May 28, 2008

So, You’ve Got A New Suit

By Paul Bieber

OK, you have a new suit—a nice blue one, with a faint stripe—NO, not that kind of suit, the kind where a beefy guy with yellow teeth, comes to the counter in your shop, asks for the owner, hands you a document, says “You’ve been served; have a nice day”, and leaves.

What next?

Most people read the suit, say it is a load of bull, that they did do the job correctly. Of course, you curse a little, and the next day you read the summons again, getting more angry. A couple of days later, you call the client and ask what is going on, and they say you screwed up, and you have to speak with their attorney now.

You call the attorney, and three days later, he spends two minutes on the phone with you, telling you he cannot help you solve this, that the court has set a date for an answer, and that must be followed.

You beg him for a meeting, he finally agrees, and four days later you meet, and come away thoroughly upset and of course, the suit goes on.

Now what, you don’t want to spend a couple hundred an hour on your cousin’s son, who just became an attorney, so you figure you can handle this yourself. To make this long-story short. You loose a bundle, when you miss the court date because it was yesterday, not today, and the judge hands down a summary judgement.


Let’s start over. A beefy guy with yellow teeth comes into your store and hands you a document…oh you know.

What now?

First step, read the suit. Second step, calm down. In America, anyone can sue anyone over anything. Most suits are frivolous, more concerned with a bruised ego over a perceived problem, that a real problem. Step three, call your attorney. You’re going to spend some bucks for one hour of advice, which will be: calm down, and write down everything you can think of about the case, and call back in a couple of days.

Step four. Call your insurance broker or agent. Almost all liability suits are covered by your insurance. If you carry liability insurance, and just about all comprehensive business insurance packages include liability, the insurance company is required to defend you in the suit. They will provide the lawyer, work up the defense, and if you loose, pay the suit, up to the limits of the policy. Isn’t this easier?

Do not go to any meetings to discuss the suit without your attorney, or the insurance attorney present. If your adversary has gone to the point of filing a suit, they have invested all the money and time with their attorney, and will not settle without money, and usually a pound of flesh.

Yes, it will take some of your time to explain everything to the insurance company lawyer, or your lawyer, but it is worth it. If you don’t tell your insurance company within a specified number of days (usually twenty), they don’t have to pay the suit. That’s right…if you handle this yourself and lose, thinking then you will put this in as a claim, you are going to lose.

The smart route when Mr. Beefy comes to the front door, is to thank him, call your lawyer, call your insurance agent or broker, visit your cousin from Tennessee, Mr. Jack Daniels, and go back to work. Let the pros handle this. All you will do is upset yourself.