It’s a business owner’s worst fear: suffering a lawsuit by unhappy clients. Unfortunately, even the best businesses will sometimes find themselves in court defending against frivolous lawsuits, but there are a lot of steps you can take to minimize the risk. Note, our tips do not constitute legal advice, but they can help avoid the kinds of situations that can turn into costly trips to court.
Create a solid contract. Your first and last line of defense against lawsuits is a solid contract. Because state laws and the operations of different businesses vary so much, it pays to consult an attorney when creating your legal documents. It’s definitely an investment, but it’s nothing compared to damages you might have to pay if you lose a suit.
When you consult an attorney, try to find one familiar with the intricacies of weddings. Note that not only do you have incredibly expensive equipment to protect, but you’re also often in control of irreplaceable client property like the wedding dress or heirloom rings, so limiting liability may be important in your documents.
Promise Only What You Can Deliver. It seems really basic, but it’s part of a simple equation: happy clients = fewer (if no) lawsuits. Keep your clients’ expectations reasonable by promising what you are able to provide and on a reasonable deadline you can meet.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Nothing makes a couple more nervous than radio silence. If they have concerns, let them know that you are aware and that you are working on the issue. Send updates and don’t avoid contact, unless your clients have crossed the line into abusive behavior.
Maintain Your Equipment. Keeping your equipment in prime shape will help you maintain the quality of your product and images. Prevent problems by ensuring that everything is in working order, charged and ready to go on shoot days.
Bring Backup. This could be in the form of additional equipment in case of failure, or actual human backup. It just makes sense to have more than one shooter. If a memory card fails, or something significant happens when it isn’t supposed to, you’re far more likely to be covered if you have someone supporting you on site.
Choose Your Clients. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve met that couple – the one that you KNEW you shouldn’t sign because you just didn’t jive at your initial consultation. Income is important, but not at the expense of your sanity and security. If you are worried about saying no, try letting your prospects know that you would never want to take a wedding that wasn’t a fabulous match because you want every couple to have the best experience possible. Follow your gut and don’t compromise your standards just for a paycheck.
Hold an Engagement Session. Engagement sessions allow you to get to know your couples, and for couples to better understand the way you work, what your product looks like, and what they can expect on their wedding day. It’s a trial run. If your engagement session is a disaster, it’s much better to fix, or even end the relationship before the wedding day, when you don’t get a do-over.
Of course, any business, even the best, can encounter litigious clients, so even the most cautious, well-planned strategy could still result in a lawsuit. However, you’ll dramatically decrease your odds of ending up in court if you follow these simple tips.
What else would you suggest doing to avoid a lawsuit as a wedding photographer?