The Business of Staying Out of Court

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Have you taken steps to keep your home Internet business safe from being sued?

For businesses of every size, including one-person home internet businesses, getting sued is a costly and stressful situation that you should take steps to avoid. Your home Internet business hopefully won’t need a team of legal eagles, but there are some things to be aware of to keep your business safe.

What are some of the steps you can take to avoid running into legal problems?

Think About Your Business Name

Before starting your home business, do a thorough search to see if anyone else is using your business name.

You can check with your local Secretary of State’s office, or use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s search tools for a nationwide search.

The last thing you want to do is run into a legal trouble with a business due to trademark infringement, so make sure your name is free for use before you start.

Look into Your Business Structure

There’s no doubt that for most sole businesses, setting up as a sole proprietor is the easiest and quickest way to launch.

However, it’s worth talking to a business or financial adviser to see if you would benefit from setting up your business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

This will mean you’ll need to file more tax paperwork than as a sole trader, but your personal liability will be limited if your home business runs into trouble. Note that not all states will let one person alone set up an LLC.

Get Your Licenses in Place

Most businesses will require some kind of license. The exact license that you’ll need will vary depending on the type of business you run, and the local laws in your state.

Do your research first so you don’t run the risk of legal issues later due to not having the correct license.

It’s also important that you check out local zoning restrictions to be sure you are allowed to run a business from home in your neighborhood.

Make Sure You Have Insurance

As the article “The Latest in Court Appeal Bonds” points out, ending up in court can be an expensive business. As well as court fees, you may have to pay money to the person suing you.

That’s why it’s vital that you take out liability insurance to protect you and cover legal fees and payouts in the even that you are sued for negligence or malpractice of any kind.

Consider Your Business Activities

As a home business owner, it’s important that you consider carefully just which business activities you will carry out from your home office.

In particular, think carefully before inviting clients to your home.

It can be convenient to meet at your house, but you are opening yourself up to potential legal problems if your client should slip, trip or suffer any other kind of injury while on your promises.

Meet at a neutral premise like a coffee shop, or even hire a local meeting room, instead.

Mind What You Say

As a business owner, keep in mind that what you say in meetings, in your emails, or on your website is out there for all to read or hear.

Be careful to steer clear of, for example, saying slanderous things about other people or businesses.

Also be mindful of not copying or stealing from other businesses.

Finally, make sure that you don’t make claims that you can’t back up, or that you’re not legally allowed to make. Mind what you say and you’ll reduce your risk of landing in hot water.

No one likes to think about getting sued, but as in all aspects of business, it’s better to have a contingency plan in place.

Start following the above steps today to keep your business safe and secure.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including branding, social media and legal issues for small businesses.

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