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Florida Construction Law Blog

Florida woman sues after allegedly falling on construction debris

Florida construction companies often have to deal with civil lawsuits long after their work on a property is done. However, sometimes the construction process itself can result in alleged injuries that can open these companies up to litigation.

Last month, an Orlando woman living in the Nassau Bay Apartments filed a lawsuit alleging that she slipped on construction debris that was left on the stairs of her building and suffered multiple injuries as a result. She filed a lawsuit against the construction company as well as the company that owns the apartment building. According to the lawsuit, the defendants did not maintain the apartment building in a reasonably safe manner.

4 mistakes made during the construction process

When starting a construction project or hashing out a contract, it's important to make sure that all parties are on the same page. Mistakes can cause disputes, slow jobs down and get very costly.

First off, both sides should be very clear about the budget. Contractors need to be transparent with prices, costs and quotes, and homeowners or business owners need to be honest about what they can afford. Misunderstandings about money can escalate quickly.

Construction contracts should cover project change orders

When drafting construction contracts, it's very important to consider project change orders. The procedures that should be followed need to be laid out in the contract. For example, some suggest notices have to be given at least 10 days in advance.

This can help both contractors and owners. The owner needs to make the contractor aware of any desired changes well in advance, and the contractor needs to give the same courtesy to the owner. This helps everyone stay on the same page regarding budgets, deadlines and more, and it can thereby reduce the amount of potential disagreements.

Why do construction jobs go over budget?

One of the most common reasons for a construction dispute is simple: The project runs over budget. The homeowner doesn't want to pay any more, but he or she also doesn't want the company to stop before the job is done. At the same time, the company doesn't want to just eat those costs.

A project can run over budget for a number of reasons; a few examples are below:

When contractors and clients don't envision the same results

Clients often look for low bids when hiring a contractor. If one bids $100,000 and the other bids $75,000, they'll go with the contractor who costs $25,000 less.

This makes sense, of course, but it can lead to some problems, especially when clients and contractors aren't envisioning the same results, the same level of quality, and the same finished product. The client thinks that the quality is exactly the same with both bids, and he or she is happy to save money. The contractor thinks that the client isn't really "saving" money at all. He or she is just paying less for a lower-quality job.

Communication can help prevent construction disputes

One of the best ways to avoid a construction dispute -- whether it's a contract dispute, a dispute over the quality of the finished product or something else entirely -- is to make sure that there is open communication on both sides. Contractors and homeowners must focus on communication from the beginning to the end of the job.

First of all, it's important to note that communication should be continuous. Don't just talk at the beginning and then check back in at the end. That often leads to disputes if there was any miscommunication at the beginning. Instead, check in at least once per week to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Examples of high-cost construction defects

High-cost construction defects can often lead to lawsuits after renovation projects or new buildings. With a lot of money on the line, it's important for those on both sides to know where they stand and what legal options they have. This starts with an understanding of common high-cost defects, which could include:

-- Issues with structural integrity. These issues could come from masonry or carpentry work. At their worst, they could render a structure entirely unsafe and mean that extensive modifications are needed. An unstable foundation that is discovered only after a home is built on top of it is extremely problematic.

General construction phases that require an inspection

To make sure that building codes are being followed, inspections have to take place during the project. These can happen at various times, and codes and regulations do vary. However, there are a few main phases that generally trigger an inspection before moving on to the next phase. These are as follows:

-- After the foundation has been poured

Be wary of bid rigging, even when it's done accidentally

You work in construction, so you know that bidding on jobs is just how the industry works much of the time. You also know that bid rigging -- the act of colluding with others who are technically competitors -- is illegal. You would never do it intentionally.

However, it's important to understand just how serious this is. Even if it's done unintentionally, you could still violate the Sherman Act, which was set up in 1890 to prevent this type of collusion.

Avoiding and reacting to construction disputes

Your overall goal is to avoid construction disputes, and there are many steps you can take to minimize the risk. One of the most important things to do, for example, is to be very careful with the drafting of contracts, both to ensure that they adhere to the local laws and to make sure that both sides are really happy with the terms.

You don't want to rush these things, which can lead to mistakes or oversights. These, in turn, can lead to disputes that cost time and money, all which bogging down the project.

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