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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Protecting Yourself from Liability

In an increasingly legalistic world, in which disputes are settled in courts or tribunals, it is essential for businesses to appreciate and understand liability. Liability is the state of being responsible for something; if you're liable for something, you're responsible for it. Simply the act of owning and operating a business means you accept a great deal of responsibility. You are expected to ensure the safety of your customers, to keep dealings with clients and partners fair and to the law, and to protect their employees from injury. To help you navigate the legal waters of business owning, we've outlined a few ways to lower your risk of liability.

1. Buy liability insurance
First and foremost, you must have liability insurance. The most earnest efforts to improve safety at the workplace could still go out the window if an accident happens. You cannot predict or stop an accident and if it happens on your property, the likelihood is you will be liable to cover any medical or legal expenses.

2. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Make sure you have signs up around your place of business to ensure that people understand the risks around them. If someone slips on a recently washed floor without a sign, you're almost guaranteed to be found liable. However, if someone slips despite a big yellow sign warning them that the area is slippery, you will have better chances of not being found liable. Without a sign, there is an expectation of safety. If a sign clearly tells you there is danger, and yet you ignore it, you cannot expect safety.

3. Use contracts
Be sure that you keep your business deals contractually based. Avoid verbal agreements and opt for written contracts which clearly outline what is being exchanged for what. Be sure to explicitly include the goods or services included in the deal.

4. Use waivers
Include clauses in your contracts in which the client or partner waives certain rights. In particular, include clauses which prevent a client from suing you or making a claim against you.

As a business owner, liability issues must be understood and appreciated. You must protect yourself from the costs that could be incurred if someone is accidentally hurt on your property or a client sues you over a contract. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a business owner to be sure that you avoid liability.

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