Monthly Archives: August 2012

Legal Contracts – If You Signed It, You Are Probably Stuck With It

Read it before you sign it

Legal Contracts are often binding

A. Lewis Ward helps consumers and business owners with legal contracts, other legal matters and avoiding legal mistakes

All too often I hear from people explaining how they are faced with a big problem, that they are being dumped on by a company or another party, and surely something should be done about it.

Many times, in actuality, the other party is within their legal rights because of a written legal contract signed by the person complaining. All too often, people sign documents that they do not read or that they do not understand, which can cause serious trouble!  Legally speaking, you are presumed to have read and understand any document or agreement that you sign.

Generally, it matters not that you did not read it or that you did not understand it. Therefore, if you have not read it or if you do not understand it, please do not sign. If you have a question about legal contracts, it may cost very little or nothing to simply pick up the telephone and ask an attorney to explain it to you.

This is not to say that you are always stuck with every legal contract you sign. There are legal concepts with fancy names such as fraud in the inducement, misrepresentation, mistake of law, and mistake of fact which can be and are employed to set aside legal contracts when the facts make it possible. There are also breaches of the contract – sometimes even anticipatory breaches – that might enable you to terminate a contract which you have signed. But, without these factors being present, you can usually be made to comply with an agreement that you signed or pay damages for your failure to do so.

When it comes to important transactions, I suggest that you get the document or contract in advance – these are often preprinted forms. In the privacy of your home or office, without being rushed, review the document or agreement. Although the wording may be somewhat difficult or strange, you should be able to figure out who is who in the agreement. But, there may be concepts or other terms which carry important legal significance which you do not understand. In that event, you should call an attorney for assistance. If you do not have the time and forethought to review an important document or agreement in this fashion, nevertheless read it before you sign it – even if it causes the other party to wait while you do so.

If it doesn’t feel right, don’t sign it!! Do not let being in a hurry or your enthusiasm to do this deal cloud your thinking. The delay and disappointment may be small relative to the damage you do to yourself.