Any construction project requires a huge amount of paperwork and plenty of legal involvement. Whether you’re the owner of the project or a subcontractor, it’s always wise to have a construction attorney on your team. For those who might ask, “When do I need a construction attorney?” the answer is “Always” if you’re undertaking a big, commercial project. For smaller, residential projects, it’s not always necessary, especially if it’s more on the renovation side. The nature of the job involves massive risk for many parties, so it’s definitely important to make sure that you’re legally protected and have someone representing your interests, should something come up. Below, we’ll discuss the answer to the question, “When do I need a construction attorney?”, explain the benefits of having one, and discuss some popular courses of action should a dispute arise.
When Do I Need a Construction Attorney?
Of course you need a construction attorney if there’s a dispute or disagreement happening or if you’re worried about potential lawsuits, since they can help guide you through the best courses of action to take and how best to protect yourself. However, there are plenty of other scenarios where having a construction attorney can also prove extremely useful. After all, he or she should have an excellent understanding of not just construction law, but also construction itself. The combination of these two things can be invaluable.
However, even having a lawyer to help with permits, contracts, government permissions, make sure that environmental regulations are met, or drawing up other types of legal documents is incredibly advantageous. You want to keep as many surprises from happening on the job as possible and having a lawyer who can make sure all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted is a key part of that.
Why Should I Retain a Construction Law Firm?
If you look at just lawsuits, disputes, and disagreements, let’s put it this way. There were over 550 construction industry arbitration cases in 2015, administered by the American Arbitration Association that had claims of over $500,000. The largest mediation case was for almost three million and the largest arbitration case was just over 95 million. This can cost you or your business a significant amount of money, should something go wrong.
A construction attorney can also help right from the beginning. They can help draft or negotiate contracts between different parties and make sure you’re legally protected and that there are no surprises down the road. For contractors, a construction attorney can help ensure that they get paid — and that those costs are included in the contract. Should their client not get the money owed, they can take legal action.
A construction attorney can also help with proposals and claims and work on preventive legal measures to ensure that projects don’t run into legal red tape or roadblocks down the line. In short, they can be involved in every step of the process and offer valuable expertise.
Here’s What Can Happen if a Dispute Arises
The scenario that most people envision is that of heading to court and hashing it out there. In reality though, most cases are settled (and are preferred to be settled) using conflict-management processes, like alternative dispute resolution, which is the preferred method for the construction industry. This is according to the American Arbitration Association.
Usually the average wait time from filing to awarding cases was under eight months (per data from 2015). With arbitration, both parties must still provide testimony and evidence, though it’s less formal than an actual trial. Mediation is much different — a neutral third party helps negotiate between the two opposing parties. No conclusion can be reached until all are in agreement.
A construction attorney is helpful no matter which path is chosen — and they can be instrumental in advising which one you should seek out or try to steer towards.
If you’ve been debating whether or not to seek out a construction attorney, don’t delay! Remember: the answer to “When do I need a construction attorney?” is “Always!”