Litigation is the process of taking or contesting a legal action in court to settle a dispute. The court has the authority to enforce or determine the rights or obligations of one party. Because of the adversarial nature of the construction industry and the tendency for disputes, litigation is not uncommon.
Construction litigation is a branch of law that deals with legal disputes that arise from construction projects.
Common Causes of Construction Litigation
As a business owner in the construction industry, you may be faced with legal issues sooner than you expect. Handling such matters personally can come with many financial losses. This is because you neither have experience nor knowledge of your rights.
This is why it is crucial to get the best business lawyer you can find. Business lawyers can guide your business in preventing, navigating, and resolving complicated legal issues. This way, you can tackle issues before they escalate and hurt your business.
Construction disputes can be caused by several environmental and behavioural factors. Building agreements and injury claims or unjust death caused by negligent behaviour can both give rise to disputes.
Construction litigation, in both cases, refers to civil lawsuits involving private parties. It is governed by rules and burdens of proof that differ from those applicable to criminal prosecution.
- Delays in Construction Projects
Construction delays are arguably the most stressful factor on job sites. They can occur due to weather, delays in getting permits, materials, labour, and a variety of other factors.
Climate change and environmental disasters are beyond human control. However, when it comes to delays caused by things like delivering materials or obtaining permits, the responsible parties are frequently unassociated with the project’s contract.
A client can lose thousands of dollars due to a delay. As a result, legal action may be required to recoup any financial losses.
Contractors can sue for nonpayment when general or trade contractors finish a project, and the owner fails to provide the agreed-upon compensation.
Contractors will usually file a mechanic’s lien in the event of nonpayment. These documents go beyond the scope of a typical lawsuit. In fact, they become fixed to the property’s deed or title and become public records, preventing the property from being sold until the liens are resolved.
Unless the contractor violated the contract terms, the project owner is required to complete the transaction.
- Quality of Construction
Construction quality is critical for a variety of reasons. If the building’s construction is subpar, it poses a risk to all who enter, which could have disastrous consequences.
When an owner discovers flaws in their finished structure, or it fails inspections, the contractor is likely to bear the brunt of the blame. Probably, the labourers were insufficiently skilled, or the materials used were of inferior quality than agreed upon.
You will need an excellent corporate lawyer to defend you in this case. A professional business law firm will be your option if you want to keep your business running. Although there are times when claims can be refuted, like when the contractor used the materials specified in the contract.
- Abandoned Project
A construction company may abandon a project in certain circumstances. For example, a client may violate a payment or fee schedule, making the construction run out of project funding.
Abandonment without legal cause, on the other hand, can result in a lawsuit and disciplinary action from the courts.
- Construction Injuries
Despite increased safety protocols and a lower rate of job site injuries, incidents continue to occur on construction sites daily.
When a worker is injured, numerous factors must be considered before determining who is to blame. If a worker puts themselves in danger on purpose, they are responsible for their actions.
However, if the worker does not receive proper safety education or if working conditions are hazardous, their boss will be held accountable.
Phases of Construction Litigation
A good business lawyer will do whatever they can to keep you out of a lawsuit. But certain cases must go through traditional litigation to be resolved. In situations where your case must go to traditional court, hiring the services of a good business law firm is key to your success.
- Case Investigation
Case Investigation entails your construction litigation attorney gathering evidence. The reason this is the first phase of any lawsuit is to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the case.
Your business lawyer may pinpoint witnesses and take their testimonies. Also, they will put documents together, and evaluate the events leading up to the dispute during the investigation period
If your construction litigation lawyer does not start your case with this, you could waste thousands of dollars in court. Also, your attorney fees will be wasted pursuing a case with no chance of success.
Your construction litigation attorney will draft summons and complaints to begin the lawsuit formally. These documents will be served on the defendant once they have been drafted.
If you were served with the summons and complaint, you should contact a reputable business law firm right away. When you hire a lawyer, they will be able to investigate the allegations made against you.
At this stage in the litigation process, the relevant information is exchanged between parties. Contracts, paperwork, and blueprints are common types of information exchanged during discovery.
Finally, if your construction litigation attorney believes that factual evidence makes the case so one-sided that proceeding to trial is pointless, they can ask the judge for a summary judgement motion.
After discovery, you may be able to reach a summary judgement in some cases. Your construction lawyer will complete the discovery phase and begin preparing for trial during this phase.
The attorneys of both parties make their opening statements once the trial begins. They explain why their cases are more potent, and their opponent’s case is weaker.
In this section, you demonstrate to the judge or jury the strength of your case and the weaknesses of your opponent’s case.
At any point during the litigation process, you can opt to settle. If your case is settled, both parties will engage in negotiations, alternative dispute resolution, and settlement conferences. On the other hand, if the case does not settle, the judge or jury will give a verdict.
If a favourable outcome at trial is not obtained, your lawyer may recommend an appeal, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Tips to Avoid Construction Litigation
- Understand and negotiate all contract terms and conditions with your clients carefully.
- Ensure that your schedules are realistic. Make them flexible enough to account for any defects or anticipated disruptions.
- Prior planning before beginning work can ensure that you finish on time.
- To avoid litigation over the two parties’ legal rights, follow the contract and insist that the other party do the same.
- Always keep your communication emails formal and reasonable.
Construction disputes are unavoidable at times. They can, however, be avoided or solved once they are identified. In each case, consulting an experienced business lawyer can help you save time and money in the long run.