According to some estimates, frivolous lawsuits cost small businesses more than $200 billion per year. So it is no surprise that many entrepreneurs list being sued as one of their greatest fears. Handling a lawsuit can be daunting, but if you know the steps to take it can be more manageable.
Attorney Vernon Slaughter, principal at Vernon L. Slaughter, PC, which specializes in entertainment law, points out that among the mistakes most people make when presented with a lawsuit are: “not paying attention to deadlines and rules. Also, they don't get help from attorneys when they need it.” So first order of business: confer with an attorney, says Slaughter.
The way you handle a lawsuit depends on the type of lawsuit, explains Byron Franklin, an Adjunct Law Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. “If you are being sued in Small Claims court you may not need an attorney if you feel you can handle the matter on your own. That can be determined if it is simply a he-say/ she-say matter in which the Small Claims court judge basically has to make a decision based on whom he believes is telling the truth,” he says. In these cases, always have the paperwork to back up your case. “It's good to bring as much supporting documentation and relevant witnesses as possible,” he notes.
But if the case is larger and you are being sued in another court besides Small Claims court, Franklin advises other tactics. “If you are sued in any other court other than Small Claims court, get an attorney immediately to look at the matter. Do not wait, because you have 30 days to respond with an answer,” he says.
Make sure you choose the right lawyer for your case. “Choose an attorney that is experienced in that particular area of law in which you were sued,” Franklin stresses. “If you are sued in Family Court, don't get a Personal Injury lawyer, get a lawyer who specializes in Family Law. If you get sued by a creditor or corporate entity, don't hire a criminal lawyer whose never done a Civil Court case. Follow these steps and the litigation process will not seem like hell on earth.”
Most of all, don't think the worst if you are being sued. “Don't panic. You're wasting valuable time worrying and you are also stressing yourself out,” Franklin says.