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How many have been sued and how to avoid it ?

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by b16bri, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. b16bri

    b16bri Junior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 9

    Hey guys Im a solo business owner landscaper in the spring, summer, fall and I want to offer plowing services this winter and I got thinking how many people / businesses have been sued due to slip and falls or damages or anything really. I'm an LLC and I know it offers some level of protection but if your the owner and involved in the accident I know you can be held liable. So IDE like to hear from people who have been sued and to hear your story and also what can you do to prevent yourself from being sued ? Obliviously attention to detail is key but accidents happen and some people hope for them
  2. BC Handyman

    BC Handyman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,943

    avoid them.....hmmmm I'd say avoid customers/sites that are higher risk, ie: banks, walmarts crazy cat lady ect. get your responsibilities in writing, all of them. I've neven been sued so what do I know ;)
  3. kimber750

    kimber750 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,676

    The key to it is being prepared when you are sued. We had two slip and falls last season. The one on my site was a pregnant lady that fell getting into her car. We do not shovel snow between cars. But the owner of the company did pay for her to get a checkup. We have not been sued for anything at any of the snow sites.

    Now I have a few rental properties and about once a year I get sued by a tenant. I take a lot more than that to court a year. :dizzy: Not once have I lost. I have spent a lot of time to learn and understand the laws, I also know and understand my leases inside and out.
  4. indplstim

    indplstim Senior Member
    Messages: 195

    all my contracts release me from any type ofliability in the event of any type of slip and fall accident. its almost comical how many different ways I state the same idea over and over. now if I crash into someone or something its open season, a 2 million dollar liabilty policy helps...
  5. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    In my Contact Customers sign I'm not responsible for slip and fall on lots I service
    I stay clear of contacts that has a slip/fall clause
  6. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    As kimber said above you can't avoid being sued if you do commercial work at some point its going to happen. The key is to be prepared before it happens. From the way your contract is written (have a lawyer review it, don't trust what you read on plow site) to the way you perform service, make sure your t's are dotted and your i's crossed.
  7. BC Handyman

    BC Handyman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,943

    Are you sure you want your t's dotted & i's crossed? Seems like that might create confusion :confused: ;)
  8. coldcoffee

    coldcoffee Senior Member
    Messages: 776

    There's an old saying..."Sue everyone and let the attorney's sort it out". It would seem that statement is more true now than ever, for obvious reasons.

    I think it's a great idea to install clauses addressing liability concerns, provided you, yourself view it more as a deterrent and not a definitive means of not being sued. Of course state laws will very from one state to the next as to how they view these matters. My state has reasonably good laws addressing slip and falls, but they won't keep you out of the courtroom, just may help w/ the end result.

    Aside from having good insurance, it's also a good idea to have a repore w/ a good general practice attorney that you feel comfortable w/ and trust. Use them for small things (like reviewing or writing your contract) and have the comfort of knowing they're a phone call away to discuss matters when they occur.

    Get a referral if you can, but use your own judgement as to whom you choose. You should feel comfortable when speaking w/ them.

    This is becoming more popular now, but I can remember years ago, I got my first letter from one of my clients insurance company's w/ concern to a slip and fall incident (submit too many of those to your own insurance and either get dropped or expect a nice rate increase). Anyway, someone told me to call this guy, mainly because his was popular locally and handled these sorts of things.

    I wasn't into the phone call 5 minutes and he had me almost convinced that I needed to get to his office asap w/ a $500 retainer. Go take picture of this, that and the other, etc. He had me going pretty good.

    For the heck of it, I called another guy that I had used for a contract matter some time ago before that. He remembered me and was very calm about the whole thing. He asked if I was sent a summons. I said no. He said, then what are you worried about?

    Long story short, the matter dissolved itself, to put it simply. No insurance claim or call was ever made. But after having been around the courtroom enough and being involved in other cases, I got a strong grip on understanding how things work. These insurance comp's and law firms that like to use scare tactics need to get up much earlier now if they think their going to intimidate me or scare me into just rolling over.

    Some will say just turn the claim into your insurance, that's what it's there for. My position is, don't make it easy for them...because they sure as hell won't ever make it easy for you. Keep your rates down and everyone else's by not abusing the system, so when or if there is a legitimate claim, it can be handled effectively w/o your rates going through the roof along w/ everyone else's. Some claims are legit, many are not.

    Sorry about the length...I was on a roll. OK, I'm done.prsport
  9. CHPL

    CHPL Member
    Messages: 82

    Pictures of sites before , after , and during service. Log times, who is doing what, where and when. The more documentation that you have the harder it is to prove that you were negligent.
  10. MSsnowplowing

    MSsnowplowing Senior Member
    Messages: 761

    Even writing in your contract not responsible for slips and falls unless due to gross negliance means nothing.

