Posts Tagged ‘lawsuits’

Ten Business Practices To Manage Risk And Avoid Litigation

We see litigation in our daily lives, whether it is depicted in movies and television shows or blasted all over the news, but most business owners don’t stop to think about what it really means for them when they get into a legal situation.

Typically, litigation is settled by agreement between the two parties but it may also be resolved by a jury or judge in court. Litigation is often necessary in some cases where attorneys fight hard to get the best results for their clients. However, litigation can be time-consuming, distracting, stressful and expensive for businesses.

Below are 10 proven strategies to shield against risk and limit the likelihood of litigation for your business.

1. Have Clearly Written Agreements

American film producer Samuel Goldwyn’s famous quote says it all: “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on.” No matter how trusting you may be of the other party, a clear written contract is the first and most critical step in avoiding litigation. Parties often differ in opinion on what exactly their obligations were or when they would arise or whether it was conditional on other things occurring first. The terms of any business deal, which clearly set out the parties’ rights and obligations, should be in writing to avoid any misunderstanding in the future.

The cause of many lawsuits is a direct result of contracts between the involved parties either not being memorialized in writing or simply not being clear. A clear, detailed and well-thought-out contract which addresses what happens when a business relationship deteriorates can minimize the cost of resolving the dispute. Any amendments to the agreement or ancillary arrangements should also be evidenced in writing.

2. Retain An Attorney To Review Your Agreements

Engaging in upfront dialogue with legal counsel can help your business avoid costly mistakes.  To save costs, many business owners find it enticing to utilize template contracts they find online for particular transactions.  Typically, these standardized contracts do not take into consideration the specific needs of the businesses involved as well as the laws of the applicable jurisdiction.  A contract that is not legally valid is useless if a business wants to enforce its rights under it in court.

An attorney can advise on whether a nondisclosure or noncompetition agreement would be appropriate. Whether a dispute should be litigated in a particular jurisdiction under a selected state’s laws or through alternative dispute resolution should also be memorialized in your agreement.  Setting aside a portion of a business’s budget toward retaining an attorney to draft and review the agreements you utilize in your business can reduce more costly litigation fees down the road.

3. Read The Agreements

While this is an obvious act, many neglect to fully read and understand the agreement before signing it. Understand both parties’ roles in the agreement before accepting it to ensure the parties are capable of fulfilling their role. Ask for clarification of provisions that you are unsure of or may require further negotiation. Often we see parties falling short of their responsibilities outlined in the contract partially because they weren’t fully aware of their obligations.

4. Be Informed

Contact an attorney when you first see a potential problem arising in the business arrangement. Involve counsel early; the first call to an attorney should not be when you’re already facing litigation.  Inform yourself of the laws and rules that may apply to you and your business. Through the help of an attorney, learn about your rights and responsibilities and the best options for reaching a resolution for any current or future issues. This can prevent you from escalating a problem and provide you with a feasible solution that may ultimately avoid litigation.

5. Think About Whom You Want To Do Business With

There is a temptation, especially for new businesses, to take on any client or business opportunity that walks in the door. It is critical to conduct research on your potential clients, customers, employees and suppliers.  Ask your referral source, speak with people in the business community and conduct an internet search. Learn about their reputation and consider if that individual or company is someone you would want to do business with. At a minimum, conduct a quick Secretary of State database search to ensure that the business is active, which will help reduce your risk. If you find that the company is often involved in disputes and has complaints, think twice about starting a relationship as it might be a business you would want to steer clear of.

6. Have An Employee Handbook

Every company with employees should have an employee handbook that is provided to all employees. Employees should sign a form acknowledging receipt of the handbook. The handbook not only sets forth in writing the employer’s expectations but also provides statements of compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. It is a very important tool for stating reporting procedures relative to discrimination and harassment.

An attorney should be contacted to not only help draft and review the original handbook but also on an annual basis to ensure that the handbook complies with current laws. Having an outdated handbook or no handbook at all can be very detrimental to a business involved in an employment litigation.

7. Obtain Appropriate Insurance Coverage

As it is not just a question of the amount but also the kind of coverage that your business carries, every business should consult on a regular basis with a qualified commercial insurance broker. It can be devastating for a business to be involved in a litigation where there is not the proper insurance in place to defend and indemnify the company against a potential judgment. As your business grows and expands and with changes in laws and technology, your commercial insurance will need to be modified. Commercial general liability and property insurance policies are probably not sufficient.

State law will often require specific types of insurance, such as workers’ compensation. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need professional liability, errors and omissions and cyber security/data breach insurance, as well as additional coverage suited for your industry.

8. Protect Your Company’s IP Assets

Intellectual property such as trademarks, copyrights and patents are often the most valuable asset of a company.  A business selecting brand names and logos should seriously consider retaining an attorney to conduct the required initial due diligence and legal analysis to identify potential conflicts, thus saving significant money if the business is later confronted with infringement allegations.

Companies should be aware that they have a duty to protect, enforce and “police” their own registered IP assets, including sending out cease-and-desist letters and prosecuting claims against other companies infringing on their IP rights. Being proactive and putting an end to infringing use promptly is more effective and cost-efficient than litigating over it after it has already done harm to your company’s hard-earned goodwill.

9. Record Retention Policy

Many disputes can be avoided if a company is able to keep good records of its agreements, related correspondence and notes taken to memorialize telephone conversations. Businesses should establish an appropriate record-retention policy both for electronic and hard copy documents.  While you work with the other party to solve problems, document how that problem was communicated and what was agreed upon to resolve it.  Also document any satisfaction and praise expressed by the other party, resulting in a written proof of you meeting their expectations.

