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The Ten Commandments to avoid construction litigation, Part 1

Most construction-based litigation arises because the parties did a poor job drafting their contract. A construction contract needs to lay out obligations and anticipate problems, to enable the parties to efficiently address delays and other issues without it derailing the entire project. Unfortunately, delays, bad materials, and other issues are common on construction sites. It is very difficult to erect an entire building without overcoming a few issues. This post will go over a few rules that should smooth out the process and get your business back to work.

A construction project should always, always be in writing. Many sophisticated businesses forego this step because they trust the other party or believe that everyone is on the "same page." When a dispute comes up, no one is on the same page. Never take the good feeling at the conclusion of a deal to mean you agreed to the same thing.

Second, once the contract is drafted, read it. Again, many people take for granted that what they spoke about is memorialized on paper. The only person who knows what is in the contract is the last person to draft it. It may not even be nefarious; mistakes sneak into contracts all the time, but those mistakes can serve as the basis for a dispute.

Third, if you do change the contract, formalize it with writing. The writing does not need to be certified or but it should be signed by all involved parties and reflect the deal. Keep in mind that most contracts include default terms that require contract modifications be in writing. Finally, people's memories fade. Never underestimate the power of the human mind to rationalize anything in its favor. Don't give anyone the opportunity; keep it in writing and crystal clear.

As stated above, many contract disputes can be anticipated and addressed in the contract ? but not all. If you are engaged in intractable negotiations, it might be time to retain an attorney to review your options. Construction litigation is complex because it involves both legal and real-world timelines. You need to get your project off the ground. A lawyer can help you by prioritizing certain concerns and guiding your negotiations and, if necessary, litigation.

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