Owning a small business comes with higher stakes, especially when it comes to lawsuits. Not only are they time-consuming and bad for your company’s reputation but as a small business owner, a lawsuit against your company could also mean loss of your personal assets.
In reality, misunderstandings, incidents, and mistakes that would mean trouble for larger organizations could cost you everything. However, there are ways you can protect your business from liability.
1- Purchase Liability Insurance
First things first, get liability insurance as
soon as possible. Annual premiums typically cap out at around $2,000 per year
which, in the grand scheme of things, is a worthwhile cost seeing as how it can
help you avoid owing millions in a lawsuit.
The type of liability insurance you need depends
on the nature of your business. However, all business owners should invest in General Liability Insurance
which protects your company in the case of an accident, injury, or
You may also want to purchase personal liability
insurance if you have substantial assets. This is especially true if you
operate as a sole proprietorship.
When selecting your insurance policy, make sure
to carefully consider the coverage maximum. If this is too low, it could leave
you open to serious financial trouble because you will be responsible for
paying out anything over that limit.
2- Perform a Background Check on Every New Employee
Hiring employees is necessary for
virtually every business but expanding your team also exposes you to risks.
While you can’t know everything about a new employee, you can uncover important
personal, criminal, and employment details that can help you avoid hiring
Fortunately, there are many companies that
provide affordable small business background checks. Running a background check on every person you plan to bring
onto your team can help you avoid hiring someone who might jeopardize the
safety of your workplace or the livelihood of your company.
3- Separate Personal Assets from Business Assets
If you have not established a formal business
structure, you should. Formalizing your business structure establishes your
business as a separate entity. Don’t hesitate to set up separate bank accounts as
It is a fairly simple process that protects your
personal assets from responsibility for business liabilities and debts.
However, it does not relieve you of all liability. You will be held personally
You commit a crime while
running the business
Sign a contract with your name
instead of the business name
Your actions lead to an injury
You fail to maintain good
business standing with the proper authorities
Every small business owner should have a basic
understanding of the differences between business and personal liability.
4- Establish Good Recordkeeping
Documenting every aspect of your business might
seem time-consuming but it is a proactive measure that could prove highly
beneficial should you ever run into any legal trouble or are audited by the
IRS. You should also make sure that you keep your licenses current. Any gap
could have serious consequences.
Paper copies can get destroyed or lost so make
sure to always have electronic records of business documentation and that
aren’t kept on just one computer’s hard drive. To best protect yourself, you
will want to keep track of:
Receipts for expenses that you plan on writing off
Documentation pertaining to your business’ income
Proof of payment for Estimated Tax Payments
Accounting ledgers and journals
Personnel files on all employees (for at least a year after termination or resignation)
That being said, make sure you always get everything
in writing. From customer complaints to incidents with employees, nothing is
insignificant. Keep in mind that even the most casual agreements you make with
other parties could come back to haunt you.
5- Have an Attorney on Retainer
If you can afford to hire an attorney, you
should. With a business
law attorney to provide guidance,
you can better navigate any issues that do arise or even prevent them from
happening in the workplace.
Your attorney can advise you on your
responsibilities as an employer and help you put safeguards in place to protect
your business. From setting up the best business structure to workplace
conduct, they have your back. They can also usually reference you to a reliable
personal injury or workers’
compensation lawyer should you need one.
Don’t leave your business exposed to unnecessary
risks, take these 5 steps to protect your business from liability.
About Author: Chris Fraser
Chris has served as a business advisor to a big list of small and micro businesses; localized businesses and social enterprise in particular. Chris is also an avid reader and loves to stay updated about latest tech and innovation.