In Georgia, construction projects are subject to claims almost daily–in fact, the construction industry is widely known for having some of the most documented disputes and conflicts of any industry. Disputes can vary so drastically across a single project site, that it can feel overwhelming to pursue a solution because your dispute is so specific, so intricately and situationally detailed. However, over the years a variety of alternative dispute resolutions has evolved from the once single-solution of litigation. Having more avenues for resolution means that less claims are left unresolved. When a conflict is left unresolved, the problems are exacerbated, causing lengthier legal disputes and more expensive consequences.
In Georgia, and especially Atlanta, we want to ensure our construction sites run smoothly, safely, and efficiently. Our workers should feel protected. Our projects should be safe, and completely effectively. So, it is important to be informed on all possible resolutions for construction law disputes. Each individual method offers unique benefits and challenges, serving some claims better than others. Being educated on the wide variety of dispute resolutions best preserves the safety of our workers, the efficiency of our construction projects, and the beauty of Georgia.
The most effective method of resolving construction law disputes is to avoid them altogether. While the project is still in the planning phase, or as soon as it has begun, involving your construction attorney with help drastically reduce the chance of disputes and subsequent claims and conflicts. You can avoid disputes by preparing both legally, and by implementing preparative strategies during construction.
Avoiding Disputes through Legal Preparation
- Choose the right construction attorney for you
- Employ clear, and concisely written, contracts
- Anticipate constructability problems and potential engineering values
- Identify risks and allocate a specific, relevant group to manage them
- Craft a resolution clause that is flexible, and adaptable to changing schedules
Avoiding Disputes in Site Preparation
- Focus on effective communication
- Emphasis on-site diligence
- Make sure all parties involved fully understand the terms of your contract
- Completely, and thoroughly, follow all terms stipulated in the contract
- Ensure all relevant groups equally adhere to the contract
- Make sure contractual obligations are promptly met
- Be proactive with establishing and maintaining project/site records
- Establish regular site meetings
- Regularly discuss progress, complications, and schedules at regular site meetings
- Employ proper caution around danger zones
- Be on the up-and-up with delays, unexpected site complications, and design issues
- Be sure to mitigate when necessary
Despite all your preparation and awareness what if a dispute still arises? We cannot control the weather, or unforeseen complications to our construction sites. Sometimes, a simple breakdown of communication can subtly balloon into a conflict, catching you by surprise. Perhaps you needed to employ a last minute subcontractor substitution, inadvertently violating your contract, or the plans you’d contracted were never really checked to make sure they’d work. You still have options. Even once a dispute has arisen, there are several avenues of conflict resolution you can pursue before relying on litigation. You can:
Negotiations are cost-effective, and preserve control over the resolution. With negotiations, the contract is first consulted to establish legal standings, followed by practical, beneficial, flexible solutions to all parties involved. This helps foster a proactive, dedication to problem-solving, improving communication between parties and lessening the imposition of legal action.
Conducted without lawyers in order to emphasis the needs and opinions of both parties involved, without-prejudice sessions rely on all parties to propose acceptable solutions to the problem at hand. These sessions are efficient, and rarely halt the project’s schedule. All parties involved can reserve their right to pursue formal, legal proceedings at a later date, though no solutions proposed during this session can be evidential of guilt/responsibility.
Involving a Non-attorney Expert
A third-party expert may be invited to oversee negotiations and then provide a non-binding opinion. Both parties involved must agree on the expert selected and agree to respect any advice provided. Including an expert facilitator can effectively lubricate negotiations in order to prevent a breakdown of communications. Sometimes the decision of the expert can be final and binding. This method is both economically efficient, and time efficient.
All parties involved meet with a third-party mediator who helps “referee” discussions between parties, in order to keep conversations and debates focused and civil. The mediator does not judge, provide advice, or make any decisions whatsoever. Mediations often focus on maintaining healthy business relationships so the two conflicting parties can still work together. Mediations are confidential, and solutions are often determined within two days. However, if the dispute goes unresolved, information used in a mediation can also be used if the issue goes to trial.
A third-party, neutral person who is completely unaffiliated or affected by the daily runnings of the site or contract, determines a decision on a conflict. Adjudication is an exceedingly quick, and relatively painless, process, designed to facilitate the continued functions of the site. Though the adjudicator has limited authority, both parties often respect their decision as final–if not, trial is required to enforce the adjudicator’s ruling over the dissenting party.
When Arbitration and Litigation are the Only Options
Litigation and arbitrations are notorious for being lengthy and expensive. Often, litigation and arbitrations can detrimentally halt project schedules, forcing vital personnel to cease their duties in order to attend trial. When litigation and arbitration are pursued, the relationship of the parties involved is usually unmendable, preventing further professional relationships. Furthermore, the outcome of the trial is determined by a judge or arbitrator that rarely has no construction specializations or expertise.
Still, when litigation and arbitration are your only options, they must be pursued. In the name of project preservation, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness, litigation and arbitration should be pursued. The longer a dispute or conflict goes unresolved, the more dramatic the damage.
The dispute is deferred to a third-party arbitrator. Based on facts, evidence, documents, contracts, and applicable principles of law, the arbitrator makes an educated, final decision. Arbitration is confidential, and both parties must agree on the arbitrator, who must be relevantly skilled and qualified. The parties in dispute are responsible for the cost of the arbitration, including paying for the arbitrator and renting venue space, resulting in costs that often equal litigation proceedings. Positively, this process is still lauded as fast and flexible.
Litigation is managed through official court proceedings and trial. The claim is reviewed and assessed by a judge, who will then impose a binding, final decision. Litigation is open to the public, meaning it is not confidential, and can further damage reputations and relationships. Though slow and costly, the process of the trial best eases the fleshing-out of intricate, complex issues, ensuring they are most effectively, and thoroughly, dealt with.
Construction Law Disputes
Construction Law disputes are common, often stemming from disagreements between contractors and customers, employers and employees. Claims can result from schedule delays, unsatisfactory work environments, unexpected jobsite complications, and payment issues. Rectifying disputes takes time and money, but they must be resolved. It is dangerous and damaging to everyone involved when disputes are untended. The best way to ease the process of resolving construction law disputes are to be proactive, focus on effective communication, and be well-educated in all your resolution options.
When determining what course of action best suits your dispute, seek expert counsel from a construction attorney. Involving a construction attorney in every step of your project’s process can dramatically reduce your risk of disputes and conflicts, saving you stress, time, and money. Learn more about what a construction attorney has to offer, and figure out which construction attorney is right for you.