In this week's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter, I want to answer a question that is not asked enough, and that is “How should my small business respond to a lawsuit?” In other words, if my business gets sued, what should I do to protect my interests as a small business owner? If your small business does get sued, there are three (3) things you MUST do to protect the interests of your small business:
Hire an Attorney
The first thing you MUST do if your small business gets sued is to hire an attorney. I've talked about this issue before in other Freedom Friday blogs and email newsletters, but in Oklahoma, a business cannot represent itself in court. So, the very first thing you need to do is hire an attorney to assist you in handling this case. They will know what steps are next to protect your interests. It is also important to find an attorney who is experienced to handle the kind of lawsuit you've been sued with, and that is a good fit for you and your small business. For example, if you were sued for breach of contract, then you need to find an experienced business litigation attorney. If you're sued for a slip and fall, then you need to report the incident to your insurance carrier and request they provide an attorney to defend the case.
File an Answer
The second thing you MUST do if your small business gets sued is to file an answer. This is something your attorney will likely do for you, but he or she will only have twenty (20) days to do so. In some cases, the attorney can file a “Special Appearance,” which will extend the time to answer or respond for another twenty (20) days. Also, many times the attorney will ask you to sign and have notarized a “Verification” which is a short affidavit at the end of your small business's answer, that you have read the contents of the answer and understand them to be true to the best of your knowledge. As part of this process, you should also read and be familiar with the lawsuit itself so you can answer any questions your attorney might have for you.
The third thing you MUST do if your small business gets sued is gather documents. Especially if you have been sued for breach of contract, or any business litigation matter, there should be a paper trail related to the lawsuit. You should gather any related documents and discuss them with your attorney. It is likely that you will need to produce those documents during the discovery process which happens next. We'll talk about that in next week's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter.
If your small business is having issues with contracts, leases, business partners, collection issues, or experiencing other barriers to growth, please contact me at [email protected] to schedule a FREE strategy session.