Think you're protected by a contract? Don't be so sure

Contracts are critical tools for any business. They define relationships and set rules for conduct when two parties agree to work with each other. If you own a business in Florida, chances are that you have at least a few contracts in place with partners, contractors, clients and others and rely on those documents to protect yourself.

However, if that contract is unenforceable, it may actually provide little or no protection whatsoever. Rather than learn this lesson the hard way when it comes time to try and enforce the terms set in a contract, it can be wise to review your contracts with an attorney sooner rather than later and identify any potential problems that exist or may come up.

One of the first things you need to confirm is that what you have is in fact a contract; simply calling something a contract is not enough. A contract must involve an exchange of something of value and it must be show that both parties agree that an offer was made and accepted.

Any contract you do have is still vulnerable to challenges, particularly if it contains unenforceable clauses. If your contract contains terms deemed illegal, it may not be enforced. If the contract contains mistakes or false information, it may not be enforceable.

Further, your contract may be invalid if one party was not legally fit to sign such a document. For instance, if a party felt threatened, coerced or unfairly persuaded to sign a contract, it may not be valid. In that same vein, a contract may not be enforced if there is reason to suspect the weaker party did not have the opportunity or understanding to negotiate grossly unfair terms.

Before you stake your business and your reputation on a contract with another party, it can be crucial that you discuss the terms and validity of the document with an attorney. Even if you have already signed a contract, there may be ways to challenge it. Having an attorney discuss your options in the event of a challenge can also be crucial in protecting yourself and your company.