Not Quite Legal in All 50 States

Go browsing on the Web for construction contracts and you’ll see braggadocio about some boilerplate contract being “legal in all 50 states.”
 
Claims like this show up on Web sites run by savvy people with good credentials but who should know better. Every state has the right to set unique requirements for construction contracts. And nearly all have. It’s simply foolish to claim any construction contract is “legal in all 50 states.”
 
You can take this to the bank: There’s no home improvement contract that’s legal in all 50 states. I’ll go one step further: There’s no contract for residential construction that’s legal in all 50 states. You won’t even find a contract for commercial construction that’s legal in most states. That’s not the way it works.
 
Construction contract law varies from state to state the same way income tax law varies from state to state. Imagine the reaction if you tried to file a New York or Texas income tax return with the Montana Department of Revenue. You’d probably be breaking the law in two states.
 
It’s the same with construction contracts. Nearly all states require specific disclosures, set unique limits or void certain types of clauses in construction contracts. No two states are alike. And most states impose heavy penalties for doing construction work under a contract that doesn’t meet state code. Fines up to $1,000 are common, as is the threat of jail time.
 
Even if you aren’t concerned about fines and jail time, consider the impact if you get into a dispute before collecting final payment. The attorney for your client won’t be impressed with your “legal in all 50 states” contract. More likely, you’ll discover that the contract is either partially or totally unenforceable under state law. Game over! You lose. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. You’re not going to collect another dime on that contract. If opposing counsel is charitable, you’ll escape discipline from the state board. Persist and you’ll get an invitation to do the perp walk at a state hearing.
 
When you see the claim, “legal in all 50 states,” I recommend thinking “probably not legal in any state.” The latter is far more likely than the former.
 
So how do you judge if some boilerplate contract is legal? If you’re paying the $10 to $150 that most vendors change for a download, you’ve got the right to know: Is it really legal in my state?
 
I can recommend a Web site. It’s free. Construction-Contract.net has a good selection of state-specific home improvement, residential and commercial construction contracts. Even better, the site lists laws in each state that set minimums for construction contracts. Before buying any boilerplate contract or contract package, compare what the law requires in your state with what the vendor is offering. If the vendor’s contract comes up short, save your money.

Why You Need a Construction Contract, and an Attorney

If you are a contractor, either residential or commercial, it may not have taken you long to decide that a contract with your customers, subcontractors, and suppliers is in your best interest. And even if you don’t want a contract, many customers give preference to contractors who will work within the structure of a contract so that they have peace of mind.

You may also know that a poorly constructed contract can cause just as many legal problems as no contract at all. While there are many do-it-yourself forms available for contractors to construct a contract, the best way to ensure a specifically tailored, quality contract is to work with an attorney who specializes in construction law. Though the cost of an attorney’s services may seem prohibitive, the upfront cost of an attorney’s assistance can save you from larger financial headaches down the road.

Often times an attorney can help you with a contract that you can use as a general template for future jobs-reducing the overall cost.

A construction law attorney can help you in various ways with a construction contract:

  • Formulation: A construction law attorney can help you construct a solid contract that protects your business interest and gives your customer peace of mind. As mentioned above, an attorney can often help you draft a contract that you can eventually tailor to fit other contracting jobs
  • Review: If you’ve already drafted a contract, an attorney can help you review your contract to see if there are any legal loopholes that you’ve overlooked or if you’re missing any important contractual components that could cause problems for you later on.
  • Negotiation: An attorney can help you negotiate contracts with your customers, subcontractors, and materials suppliers. Your attorney will help you secure the fundamentals of your contract while knowing how much to give in the negotiation process on less important facets of the construction process.

Once you have entered into a contract, a construction law attorney can continue to provide you support. Your attorney will be able to help you in the administration, enforcement, documentation, and possible defense of your contract:

  • Administration: In order for you to stay within the confines of your contract, you will need to be able to properly administrate from the contract. An attorney can make sure that you understand all the “fine print” of the legal contract that you entered into so that you can properly execute the agreement.
  • Enforcement: An attorney can assist you in properly enforcing your contract, particularly if you are a contractor who has entered into agreements with subcontractors and large materials purveyors. An attorney can consult you on how to enforce your contractual agreements with these parties so that you can maintain your contractual agreements with your customer.
  • Documentation: To ensure that you are following contractual guidelines and to protect you in the case of legal action, your attorney can help you make sure that you properly document all of your progress, administration, and enforcement attempts.
  • Contract Defense: When a customer legally retaliates against you, your attorney will be able to help you defend your contractual obligations or lack thereof.

Contracts help set forth clear guidelines in a wide variety of circumstances, but they can be especially helpful in the contracting business- both for the contractor and the customer. An attorney who specializes in construction law can help ensure that this contract works to protect both of these parties.

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.