Construction Lawyer – What Does He or She Do?

The construction industry is no stranger to legal “punch ups” and the person you want to see when that happens is your expert construction lawyer. But what exactly do they do?

Skills of the expert construction lawyer

A construction lawyer is a trained and experienced legal professional who understands the issues you face in the construction industry.

Whether you are an employer of construction skills, a head contractor, subcontractor, supplier or consultant to the industry, your experienced construction lawyer can help you with most of your legal challenges, or at least highlight to you any legal issues that you should be aware of that are outside their scope of expertise and direct you to a colleague who can help you.

Quality construction lawyers are generally experts in two main areas when it comes to construction matters:

1. “front end” work, which includes:

  • contract drafting and negotiation
  • general advice on structuring your business entities for asset protection
  • advice on suitable business documents and contract administration systems and procedures for minimizing your exposure to legal claims… and more

2. “back end” work, which includes:

  • advice regarding options for resolving disputes
  • general advice regarding issues that may arise during contract works execution
  • litigation expertise
  • expertise in assisting with applying alternative dispute resolution methods negotiating resolutions to disputes and seeking alternative solutions for commercial parties so they can proceed with a project without delay… and more

When should you engage a construction lawyer?

Well I’m sure you know the answer to this question already but so few construction professionals heed this advice. You should speak to your expert lawyer at the earliest possible time.

Why? Because when you get them to assist you in the early phase of your project or business you can avoid many more potential problems. Too often I see people draft their own inadequate contracts or sign up to draconian contracts prepared by other parties which include personal guarantees, and then when things move into a dispute phase they are already up the proverbial creek without a means of propulsion… if you know what I mean.

If you wait until you have already run aground (entered into a dispute) to try and change the course of your ship (your business and livelihood), it may well be too late. You see, the cost of engaging a construction lawyer at the start of your project will be about 10% of the cost of just one dispute (in the life of your project) going to court. So consider the math when next time the opportunity presents itself.

The cost of learning from your own mistakes over years of construction industry experience can be a costly one and, in some cases, more than you may have to pay for it. Even then, if you happen to know all the laws at a particular point in time (which is most unlikely), the laws are constantly changing and you’ll never be sure if you know when and how they have changed. The construction lawyer’s job, however, is to know what is about to change before it happens and they will share that invaluable advice with you to prepare you for that change.

The good construction companies with bigger budgets do tend to diligently seek out expert construction legal advice but even they skip this step on some projects… and on further occasion, they live to regret it. If you’re a small to medium sized operator in the construction industry, you cannot afford to take that risk, particularly on larger projects that tie up much of your cash flow.

Construction Litigation and Its Importance

Producing world class structures is crucial to the success of anyone involved in the construction industry. It’s important to keep the project moving along and finalize any necessary transactions in a timely manner in order to maintain a profitable enterprise. However, a number of things can go wrong during the process which could cost owners or companies a fortune.

Construction litigation can be quite complex due to the high number of parties and numerous moving parts involved. This creates several opportunities for issues to arise that can quickly skew the project’s deadline or halt the production all together. Someone dealing with construction litigation may deal with anything from material suppliers, to local government agencies that provide permits, to contractors, architects, property owners and the like.

Construction litigation can be broken down into several different yet overlapping segments. There are also sub segments to each of the main segments. The major segments consist of:

  • Contract negotiations and preparation
  • Liens and security interest to secure payment
  • Constructive defect litigation
  • Construction delay litigation
  • Personal injury litigation involving construction defects

Importance of Attorney Involvement

Construction litigation attorneys provide the greatest benefit for their clients through early involvement in the construction process. Having the attorney present at the inception of the project, as opposed to hiring once a problem arises, allows the client and the lawyer to work together toward common goals. Not to mention, it removes the potential for delay caused by teaching the newly hired attorney the logistics of the case. Considering time is crucial, spending time updating an attorney will only make things worse, especially if a big issue has occurred that must be worked out fairly quickly.

Stages of Construction Litigation

Before construction begins, it’s important identify and negotiate a realistic liquidated damage clause. It is a somewhat unenthusiastic, yet necessary part of the process. Reviewing all the relevant documents, gathering expert witnesses and discovering what the opposing side will argue will all be steps taken prior to the actual trial. Having an experienced construction litigation attorney will also prove extremely beneficial during this phase and into the trial stage. The trial stage involves the study and organization of all discovery documents produced and received, and all of the deposition testimony taken. Organizing witnesses and documentation during this phase will also be vital to ensuring a successful outcome.

Remember, litigation is a fluid, rapidly changing environment so it’s important to be realistic in the approach. Patience and determination are often necessary for the attainment of a feasible and pleasant outcome along with strategy, research and knowledge of the law.

Construction Accident Attorney

Construction accident attorneys are legal professionals whose role is to cater for construction related accidents and incidents. Their responsibility lies in ensuring that the people injured in a construction site are well compensated by the ones responsible for those accidents. They cater all legal matters geared at sustaining legal proceedings against the employer/construction company and their respective insurance companies so that the accident victims are adequately compensated.

Jurisdiction

Construction accident attorneys are trained in areas of law to cater for the welfare of construction workers and other injured construction site stake holders. They serve a wide range of construction site accident prone workers like electricians, roofers, plumbers and cart operators, among others.

They operate on the premise that worker safety at the construction site lies squarely with the owners of the buildings and their contractors. The responsibility for the safety measures at the construction sites also lies with the site engineers and other registered construction site professionals like architects and designers. In fact, recent studies show that construction accidents mainly occur because of negligence and carelessness on the part of these professionals. It is therefore, the duty of the construction accident attorney to make these professionals accountable.

Working

Most construction accident attorneys are either employed at law firms or in private practice, based on their academic qualifications. However, most of them are employed by law firms whose target market is the construction and real estate industry. When accidents occur at construction sites, they are among the first people to be dispatched to the said construction sites. Their role is to collect relevant evidence, exhibits, testimonies, witness statements together with the police and other relevant reports from the site of the accident, adequate enough to help them sustain trial. Their biggest responsibility however lies in how much they can link contractor or employer negligence and carelessness to the accidents.

They also provide initial legal advice to the injured in terms of making legal representation, so that they are not swindled or harassed. On most occasions, they normally file immediate law suits against the parties whose failures led to the accidents, as soon as possible to avoid distortion and interference.

Costs and charges

Whereas construction accidents handle common legal rights issues, most construction accident attorneys charge differently for their services. Some of the factors that may affect the Construction accident attorney charges include:

1. Size of construction-The bigger the construction site, the higher the legal fees cost.

2. Size of settlement- Incidentally, the larger the settlement being sought, the higher the costs in legal fees.

3. Type of law firm- different law firms charge differently, according to their professionalism,

success rate and tradition which may vary the cost of their representation. Recent studies also reveal that there are umbrella organisations which offer free legal representation to the injured in these cases, and so on.

In general, construction accident attorneys play a very important role that is in the interests of any construction worker, regarding accidents at their lace of work. Looking through your city’s legal brochures and classifieds can help you get a suitable one if in need of one.