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Can you avoid a costly construction lawsuit?

If you are a Broward County contractor, you may have faced lawsuits related to construction disputes. While some litigation may be unavoidable in this industry, many mistakes can be prevented or corrected before the paper chase begins.

Familiarizing yourself with common causes of construction lawsuits and suggestions for how to avoid them could help your business in the future.

Disputes over time

Completing a project on time is essential. However, every contractor knows that "stuff happens." Weather delays, client interference, changes in the project specs or designs, labor problems and site conditions all can add hours that turn into days or even weeks. Remember to account for these potential delays when projecting completion dates to avoid unmet expectations.

Design deficiencies

The webzine Engineers Daily, a knowledge database for those in the engineering field, claims that design deficiencies are responsible for nearly 40 percent of construction disputes. Design deficiencies include incomplete, poorly designed and inaccurate project plans and can add substantial costs to the build.

Fast-tracking construction projects to appease clients can rush the architect, creating flawed blueprints or incomplete designs. Incomplete risk analyses that fail to factor in overtime costs or other expenses can also tank a construction project.

Client reaction to finished projects

Clients may express dissatisfaction with the outcome of a build over real or perceived design flaws. Contractors need satisfied clients for their businesses to thrive, so often it is worth your while to concede and fix any cosmetic or minor flaws. However, some solutions can't be achieved so easily.

This is where good documentation is a contractor's best friend. Being able to illustrate clearly any deviations from the plans, as per the client's instructions, can justify the end results. Even with excellent documentation, you could still wind up having to share your side in a courtroom.

Keeping the lines of communication open to clients is vital. It's far easier to resolve a problem early in the building process than to have to alter it later. Good record-keeping can be your lifesaver if clients complain about delays and extended completion dates. Being able to show how hurricane warnings or breaches in the supply chain delayed projects can disprove allegations of negligence.

If you have any inkling that a dispute will turn into a lawsuit, engaging your legal team immediately to strategize on how best to protect your company's reputation.

Source: True Look, "Common Construction Lawsuits and How to Fix Them," James White, accessed Feb. 02, 2018

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