Key to Resolving Construction Defect Claims with Success
It is no secret that strong professional relationships are critical to long term success in the construction business. It is also accepted that construction defects are an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of our industry.
So why can resolving construction defect claims can be such a slippery slope to navigate, even with longstanding professional relationships? In this article, I intend to provide practical strategies for how all parties can work to maintain professional relationships while amicably resolving a construction defect claim in a collaborative manner.
Have Well Documented and Clearly Defined Roles of each Involved Party
Although this should initially be established prior to beginning the project, this should be maintained as a living document that can be updated as roles change and adapt to the project’s developing needs.
Project management methods vary by industry and project scope, and should be tailored to the needs of the project, but the fundamentals are the same for all projects. A well-organized project folder can be a treasure trove for the information required to take a measured and data-driven approach to collaboratively resolving a construction defect claim.
Maintain Records of Project Approvals and Change Orders
Construction defects can be the result of many different factors such as design omissions, construction errors, or the use of defective building materials. Many of these instances will be identified and discussed in requests for information (RFI) between the involved parties.
RFIs and responses should be compiled in a searchable database that records the name of the responding individual, what organization they represent, and their date of response.
Approved change orders should be issued a tracking number and clearly labeled with the signatures of the approving parties.
Understand the Applicable Statue of Limitations and Statue of Repose for your Project
Although some construction defects are immediately obvious, others may not be apparent until years after substantial completion of the project.
Each state law defines different time limits associated with the statute of limitation and the statue of repose. You should consult your attorney regarding the applicable laws governing your project.
Consult with a Trusted 3rd Party Forensic Engineer
Forensic engineers, such as those at VERTEX, are trained in various disciplines to opine on both the cause and origin of construction defects, as well as the scope and value of required repairs.
Although their approach will vary from case to case, a forensic engineer’s investigation may consist of reviewing drawings and construction documents, conducting site inspections, interviewing involved parties, reviewing historical weather data, and reviewing applicable building codes.
A third-party forensic engineer can be relied upon to provide an impartial judgement of the party responsible for a construction defect. Depending on the case and the client’s requirements, this judgement can be conveyed as informally as by phone call or email, or as formally as a testimony from expert witness in litigation.
No matter the size and severity of the construction defect claim, a collaborative and results-oriented approach among the parties contributes to resolving defects in a harmonious way.