Infrastructure Law

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What to Do If Accused of Damage or Defects When Laying Underground Utilities

Winning a major government infrastructure project can propel your career to new levels. Landing a contract to lay or repair underground utilities, like electric lines, sewers, gas lines, water mains, or phone and cable lines, is even more impressive. However, just as you may face accusations of damage or defects in private projects, you may also face disputes and accusations of defects on underground utilities projects.

Accusations of a defect or damage of any type can be frustrating but, if there is a defect in underground utilities, it can be extremely costly to repair and difficult to handle. If you are working on a project to lay or repair underground utilities, preventing defects and defending against accusations of defects are key. In this brief article, Ft. Myers contractor attorney with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants shares ways to prevent accusations of defects in underground utilities and what you should do if accused of defects on these projects.

Related: The Dangers of Digging: Underground Utilities

What Common Types of Damage Occur in Underground Utilities?

There are a number of defects that can occur when you are laying underground utilities and a number of ways you may be liable for damage to existing utilities. This is frustrating but not uncommon.

In fact, most damage to underground utilities occurs during the digging process rather than the actual repair process. Every six minutes, underground utilities are damaged due to non-compliance with safe digging practices as outlined by OSHA. Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations, so it is not surprising that without the proper precautions, damage can occur to utility lines in addition to dangers to those doing the digging.

The most common types of damage that can occur to underground utilities include:

  • Electric lines: These pose one of the greatest threats to diggers. Severing an electric line with metal tools can result in immediate electrocution. In the past, rushed jobs have left workers with irreversible injuries from electrocution, and some of those instances have resulted in fatalities. Damaged electric lines can also result in active fires, so contact the utility company immediately if you strike an electric line while digging.
  • Phone and cable lines: These don’t pose a direct threat to construction workers but, if they are damaged during excavation, it can be inconvenient for local residents in the area of your job site.
  • A burst water main: Close proximity to electrical outlets or exposed wires of any kind could be deadly in a water main break.

Ft. Myers construction dispute attorney can discuss the best ways to prevent damage while working on a project that requires digging as well as projects that require laying underground utilities.

Related: 6 Electrical Hazards on the Jobsite

What Common Types of Defects can Occur in Underground Utility Projects?

While less common than damage to underground lines, there are a few common types of defects that can occur. But, before we touch on the most common types of defects underground, it’s important to understand how a defect differs from damage that occurs during building.

A construction defect is any flaw in the design, workmanship, or materials of a structure that results in a failure of one or more of the structure’s components. This can be something that is obvious at the time of project completion (patent) or discovered at a later time (latent). This differs from damage caused by construction because defects are a flaw in the design caused by a number of factors, from negligence to design flaws and material issues during the construction process, while damage occurs to a project that has already been completed.

Now that we have touched on the definition of a defect, we can understand the most common defects in underground utilities projects. The most common defects include:

  • Subsurface Defects: These are defects related to the ground beneath a project. Subsurface defects tend to occur when contractors fail to account for factors like shifting soil, hillside slopes, or proximity to mapped sinkholes.
  • Material Defects: These are defects related to the materials used during the project. Material defects include faulty electrical systems, cracked pipes, and damaged cables. This can lead to gas leaks, water main breaks, shorted lines, and slow internet speeds due to impeded or damaged cables.
  • Design Defects: These are defects related to the architectural or engineering design specifications. Design defects can be a result of poor planning on behalf of the designer or lackluster execution by the builders. For example, think of a system of pipes that do not connect where they should or cables that must cross over one another.
  • Workmanship Defects: These are defects related to subpar construction that stem from inferior workmanship.

If you have been accused of a construction defect, you should contact a Ft. Myers construction defect lawyer as quickly as possible to address the situation.

Related: Construction Defects: Landscape and Soil Defects

What to Do If You Are Accused of Defects in an Underground Utility Project

Accusations of a defect or damage may not be immediate, but they are always to be taken seriously. If you are facing accusations of damage or defects to an underground utility project, contact a Ft. Myers construction defect attorney with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants as soon as possible.

Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide a myriad of other valuable services for construction businesses, including contract review, employment law advice, and litigation and arbitration services. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, permitting issues, stop-work orders, business immigration, and more.

If you would like to speak with a Ft. Myers construction defect attorney, 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.