When there is a fault, or faults, with a completed construction project, who takes responsibility? Is it the contractor who built the project? Ultimately, that decision can depend on a myriad of aspects relating to the case as well as how a court will apply the relevant law.
If you believe that someone’s error or negligence has led to a minor or major fault, then you need a construction attorney who has the technical insights and expertise to fight the case. Or if you are a developer or constructor facing a defect claim, then you want the best legal advice available.
What Does a Construction Lawyer Cover?
The main area a construction lawyer covers is related to structural defects caused by negligence or the use of poor materials. They may litigate on behalf of clients who are pursuing claims based on construction defects. They also defend clients who are having claims pursued against them. Those clients can include developers and contractors, public or private owners, or any clent involved in the construction industry chain.
Some of the major areas a construction lawyer covers are:
Construction lawyers deal with construction disputes involving defects and negligence which have led to structural or other defects. They can also represent clients in the matters of dispute resolution where contracts have not been fulfilled or paid.
How Does a Construction Lawyer Help Contractors?
A construction lawyer can help ensure that contracts for construction jobs are properly drawn up, are legally binding, follow proper procedures, and contain any necessary clauses covering delays, insurance, site conditions, etc.
They can also defend contractors in any litigation pursued against the contractor for any issues arising from their work.
Drafting & Negotiating Construction Contracts
When major developments can potentially cost tens of millions of dollars, you want to ensure that all contracts are properly drawn up and contain clauses to cover every eventuality. A competent construction law attorney with both knowledge of construction law and experience of working on construction contracts can help developers, contractors, and other involved parties.
Your construction attorney can also ensure that any costs incurred are covered under the terms of the agreed contract. They can handle dispute resolution in the event of any disagreement. And if any monies remain unpaid, they can take civil action on your behalf to recover those sums. Action may include filing mechanics liens or any claim against payment bonds.
Assisting with Construction Proposals
If you need assistance with drawing up bids or proposals, interpreting contracts, or submitting IFBs (Invitations for bidding), then your construction attorney can assist with all of these.
Submitting Construction Claims
If you require added payments for whatever reason, or if your part in a project is running behind schedule, them a good construction lawyer can represent you in any discussions or dispute resolution. Claims may also include any other aspect affecting the construction work, including design defects, delays of any type, and adverse conditions at the construction project site. They will also deal with any legal matters related to the contract itself.
How Does a Construction Lawyer Help With Contract Terminations?
If a party wishes to terminate a contract, your attorney can help advise you whether such a termination is justifiable. They can also represent you if any litigation arises from the termination and help seek added compensation if relevant. They may also represent either party in any legal action arising from contract termination.
Actual legal action or litigation should be seen as a last resort. By engaging a highly experienced construction attorney, you have someone on your team who can identify potential issues before they escalate and who can help avoid any disputes.
Who Needs a Construction Lawyer?
If you are involved in any part of any type of construction project, then hiring a good construction lawyer brings many benefits. They can advise you on any relevant legal or regulatory matters, help you avoid breaches of contracts, and help monitor essential factors such as budgets and finish dates.
You may benefit from seeking council with a construction lawyer if you:
- Have to apply for permits at any level.
- Need to draw up or revise a contract.
- Are concerned about environmental regulations.
- Need legal documents to validate your project.
- Are at any stage of a project, including planning or completing.
- Are experiencing any sort of construction dispute, whether with an employee or with an employer.
- Want to file a lawsuit for construction defects or are having a suit filed against you.
How Do I Know If I Need to Hire an Attorney to Solve a Dispute?
This will vary according to the circumstances of each dispute.
Do I Need a Construction Attorney to go to Court?
Yes and no. If you are an individual, then you do have the right to represent yourself in any court hearing. However, due to the intricacies of construction law, it is advised that you seek professional legal advice. Also, if your case is against a big company, they will have attorneys representing them.
Are Attorneys Needed for Small Claims Court?
Generally speaking, no. Though the same rules apply as with higher courts; if you are not a sole proprietorship, then you will need an attorney.
Do All Construction Payment Disputes Require an Attorney?
As with general disputes, this can depend on individual circumstances. With some payment disputes, agreement can be reached through negotiation. With others, an attorney will be needed reach dispute resolution.
Leveraging Liens, Bonds, and Potential Legal Claims May Not Require a Lawyer
There are some areas of construction disputes where an attorney may not be required. If you wish to leverage or claim a liens or a bond, then it is possible to do this without a lawyer. Each state has its own laws on these matters.
If Legal Threats Don’t Work, then Legal Action (and Lawyers) May be Necessary
While there are some areas of construction law where you may not need an attorney, enforcement of any action may ultimately require one. And many other areas, such as breach of contract, must be heard in a courtroom so will require an attorney representing you.
