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Keeping your business lawsuit-free

If you're in business long enough, you'll probably eventually get into a dispute that has you facing off against someone in a courtroom -- however, the goal is to prevent that from happening as long as possible and as often as possible.

Here are some of the best ways to keep your business lawsuit-free:

1. Guard your company's intellectual property.

Intellectual property could be anything from the recipe for your double-caramel salted chocolate popcorn to your idea for the newest widget on the market. You don't want a competitor, former employee or ex-business partner walking off with any of these things. Make sure that you have agreements in place to cover who has what rights to any intellectual property used or discovered on company time or with company equipment.

2. Protect your customer's information.

Data breeches are ugly -- and big businesses have suffered heavily at the hands of hackers who managed to get into servers and take information about customers and clients away with them. Target barely weathered the storm when it happened and Home Depot suffered similarly -- and they're hardly alone. Invest in the right software, hardware and security services to keep your clients' personal information personal -- or your business could lose more than just their trust.

3. Cover yourself in case of an emergency.

Sit down with your trusted insurance agent and find out what types of insurance you need. For example, you can now get insurance that will protect you and reimburse your clients for identity theft if it was caused by a data breach through your company's computers. You may also need insurance that would cover you if you have to temporarily shut your doors due to a family emergency and are unable to meet a contract's terms in time.

4. Shield yourself from problem employees.

Sexual harassment claims, wrongful discharge claims and charges of discrimination are frustratingly common, no matter what kind of business you are in. As your business grows, make certain that you sit down with a good employment law attorney to discuss employee handbooks, disciplinary policies and similar issues to make sure that your plans are in line with both state and federal laws.

Establishing a relationship with a business attorney now can help you avoid court in the long run -- and know where to turn if a lawsuit does happen.

Source: Investopedia, "Don't Get Sued: 5 Tips To Protect Your Small Business," Glenn Curtis, accessed Aug. 23, 2017

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