their services (damages, back and front pay, legal fees, etc.), so you know what you’re getting into. Above all, do not feel compelled to stick with a lawyer who doesn’t communicate effectively or in a timely manner. A good lawyer is always reasonably available to current clients, and can explain legal matters in simple English.

Save your records and don’t speak with the Plaintiff.

If the information is correct and your business is indeed getting sued, you will want to put a preservation order or litigation hold in place within your company. Such a directive immediately halts any data-destruction policy your company has set in place, so you can retain relevant records to help your business lawyer in the case—such as e-mails, voice messages, and pictures.

During this time you must avoid speaking with the plaintiff. Let your lawyer communicate with the opponent for you. For starters, if an adversary has made a move to sue your business in a court of law, you’ve already passed the point of working it out with them amicably. Anything you say to them could be used against you, and with emotions running high, even a simple phone call can derail into a shouting match that strengthens their case against you.

Contact your insurance provider.

Presumably your business has some sort of general liability insurance and/or professional liability insurance, which can cover third-party injury claims, defamation, or client allegations that your business caused them a loss; workers compensation insurance may cover lawsuits from employees. Whatever the case may be, speak to your insurer right away and determine if your insurer will pay court costs, attorney fees, and potentially any damages the court orders you to pay.

In most cases, if the insurer covers your case, they will use their own legal counsel to defend your business. But whatever the  case may be, do not assume that your insurer will cover your case. Find out promptly, and if they do, forward them the requisite paperwork immediately.

Make an action plan, ASAP.

In most cases, you will need to submit a written response to the claim within 20 days. Your reply needs to include denial or admittance of each allegation made against you, any counterclaims or crossclaims, and whether you’d like a trial by jury or some other type of settlement arrangement.

Meeting with a Miami business attorney will be important, because they can guide you towards making the best decision based on the likely outcomes. For example, though you may think the case will clearly be decided in your favor, the cost of litigation may outweigh a settlement. Moreover, there might be a way to settle the dispute that does not involve monetary damages.

Explore alternative strategies—and don’t ignore the case.

Ask your business lawyer if there is any type of counterclaim against the Plaintiff or a lawsuit that can be leveraged against a third party, either of which could alleviate your monetary damages. For example, if a customer is suing for faulty products or belated delivery, your lawyer could help you determine if suing your supplier would cover your losses.

Alternatively, the Plaintiff themselves might be at fault, and simply suing you to win the proverbial legal race. You might even be able to get a judge to dismiss the case in its entirety—but you’ll never really know unless you ask your business attorney.

Whatever you do, do not ignore the lawsuit. If you do, the Plaintiff can file a Default against you after your 20 days to respond are up. In such circumstance, the Plaintiff will win the case, and whatever judgement the court levees against you will be enforced.

Keep calm, and carry on.

During the case, stay focused on your business. A business lawsuit can add insult to injury, though it doesn’t have to. Feelings of resentment, pride, or even betrayal may derail your ability to competently manage your business. Remember that if you don’t keep your business going, whether you win or lose the case, you’ll suffer a setback. Be diligent and prompt about communicating, and don’t try to hide anything—it will only make it harder for your attorney to represent you successfully.

Another important step to take is to think ahead and protect yourself from copycat suits that might come out of the woodwork after this one. Small to medium businesses in a competitive world need to create good defensive barriers against future lawsuits. This will often involve reworking extant company policies, a process that should involve your HR department and some farsighted legal counsel. To that end, the law firm of Manos Schenk can provide your business with attentive and competent care; they specialize in helping businesses in South Florida protect their corporate goals and assets.