Construction Disputes from Start to Finish (And When to Consult a Construction Law Expert)
If you ever find yourself in the midst of a construction dispute, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, you can talk to the contractor to work out a resolution. However, if the issue is too complex or costly for a simple conversation, you can get the law involved.
In this blog, we’ll explain everything you need to know about construction disputes from beginning to end. As always, if you need a construction law expert during this process, please reach out to Clearwater Law Group here in the Tri-Cities.
Construction disputes can happen to anyone involved in construction work. That includes contractors and homeowners, as well as contractors and their subcontractors.
Different types of disputes can come up during the construction process. For instance, perhaps the contractor did not follow the plans laid out in the original agreement, or they did not finish the work agreed upon in a reasonable amount of time and failed to communicate with the homeowner about the longer completion time.
On the subcontractor side, perhaps a contractor repeatedly failed to pay, or maybe a subcontractor’s work was poorly executed and could lead to issues with other parts of the job. In that case, a contractor may want to pursue a construction dispute.
Regardless of the reason for the construction dispute, let’s discuss a little about how the dispute process works.
The first thing you’ll need to do is inspect your contract and see if you agreed to a certain dispute method and/or process in the event of a construction dispute. If your agreement does cover what to do in the event of a dispute, it should explain what conditions must be present to begin the dispute process.
On the other hand, let’s say that the contract doesn’t mention any particular course of action if a dispute were to occur. In that scenario, it is up to the court what happens next once you file a lawsuit or take another step toward resolving the dispute.
Some of the most common resolution methods include mediation, negotiation, arbitration, and litigation (a last resort if the parties cannot resolve the case themselves and with the assistance of a third party).
It is common for agreements to contain an arbitration clause, which means that the parties must go through arbitration and mediation prior to litigation.
If the issue with the contractor has not reached a resolution, the next step is to contact a construction law attorney who can help you through the mediation and arbitration processes, as well as to litigation if it gets to that point.
The dispute process can be stressful and complicated, especially if there is no clear resolution in place or if the other party is not willing to mediate or negotiate despite the agreed-upon contract.
You will want to attempt to work out the situation with the other party before pursuing legal methods if at all possible. However, if negotiation between you and the other party is not feasible, you can expect to hire a construction law attorney to help you go through the correct legal channels and come to a resolution with the other party.
In a construction law case (or any other type of civil law or business law case, for that matter), documentation is important to provide evidence of the need for a dispute. The proper documentation can substantiate your claims and show that you have grounds to take legal action if necessary.
Potential disputes are one of the many reasons why construction companies tend to provide daily reports. These reports may cover everything that happened on a job one day, including issues that arose, the weather, and who was on the job. Daily reports can be used as a form of documentation during the construction law process.
Here are some other examples of documentation used in construction law:
- Purchase orders
- Communication between both parties (e.g., texts and emails)
There are several ways to resolve a construction law case, which we touched on briefly above. Here are some more details about the most common construction law resolution methods:
- Negotiation: This is that initial conversation with the other party after a dispute arises. The goal here is to resolve the issue before taking legal action. Generally, negotiation is satisfactory if you hope to continue working with the contractor, and the dispute is minor. However, if the dispute is major, and you aren’t able to resolve it with one another, mediation and/or arbitration are generally necessary.
- Mediation: This means bringing on a third party who is not tied to either party to help you agree on a resolution. In some cases, you may also work with a specialist who can help you resolve the issue by providing insight into your case.
- Arbitration: This is a common way to resolve construction issues without going to court. Like mediation, a third party (called an arbitrator) will be brought into the picture to make a decision on both parties’ behalf.
- Litigation: If the dispute makes it to litigation (or trial), that means that you have exhausted other dispute resolution methods. While you can appeal the case if it doesn’t go as you’d hoped, remember that anything can happen at trial, and you are bound by law regarding the final determination.
If you have a construction dispute and haven’t been able to work it out with the other party, it’s time to get a construction law expert on your side. At Clearwater Law Group, we are experienced in all facets of construction law and have the legal team needed to take your construction dispute from start to finish.
Ready to talk to an attorney? Clearwater Law Group is here when you need us. Schedule your free one-on-one consultation today to get started.