10. Website Privacy And Terms Of Use Policies

If your company’s website collects and uses the personal information of its users in any manner, it should have a privacy policy that defines exactly the information that is being collected and the precise manner of use the company intends to make of such information. Businesses conducting e-commerce or with a high level of activity online should have a terms of use policy on their website, including having users expressly agree to the terms of use. Such companies should be aware of international e-commerce regulations, privacy laws and intellectual property laws, just to name a few.

By adopting these 10 good business practices, your company can help manage risks and limit time-consuming and costly litigation. It is important to be proactive in protecting your business from possible legal issues. If you find yourself unable to avoid litigation, consult with a qualified attorney to learn the best options based upon your company’s situation.


Source: Westfair Online

Trucking Turns To Technology To Blunt Insurance Hikes

Trucking companies considering deploying on-board cameras now have another reason to adopt them: lower insurance costs.

Truckers using the new Greenlight smartphone-based dashcam can get discounts on insurance products of up to 5 percent from Paul Hanson Partners, which is working with Greenlight.

That’s no shabby incentive at a time when trucking insurance is increasingly expensive and harder to get, with insurance companies such as Zurich and AIG leaving the trucking market or curtailing coverage as jury awards in accident lawsuits against trucking companies climb higher and higher.

“We’re not too far away from insurance companies forcing commercial fleets into using some type of telematics as a precursor to obtaining insurance,” said Jason Green, CEO of Greenlight. Insurers may wind up playing as big a role in the adoption of safety technology as regulators. Actuaries are going to have hard numbers on the difference in incidents for those who are using dash cams and those who aren’t. We’re getting a lot of presales and a lot of interest in Greenlight, because we tie it to an insurance discount through PHP.”

On-board cameras are just one tool that trucking companies may turn to as they try to blunt insurance costs that jumped significantly in 2016. Rising liability insurance costs are a concern to trucking operators and their shipper customers. Higher insurance costs not only put pressure on transportation rates, they threaten to force smaller trucking operators with fewer insurance options out of the business.

Green claims his company is unique in tying its forward-looking mobile dashcam and driver management system to lower insurance premiums, but he’s not the only one who sees a potential for cameras and other on-board safety systems to drive down insurance costs, or hold increases at bay.

“We’ve certainly seen an increase in auto liability severity,” Todd Reiser, vice president of transportation at Lockton Companies, said during a conference call with reporters last month hosted by Stifel Capital Markets. “In the past, worker’s compensation was more a hot button. That’s changed in recent years as claims become more severe. A million-dollar claim 10 years ago, unfortunately, now we’re finding is a three-, four-, five-million dollar claim.”

As a major trucking insurance broker, Lockton has broad visibility into the market.

“We’ve seen some major settlements and verdicts in 2015-16,” Reiser said. “One example is a $35 million jury award in a fatal truck crash in Texas. Those types of awards should concern shippers, too. Plaintiff attorneys can slap shippers with negligent hiring liability lawsuits following truck accidents.”

Reiser cited “a massive increase” in the use of on-board cameras as trucking companies and drivers gain experience with them.

“We’re finding more and more carriers are piloting cameras or have gone ahead and done the full implementation and are seeing significant impacts and frankly exonerations in cases where they may have been targeted for liability initially,” Reiser said. “As for trucking insurers making telematics a prerequisite for coverage, I see it moving more and more toward that direction. If you have all these various technologies we are sort of going to put you in a different category than those that don’t. The underwriting community has certainly embraced certain aspects of truck safety technology and for the first time … we’ve had underwriters say we will provide some sort of discount or credit as far as when and how truckers implement the technology.”

Reiser referred to lane-change warnings systems and collision mitigation systems as well as on-board cameras, but on-board cameras, in terms of cost, are an easier choice for many carriers. Greenlight wants to make the choice easier by replacing cameras with smartphones.

Replacing stand-alone cameras wasn’t what Green initially had in mind. His career has largely been focused on developing the point-of-view camera, first with a company called Twenty20 that he co-founded and later with Contour, a GoPro competitor now part of iON Cameras.  Greenlight started out as an onboard video recorder.

“I was looking at dashcam recorders. People were putting a camera on the windshield, and I thought, man, we could do this better using the phone. The big challenge was making it robust,” Green told  “Once we had that, we realized we had a telematics device that could capture data and video together from one source with very minimal hardware.”

A dash-mounted cradle works with iPhone and Android phones, and a mobile app converts the phone into a dashcam. In addition to video, drivers, as well as fleet managers and insurers, can see data from the system, including information on their performance during recent trips and safety scores.

“Some of our partners use the system for training,” Green said. “We will use the data to flag drivers when we see signs of a risk, hard braking, for example. We can send them training videos automatically. When they complete training it gets noted in the insurance account.”

Green initially had the consumer market in mind, and a consumer version of the product is available for $49.

“We got pulled into fleets because the opportunity is so good,” Green said. “You look at the cost of fleet operations and insurance and you can see why the need is so high.”

The initial market for the system is not over-the-road long-haul trucking, but final-mile logistics providers and local delivery companies.

“We started by looking at companies operating straight trucks and cargo vans, but we’re getting a lot of attention from the Class 8s,” Green said.

He recommends trucking companies pay their drivers an incentive to use their personal phones as cameras.

“You’ll reap the rewards in insurance costs,” Green said. “Also, a smartphone used as a dashcam is a smartphone that’s not being used for texting or phone calls while driving. Everybody knows the smartphone is a distraction. We’re putting it to work, so it’s less likely to be a distraction.”


Source: JOC