Records. Records. Records.
A very good snow contractor keeps their records for seven to 10 years. So what should you do when you are notified you are involved in a lawsuit? The very first move is to notify the insurance company. Normally, this is done through your agent. Forward the paperwork to them. Keep a copy for yourself and start a file. Have someone gather up copies of everything pertaining to that customer for the winter the incident happened. Eventually, you will be asked for it. If the plaintiff’s attorney does not ask for it, you may find the lawyer for the insurance company may be able to utilize the information on your behalf. When notifying the insurance company of the suit, include a note stating you want to chat with the adjuster assigned to your case. Telling the adjuster your side of the story at the outset may prove to be beneficial. The adjuster can be a great advocate for you with the insurance carrier, especially if you have properly documented your activities for the time of the incident.
Once a lawyer is assigned to your case by the insurance carrier you need to be forthright and honest with him about everything surrounding your business and the date of the incident. Participate and assist with your own defense. It can help a lot since the lawyer needs to understand what you do and how you do it. Never assume the lawyer knows about the snow removal industry. My experience is they do not. However, they want to learn and it is up to you to assist in their education. It will make it much easier to defend you.
It is not up to you to determine if the lawyer takes your case to trial or attempts to settle it in a manner favorable to the insurance company. But, if you can adequately document your activities, can prove you were not negligent, and educate your lawyer about your business, then you have a much better chance to lower the payout to a size whereby you are not considered a liability to your insurance carrier.
And this part is worth repeating…….. Records. Records. Records. You cannot have enough. And, surprisingly, it doesn't take that much extra time to keep thorough records. Ask the contractors who do keep copious records. They will tell you it's worth it in the long run.