A Comprehensive Guide to Construction Defect Claims and How to Avoid Them
One of the most disheartening things a general contractor can ever experience is learning that they are being held liable for a construction defect on a project they successfully completed years ago. It’s easy to feel as if all of your hard work, long hours, and extensive planning could go right down the drain in an instant due to a construction defect claim. Each year, hundreds of contractors find themselves in a situation like this with very few ways to defend themselves against wrongful accusations and lawsuits.
Fortunately, while not all construction defects can be prevented, there are a number of ways that you can employ your legal rights to prepare and defend against unmerited construction defect claims. For a legal partner that will protect your rights and fight construction defect claims on your behalf, consult with a Fort Lauderdale construction defect lawyer from Cotney Attorneys & Consultants.
Understanding the Categories of Construction Defects
Generally speaking, when you receive notice of a construction defect claim, you’ll find that the courts categorize construction defects into one of the four categories: design, material, workmanship, and maintenance defects. Before we go further into preventing and disputing construction defect claims, it’s important to understand these different categories of defects. Below, we’ve outlined a brief description of each category of construction defects:
- Design Defects: These defects arise as a result of a design professional’s failure to produce concise, accurate, and well-organized construction documents. The construction team then builds the structure based on the improper design, and problems occur as a result.
- Material Defects: These defects arise as a result of damaged or inferior building materials. The parties using these materials aren’t typically aware of these issues until the materials have already been incorporated into the project or other problems have sprouted up.
- Workmanship Defects: These defects arise as a result of poor workmanship, or the contractor failing to construct the building in accordance with the construction documents.
- Subsurface Defects: These defects arise as a result of unstable foundation or soil conditions. The subsurface conditions must be properly compacted and prepared for adequate damage to prevent these issues.
Related: Are Construction Defects Avoidable?
Managing Risk and Limiting Liability
Now that we have a good understanding of the different types of construction defects, it’s time to look into how you can reduce the risk for these types of defects and minimize liability. First and foremost, you’ll want to review your contract with the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale contractor lawyer. Even one minor provision can often be the difference in deciding where the responsibility will land in the event of a construction defect. Vague language, for example, almost always leads to a dispute as it becomes unclear where the fault lies regarding a defect and no party is willing to accept responsibility. Avoid having your company be held liable for a groundless defect by reviewing your contract with a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute attorney to determine whether it clearly assigns accountability and helps minimize your exposure to defect claims.
Next, there is quality assurance and proper documentation. Essentially, you’ll want to create a well-administering quality control program that includes specific steps to ensure your project is protected. These steps may include the following:
- Forming a quality control committee
- Conducting pre-work site assessments
- Performing regular inspections
- Keeping records of formal approvals and verifications
- Maintaining systematic photos, conducted testing, and other documents of quality assurance activities
You’ll also want to periodically conduct audits of as-builts to get the best evidence you can in terms of proof of acceptability and as-built condition.
Defending Against Construction Defect Claims
In the event that your company has been notified of a construction defect claim, you need to partner with a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute lawyer who can put your business in the best position possible to defend itself. First, we’ll help you to review Florida defect law. Under Florida Law, a defect claim may be able to be dismissed if filed after a certain time period due to the statute of limitations. Alternatively, you may be entitled to an opportunity to repair the construction defect as a result of Florida’s right-to-repair laws. This is just one aspect of why it’s so important to have a legal ally by your side throughout the process.
If an owner rejects your offer of repairs or a combination of repairs and monetary payment, it may be in your best interest to dispute the claim. In this circumstance, you’ll need a lawyer who can guide you throughout the entire claims process, weigh your options, and ensure you don’t end up paying for a defect that you didn’t cause.
If you would like to speak with a Fort Lauderdale construction defect lawyer, please contact us today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.