What to Do If You Are Sued–How to Prevent Lawsuits
There are few things that can ruin your day as the getting a notice that you’ve been sued. Some put it up there stress wise like moving or getting let go from a job. Getting sued can make your blood pressure rise, make you dizzy and even a little nauseous. There were 15 million plus lawsuits filed in the US last year, that works out to about one in every twelve adults.
Being sued alone doesn’t mean that it’s an actual issue, especially when you consider all the frivolous lawsuits out there.
For instance: the 8-year-old New York Boy who was sued by His Aunt for a “Careless” Hug or the Animal Rights Group sued on behalf of a monkey for ownership of “Selfies”.
And then the bank robber who got shot after pointing a gun at a policeman and sued the city for his medical bills.
These days anyone can sue anybody for anything with or without cause by filling out a few forms and paying the minimal court filing fees, usually less than a couple of hundred bucks for most matters in most states. Lawyers are ethically prohibited from taking part in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,” the problem comes with the definition of a “frivolous lawsuit” – a lawsuit that is without merit due to a lack of supporting legal argument or factual basis. The definition is widely interpreted; in fact, it’s so varied that basically, any complainant can get to court.
If you have a lot of money, there is no one single way to avoid the determined party intent on suing, but you can take preemptive steps to protect most, if not all, of your assets.
Welcome to America Home of the Free and the Land of Lawsuits
Americans are a litigious society in general, and little is done to stop the hemorrhage to restrain citizens from revenge through the legal system, even though the cost is over $233 billion annually, saying nothing about the enormous stress on the people being sued.
In the last 50 years, the number of lawsuits has skyrocketed for the following reasons:
• There are way too many lawyers–painters paint, singers sing, and lawyers sue. America has at least five times the lawyers as France–a country known for their excessive red tape.
• Big Financial Gains. Would-be plaintiffs can look at lawsuits like a trip to Vegas. Even though the chance of winning is low, payoffs can be huge when they win–and these are the ones we hear about spurning copycats. TV lawyers shout about winning unbelievable judgments for minor incidents. Certain areas have a reputation of leaning toward plaintiffs. Certain Lawyers capitalize on this practice by “venue-shopping”: filing the lawsuit in a court where such awards are not uncommon.
• The Losers have little to lose. Some foreign countries have a system where the loser of a lawsuit must pay the costs of both sides. Don’t expect that to happen in America where the halls of Congress are filled with former lawyers
Sadly, once you have been served, you are dictated by the requirements of the legal system. More than likely you will spend money and time defending yourself before the courts decide your fate.
What to do if you are sued.
Many people, immediately contact the plaintiff or his attorney tries to dispute the lawsuit. Don’t make this mistake! You can hurt your case, and the other side will see your vulnerability.
Instead, take these actions:
1. Call your Insurance Agent
Hopefully, you have liability insurance, if so, contact your insurer as soon as possible to alert them. They have skin in the game and must be advised.
Remember, however, that the insurance company will protect themselves first, not you. The two sides are not always in sync. You might even get “thrown under the bus” if it means they can avoid paying out significant claims.
In addition to insurance, you can protect yourself against liability by building in protection into your contracts.
2. Hire a Lawyer
You need someone on your side, your own hired gun so to speak, a lawyer who has been tested. Most lawsuits are not won by facts alone; it’s who explains those facts in the most logical way.
3. Don’t Lose your Cool
During the discovery phase– before you actually go to court – you will be asked for all types of things that more than likely have nothing to do with the lawsuit. During depositions, you and people on your side are likely to be offended. Emotional outbursts lead to mistakes, don’t volunteer information.
This is CYA time–mission critical time. Collect and review.
Take the advice of your attorney, they will advise you on how to proceed and on what information you need to collect, and what information may be safely destroyed.
5. Be Realistic
Juries and judges are not especially fickle. Because of this, less than 10% of lawsuits end with a jury’s or judge’s decision; most lawsuits are settled along the way.
6. Be Patient
Lawsuits can take a long time, usually years to come to trial or most times a realistic settlement offer is made. Fortunately, time is generally on your side. The plaintiff has to undergo the same discovery process as you do. In most cases, the plaintiff is paying his attorney a steep hourly fee to chase the case. Your lawyer knows this and will use it to your advantage.
Lawsuits are most of the times nasty and they will often get personal—really personal. Even if you win the case you pay the price emotionally and financially. Business owners have to protect their business and especially their personal assets in the event a lawsuit happens. With this advice in your tool belt, you should be on your way to a legal- and hassle-free future.
For legal advice you can trust, call Claycomb Law Office for a free consultation. Their Areas of Practice include Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, and more.