When you undertake a construction project, the goal is to ensure that all contingencies are addressed in the contract documents and all parties have come to a meeting of the minds. However, contract disputes and other construction disagreements do arise. In some cases these disputes arise because a contractor’s work is sub-par or because a supplier or contractor tried to use materials of a lower quality than agreed. On the other side, the dispute may arise because the client fails to make timely payment. However, many construction disputes arise for another reason: the original contract documents were not completely clear.
A Well-Constructed Contract is Your Best Defense
Everyone would prefer to avoid the costly delays that come with construction disputes and litigation. The best protection against such conflicts is to ensure that the original contract documents are clear and complete and for each party to work with an experienced construction lawyer to ensure that the principles have a clear understanding of their rights and obligations, as well as the consequences of breach.
Construction Contract Disputes
Some of the most common issues that arise in construction disagreements include:
- Failure to complete work in a timely manner
- Failure to adhere to plans and specifications
- Changes to original plans and specifications
- Failure to make payment according to schedule
Regardless of the exact nature of the dispute, the vast majority of construction contract conflicts are ultimately about money. Construction delays mean delays in the client’s ability to use the property, cutting into his profits or delaying his ability to make a sale. Changes to plans and specifications, or the need to make corrections after a contractor deviated from the plans cost money, and the parties are often unable to agree on who should be responsible for those costs. Slow payments create cash flow issues for contractors who have to pay employees, subcontractors, and material suppliers to keep the job moving forward.
Thus, in many cases, litigation is not the best answer for either party. Resolving the conflicts in court can mean longer delays and greater expense. In some cases, construction litigation is necessary. But resolving the issues outside of court can benefit both parties by keeping the project moving forward and payments flowing.
Resolving Construction Disputes without Litigation
The first step when a problem arises in the execution of a construction contract should be to address the issue promptly. Often disputed issues collect during the course of a project so that the parties find themselves addressing a number of conflicts all at once just when the project was scheduled for completion. While it may seem preferable to keep working on the undisputed aspects of the contract, resolving smaller issues as they arise will avoid longer delays and drawn-out disputes late in the project.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, even with the help of their attorneys, there are still options for resolution that can move forward more quickly and inexpensively than litigation. Alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration may even be written into the contract.
One alternative method of resolving construction disputes involves submitting the case to a professional mediator. The mediator does not make a decision as a judge or an arbitrator would. Instead, the mediator serves as a go-between for the parties, moving each toward a reasonable solution that will allow them to agree and proceed with the project. The mediator has no power to compel the parties to reach an agreement, so if the conflict remains unresolved after mediation the parties may still proceed to arbitration or to litigation.
Construction Dispute Arbitration
Depending on the terms of the contract or the agreement reached by the parties, arbitration may or may not be binding. Binding arbitration resolves the dispute conclusively with the arbitrator acting similarly to a judge. However, the procedures are more relaxed and arbitration can typically move forward more quickly and require less expense and preparation than full litigation of the issues.
Talk to a Construction Lawyer as Soon as a Dispute Arises
The sooner you take control of a construction dispute and seek out a resolution, the less likely that issue will derail your project, creating costly delays for all parties. An experienced construction attorney can be your best resource for cutting through the accusations and arguments and reaching a resolution that will allow you to move forward. In the event that you are unable to reach an acceptable settlement, our construction attorneys are prepared to fully litigate your case and fight for the compensation you deserve.