    My first and only lawsuit was in 2010.
    A guy slipped and fell on the sidewalks on a Non storm day.
    I didn't even do the sidewalks, I just plowed the road, their own maintenance handled them.

    Their insurance got my insurance involved -(this was bull S and they shouldn't have) and we all got sued because both insurance companys denied the claim.

    The main focus of the lawsuit for me was they tried to tie me to the property as being part of maintenance.

    My contract clearly stated we only did the roads and only went to the property during snow storms and we were a independent contractor seperate from the place.

    That got me out of the lawsuit but took a lawyer and almost 3 years-(paid for by my insurance). My out of pocket expensive was my $500 deductable.

    Lession learned:
    make sure your contract clearly states you only go there during Snow Storms.
    You are not responsible for any icy conditions due to melt off because you are not maintenance and your not responsible for checking the property on non storm days.

    I also spell it out that for any salting for icy conditions or 1 inch snow fall must be approved by the person in charge.
    This puts it on them if there is a slip and fall and they didn't call me to come salt.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  11. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    Yes you got to have it spelled out right. That why mine was done by a lawyer 20 yrs ago and its held up 10 times out of 10 trips to the court room

    Reason I don't do any work for the Snow Jockey's . They wont sign my contacts for snow.
  12. b16bri

    b16bri Junior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 9

    Ya ill have to talk to a lawyer what do you mean by snow jockeys ? It just pisses me off that there's no such thing as an accident anymore if someone slips and falls instead of getting up and going on with your day everyone's looking to make a buck
  13. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437


    Owner = Box Store company
    Snow Jockey = management Contactor
    Horse = snow sub contactors you and me

    So if anything happens its always the horse's fault

    The jockey makes good money riding on us. Since we do all the work just like a horse in a race

    LOL Does that help
  14. goel

    goel PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,079

    To answers the original question, if you don't want to be sued, the one and only 100 percent way that I know of is for you to work for someone else. It will be a great asset learning so that in the future you have a greater understanding of the business.

    You can eliminate everything you can ever possibly believe, but when it comes down to it the lawyers fight it out and you pay your deductible. And some of the lawsuits you just shake your head at, and that is after you are done beating your head against the wall for 3 days straight.
  15. Big Dog D

    Big Dog D PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,134

    Good thing that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling and helps you to sleep at night.......................................cause that's all it's doing. I have all of those same statements in my contracts and they don't help at all when it happens. Any decent honest lawyer will tell you that those statements don't indemnify you from anything. You will still be responsible in some, way shape or form.

    As has been correctly stated earlier by others, when the lawyers sue, they name and go after everyone they possibly can and those terms aren't going to save you.

    The best thing to do is to keep excellent, thorough, complete records of dates and times serviced, conditions, actions taken etc..... If you plow commercially you will be named sooner or later there is no preventing it. The best thing you can do is to be prepared to defend yourself to minimize the risks and damage to you.
  16. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    One of the best lawyers in my town wrote my contacts I give. Yes it cost some money. Thats pocket changes compare to what a person can sue you for.
    Now if I go to another town for court might be a different story I don't know
  17. b16bri

    b16bri Junior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 9

    It's scary because I'm a solo operation and I'm an LLC which offered some sort of protection but from my understanding is if I'm doing the work and get sued regardless if I have an LLC or not they can attack my personel assets
  18. coldcoffee

    coldcoffee Senior Member
    Messages: 776

    It's easy to over think it, that's normal when starting out, but you can't let those thoughts stop you. Knowledge is power.

    Unless you plan on driving through a nitroglycerin plant next to a church on Christmas Eave at midnight, your insurance should handle most matters, should one ever get that far. If your limits were to fall short because you took out the power to an entire community, chances are they would pursue the property owners insurance as well. Worst case scenario...there's always bankruptcy protection from the court, but if your house is in order, you odds might almost be better of winning the lotto than having to go down that path...or at least the odds of winning the church raffle.
  19. indplstim

    indplstim Senior Member
    Messages: 195

    My wife is a lawyer, and she ran it past one of her old professors and one of the partners of the litigation practice group she is a part of, but legally Im not liable for anything related to any injury on any of the properties I service. They can sue me all they want if they want to throw away thier money. I can represent myself, exibit A, my contract, is rock solid.
  20. kimber750

    kimber750 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,676

    You really want to represent yourself in a $100k lawsuit? I guarantee the person suing you will have a lawyer and that lawyer will find a way twist things around to his advantage.

    My rule is if it is over $5k I am bring a lawyer. Lucky for me this has only happened twice. One tenant tried to sue me for $8600 because she did not like the ceiling paint and wanted move out early. I told her she would lose her security deposit if she broke the lease. To this day I have no idea where she came up with that number. Second time was when a tenant flooded an apt. This one tried to sue me for over $30k. I did not wish to say the wrong thing and cost myself thousands.