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If You’re Starting a New Business, Protect Yourself from Claims

Business owners owe a duty of care to their customers, employees, clients, and visitors to their business. If you’re starting up a new business in Hollywood or anywhere in South Florida, you are vulnerable to premises liability claims and other legal claims if you don’t take care to keep visitors to your business safe.

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Even if you have an online business, you could be held liable and may be sued if your servers or files are hacked, if another business accuses you of trademark infringement or other illegal actions, or if you’re accused of breach of contract. Whether you have a bricks-and-mortar company or an online enterprise, you need to take steps to keep yourself safe from legal claims while also protecting your customers and clients from harm.

There are a few ways you can do this:

1) Get legal advice before you start.

Before you open a business, get legal advice. You’ll want to get help with:

  • Drafting contracts to protect you and your company. Your contracts may include the agreements between yourself and your clients, your company and vendors, and the paperwork between you and your employees.
  • Reviewing lease agreements. If you rent a retail or commercial space, your lease agreement may state you (and not the landlord) are responsible for any premises liability claims. You’ll want an attorney to review your rental contract to determine whether it’s fair or whether it calls for negotiations.
  • Understanding your legal responsibilities. Find out what you are obligated to do to start your business. There may be local or state bylaws requiring special certification, specific levels of insurance, or there may be other demands you need to know about.
  • Developing a plan for keeping your assets and business safe. No matter how careful you are, you may be sued. Make sure you have a plan in place to avoid this and to protect yourself and your company as much as possible if it does happen.
  • Choosing the right business structure for you. While a sole proprietorship is simplest, it doesn’t keep your assets and that of the company separate. An attorney can help you understand whether a limited liability company, corporation, sole proprietorship, or other business structure might be best for you.

2) Get good insurance before you open for business.

The best commercial general liability insurance policy you can afford is the minimal insurance you need. If you run a bricks-and-mortar store or commercial space, you’ll also need outstanding property insurance to protect yourself from claims.

3) Create policies to protect you before you open your doors.

Have written policies to follow so you take steps to notice any possible hazards. For example, if you have an office, have a written policy to check over the office every morning and evening for spills, debris on the floor, and other hazards. Keep a checklist on hand and have employees check off when they’ve performed a basic once-over of the business.

If you have an online business, your policies might look different. They may mean hiring a tech team to check for any online attacks or regularly changing the passwords for your employees so files and client information stays safe. The basic idea is the same, however: you want to take regular steps to find and take care of any hazards and you want a system that documents your efforts.

4) Have a plan to quickly fix any potential hazards.

Do you know what to do if there is a spill in the office or an accident in the parking lot? Does everyone on your team know what to do if there is debris on the floor of your store? Include safety response and safety training your staff training and onboarding so any problems or injuries are dealt with quickly and correctly.

5) Warn customers if there is a problem.

Sometimes, you can’t remove a potential problem right away. For example, the landlord at your offices may need to fix a faulty stair or railing and it may take them some time to bring in professionals to do so. In this situation, warn your customers about the problem. Write a clear notice and post it near the problem so customers and clients can use extra caution.

Unfortunately, not all businesses take these steps in keeping you safe. If you’ve been injured while visiting a business, you may have a premises liability. To find out whether you have a claim, contact Flaxman Law Group for a free consultation.