By Anica Oaks

One of the potential headaches of owning a small business is the possibility of a lawsuit. Unlike a big corporation, you probably don’t have a team of highly paid attorneys on hand to help you in such situations. That’s why you should do everything possible to avoid getting sued in the first place. The following five tips will help minimize the risk of lawsuits from customers, employees and others.

1. Do Your Best to Resolve Disputes Out of Court

In many cases, you can prevent issues from escalating into lawsuits by communicating with the customer, employee or whoever the dispute involves. Try to rise above the emotions of the situation and see if there is something you can do to appease the other person. If a customer is dissatisfied with a product or service, for example, it’s often easier and cheaper to offer a refund—even if you think the other person is completely in the wrong.

2. Have Clear, Written Policies for Employees

Having a guidebook that thoroughly explains all policies involving your employees can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. Be sure to bring up important issues during the hiring process. For example, if you expect employees to work weekends, make sure that this is made clear so they can’t complain that this is an unfair imposition later on. Document all communications with employees.

3. Keep Your Business Safe for Employees and Customers

Many lawsuits occur as a result of accidents that could have been prevented if the business owner had been more conscientious about maintaining a safe workplace. Make sure your business, factory or office is up to par with health and safety regulations. Machinery should be kept in good working order. Spills should be cleaned up promptly. The area outside your business, such as the entrance, parking lot or sidewalk, should be kept free of snow, ice or slippery substances.

4. Consult an Expert When Necessary

If you aren’t sure about a certain law, or if you are facing a possible lawsuit, it’s best to consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Many attorneys, such as those at the Johnston Law Firm, offer free consultations. A legal expert can help you avoid lawsuits by making sure you understand the law. If you are facing a lawsuit, he or she can advise you on the best course of action.

5. Don’t Discriminate When Hiring

You have to be especially careful when hiring people nowadays. Discrimination can involve not only race and religion, but also age, gender, sexual preference and pregnancy status. For example, if you are looking for help, never specify that you are looking for someone young or that you prefer a male or female employee. These simple mistakes can give someone grounds to sue you and claim discriminatory hiring practices.

Small businesses can be especially vulnerable to lawsuits, whether from employees, customers or even strangers. If you take the right precautions, however, you can reduce the likelihood of this happening. While there is never a guarantee you will never be sued, the above guidelines can at least reassure you that you’ve done everything in your power to prevent this from happening.

A professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.