Should a Construction Contract be Reviewed by a Lawyer Before Signing?
Every single time, yes. Real estate and construction contracts are rarely simple. There can be clauses governing deadlines, penalty clauses, and standards of work. Even if you are using a contract template you have previously used, the other party may wish additional clauses added. Always have any contracts reviewed by your construction attorney.
What Are Some Additional Circumstances Where You Might Need a Construction Lawyer?
There will always be areas of construction law where issues may arise during or after the project. In all these cases, hiring an experienced construction attorney is not only advisable, it can be crucial.
Parties being sued.
If you are being sued, then having a lawyer fight your case is essential. While it may cost you, it could cost you more if you lose the suit due to inadequate representation.
Parties suing someone else.
Just as with being sued, attempting to sue another party without a lawyer may not work out favorably without legal guidance.
Parties under the threat of suit.
In some cases, you may be able to avoid further legal action through negotiation. However, if you have hired a lawyer, then they can tell which threats of a suit are genuine and which are just blustering.
“I don’t know how to proceed, but I need to get paid.”
Payment disputes are one of the most common cases we see. There are a number of proper procedures for seeking unpaid payments, and a good construction attorney can advise you on which is most suitable for your case.
There’s an injury on the job.
Any claim for an injury – or a workers’ compensation claim – is not always straightforward. Engaging an attorney may resolve any dispute without having to go to court.
Claims that construction is defective.
Construction defects are the main subject of construction-related litigation. Whether you are pursuing or defending a claim, an experienced lawyer fighting your case can be a major asset and may even prevent the case being taken to court.
Terminating a contract, or taking some other action set out in the agreement.
While most contracts may contain clauses allowing termination or escalation, actually activating those clauses can be more complicated than you might think. Before you try to activate any contractual clause, it is best to consult a construction attorney who can advise on how to proceed and who can assist with dispute resolution.
If I Need a Lawyer, What Should I Do to Help or Prepare?
As with any area of the law, it helps if you are prepared before consulting with an attorney.
- Have all relevant paperwork organized for your lawyer to examine
- Document and record everything. That can include initial contracts, revisions, and other signed documents. It can also include any communications between the parties such as emails.
- Make sure you follow all agreements and contract clauses.
- Try and avoid any disputes if possible.
- Where there is any dispute over payments, try and leverage your liens rights. Sometimes even notifying the other party of your intent to lien can solve the issue.
Finding the Right Construction Lawyer
If you feel the need to hire a construction attorney, there are certain things you should look for. Have they been practicing construction law for a reasonable amount of time? Do they have a proven track record in dispute resolution and litigation? Do they know the proper procedures for addressing breaches of contract and other issues? Having these questions answered to your satisfaction helps when choosing the right attorney.
Areas of Construction Law
Construction law constitutes several areas of pertinent law. While some attorneys may specialize in certain areas, any good construction attorney will know all areas.
Contracts exist at every step of the construction and real estate chain. From the financiers funding a development to the independent tradesman doing specialized work on site. Properly worded – and understood – contracts are crucial to anyone involved in a project.
Planning and Approvals
Depending on the nature of your project, you will probably need a number of permits and approvals at local, state, or even federal level. Your construction attorney can help identify which specific approvals, licenses, or permits are needed and will ensure that each is properly applied for.
Hiring and firing can almost seem like a daily occurrence in the construction industry. A competent lawyer with good knowledge of construction law can help ensure that everything is done correctly. They can also advise your human resources staff on putting good policies and practices into your procedures.
Where an employee has been injured on your site, or where you have been injured as a worker, then workers’ compensation comes into play. Unfortunately, these claims are not always simple. If there is any dispute over such a claim, an attorney is best placed to offer legal advice and to seek dispute resolution.
Who Practices Construction Law?
Construction attorneys are not looking to set legal precedents in groundbreaking cases but are instead more focused on the practicalities of interpreting construction law. They want their clients’ business practices to be smooth and transparent as a result of their advice and action. They must be at home mediating and negotiating around a desk and equally comfortable handling litigation cases in a courtroom.
Why Become a Construction Lawyer?
Choosing to have construction law as one of the main areas your practice focuses on offers an attorney great experience and challenges. One day you could be reviewing a contract to advise a client on any revisions, the next you could be mediating in a dispute over payments, and on a third you could be representing a client in court.
Some Final Thoughts
Michigan Premier Law are experts in all aspects of construction law. Our offices in Troy, Michigan, work with clients at all levels of the construction industry, from private individuals to developers to real estate companies. We can assist with contracts, mechanics liens, dispute resolution, construction claims, and much more.
Our initial consultation is free, so if you want to discuss your case with an experienced construction attorney, please call our law firm at 248-688-0045 to book a complimentary appointment.