When your business has been sued, you may not know what to do. This article summarizes the basic first steps you should take. Note that there is no substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a qualified attorney.
- Don't Delay
There is a very short timeline to respond to a lawsuit after you have been served with the documents filed in court. Do not delay in taking the steps listed below and any other actions recommended by your lawyer. In particular, figure out on what date your business received the initial lawsuit papers (usually called a writ, originating summons, petition, or motion). The initial lawsuit papers may list the time you have to respond. Waiting until the deadline is two days away or has already passed is a very bad idea. You may have a default judgment entered against you in court because you did not respond in time or mount a defense.
- Find a Lawyer
If not the first thing you do when you learn you have been sued, this is definitely one of the most important things to do. Lawyers can advise you of your legal rights, investigate the claims made in the lawsuit, help you develop defenses, and respond to the claims properly in court. Read the lawsuit documents that you received to determine the type of claims being made against your business: breach of contract? Employment law violation? Fraud? Not every attorney handles every type of case, so seek out an attorney with experience litigating the types of claims made.
- Preserve Evidence
Now is not the time to shred all your business's old documents or start deleting emails. Preserve documents by backing up your server, not deleting anything if at all possible, and keeping safe any important physical evidence like parts to a machine. Depending on the type of lawsuit, you may need to inform key employees about the claims or document preservation needs.
- Keep Calm and Carry On
Many lawsuits do not derail a business from carrying on day-to-day operations. If possible, keep operating your business while you follow the steps above and consult with your attorney. Hopefully your business allocated funds towards potential legal costs. If not, now is the time to plan for how to pay attorney's fees and any settlement or judgment. Check with your insurance company if applicable. The light at the end of the tunnel is that many lawsuits settle before trial, and many are resolved outside of court or even before an official lawsuit has been filed. Your business can survive being sued.
To learn more about civil and commercial litigation in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.
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