People are complicated, and sometimes what you might consider trivial could be a big deal to someone else.
There are small, seemingly innocent actions we do on a daily basis and don't think twice about that could actually get us in big trouble.
If there's an opportunity to milk you for money, someone will figure out a way to sue you. In 2013, civil lawsuits made up $233 billion of the U.S. economy, so you should always protect yourself from having to contribute to that number.
Here are 10 things you do everyday that could lead to a lawsuit and how you can protect yourself:
1. Leaving a negative review
At some point, we've all received bad service from a business. More often than not when that happens, many of us turn to the internet to share our dissatisfaction, but you'll want to think twice before doing that ever again.
While companies encourage their customers to leave feedback, even if it's bad, to help them improve their services, this doesn't mean that you always should. Writing a bad review could cause a company to lose clients, which results in loss of revenue.
You could find yourself in hot water after writing a really bad review if the company decides to sue you for libel.
How to protect yourself: Before you post a public review, make sure that every statement you make is fact that can be backed up and not just your opinion about the service you received.
2. Shaming a person online
Over the last few years, social media has made it exceptionally easy to publicly shame another person.
However, you should always be very careful about what you say to others on the internet because there are certain types of speeches that aren't protected by the First Amendment.
Publicly humiliating a person, be it a celebrity or ex-lover, could get you sued for defamation and/or libel. In 2012, a couple in Texas were awarded 13.8 million dollars after winning a defamation lawsuit.
In the instances where shaming amounts to cyber-bullying, you could end up with criminal charges and even land yourself in jail.
How to protect yourself: Avoid making negative comments towards another person on the internet, even if they were the one in the wrong. If you really can't help it and you must use social media as an outlet to vent, make sure you don't make any false statements that could harm the person's reputation or cause them financial loss.
3. Getting hit by another motorist
What many drivers don't know is that their basic car insurance can only provide protection to a certain degree. Things can get easily complicated and very expensive if you get into a crash involving an uninsured or underinsured driver.
If you don't have an insurance plan that goes beyond the minimum requirements, you may find yourself at the center of a civil suit after an accident caused by another driver who doesn't have any or enough insurance to cover all the damages.
Creditors could take you to court if you don't have enough money to make up the difference.
How to protect yourself: Always opt for a comprehensive insurance package that will give you as much underinsured motorist coverage as possible. Some experts advice that you should have a limit of no less than a $1,000,000.
4. Sharing a funny image
When it comes to funny photos and memes, many of us are always guilty of clicking the share button without stopping to think twice.
While it may not seem like a big deal, this type of behavior could trigger severe consequences. Many images and videos on the internet are protected by copyright laws, and you could face a lawsuit for sharing them on your blog or social media page.
Even if the image was posted years ago or already shared by others before you, you could still get into trouble.
“The owner of the image can then sue you for using their work without permission," warns Tanisha Nicole Moore, a virtual intellectual property lawyer at Moore Legal Solutions LLC.
How to protect yourself: Resist the temptation to share content that has been passed on to you, and if you have any photos and videos that belong to someone else, delete them from your accounts. The best way to avoid a copyright suit is by only posting photos and videos that you've personally taken or purchased from a reputable source.
5. Posting videos with music
Next to cat videos, lip-syncing and dance challenge clips are probably the most of popular types of videos on the internet, but they could get people in trouble.
If you were thinking of jumping on the bandwagon and sharing a videos of yourself, someone you know or an event, make sure you don't include any copyrighted music.
If you're lucky, your video will be taken down and nothing more. But in some cases, you could get sued for stealing intellectual property even if you credit the rightful owner of the song.
How to protect yourself: Ask for permission before using music that's protected by copyright laws. If you can't leave music out of your video, opt for royalty-free tunes.
6. Water cooler chats at work
Whether it's by the water cooler or in the lunchroom, every office has an unofficial communal gathering place where co-workers converse and gossip.
However, no matter how comfortable you are with your colleagues, you should always try to remain as professional as possible to avoid having your comments misconstrued. What you might find light-hearted, could be interpreted as offensive by another person.
You and the company could be held liable if an offended party decides to file a lawsuit citing harassment, discrimination or a toxic work environment.
How to protect yourself: As long as you're at work, keep the playful banter to a minimum and avoid personal topics as much as possible. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't ask your co-worker about their recent vacation or how they spent their weekend, but don't press for details they may be uncomfortable sharing.
7. Tagging someone in photo on social media
Even though getting tagged in a picture and tagging others are all a normal part of interacting with friends on social media, it could end up costing you.
In the U.S., everyone has "the right to publicity," which means you shouldn't share their photograph online without permission or you could get sued.
You could also face a civil suit if you tag someone in an image that ends up ruins their reputation or affects their livelihood.
How to protect yourself: Always ask for permission before you upload a photo of another person. Instead of tagging people, even if they're your friends or family, let them do it themselves if they're comfortable doing so.
8. Recording a video in public
We're currently living in a society where most people have mobile devices and are ready to record at any given moment.
Unfortunately, certain videos recorded in public may be illegal and put you at the risk of getting hit with a lawsuit.
This is mainly because when you capture a video of an incident, chances are you've intentionally or unintentionally included unsuspecting strangers in the content without their permission.
This is especially important to keep in mind if you live in a "two-party" state - California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washingto - where you must have permission to record a conversation or a video, including security camera footage.
How to protect yourself: It's hard to take a video in public without including bystanders, so if you can't ask for their permission, then just don't bother recording.
9. Selling products online
Platforms like Etsy have opened up a whole new world for the creative-types who want to sell their unique products online, but not all of them are created equal.
If you're someone who runs an online store, you should ensure that your devices and websites are fully protected to avoid compromising customers' data.
In the event of an cyber attack, you could end up getting sued if customer information leaks and causes damages to them.
How to protect yourself: If you can't do it yourself, hire a professional to check that your web store is safe and secure. Alternatively, you can sell your products on a sites like eBay or Etsy, which are designed to ensure that people can securely carry out transactions.
10. Walking your dog
Dog owners may not realize this, but they take a risk every time they take their pooch for a walk.
In the event that your dog bites a person, even if they were provoked, you could be held liable if that person decided to file a suit. Even if your dog has never bitten anyone or shown aggression in the past, you may end up having to pay the price.
How to protect yourself: If a person reports a bite, one of the first questions you'll be asked is whether or not your furry friend was on a leash, so always make sure your dog is on one. Failure to prove that your dog was on a leash will make it easy for the accuser to claim that you could've prevented the attack.