6 ways to minimize liability for construction defects

As a subcontractor, you understand how the little things can make a profound impact on a construction project. Your attention to detail is what improves your chances of running a successful business based on a solid reputation for doing quality work. However, when a client complains about construction defects, or a defect creates a dangerous situation, your reputation and your business may suffer irreparable damage.

In some cases, a construction defect may be beyond your control, so it is smart to stay on top of the things you can control. It is also important to have a system in place for minimizing the chances that the defects caused by others on the project will come back to bite you.

Protecting yourself and your company

A construction defect may occur during the construction process when laborers use poor workmanship, cut corners or fail to follow the construction documents. However, the workers may not be the sole reason for a deficiency. The design of the project itself may be flawed, causing insufficiencies in the structure, or the design documents may omit crucial information, which sometimes happens if there are many changes in the plans during the project. Finally, a construction defect may exist if the building materials are substandard or damaged.

If a project owner places blame for construction defects on you and your company, that person must prove that a defect exists either in the design, the workmanship or the materials, and that the flaw resulted in financial loss or structure failure. You may have to build a defense that demonstrates how you fulfilled your obligations to a standard of care, for example by doing the following:

  • Examining the construction site before work began to familiarize yourself with the condition of the property.
  • Reading and reviewing the contract documents and building designs, and keeping organized records as the project progressed.
  • Supplying appropriately trained and skilled workers for the job.
  • Carrying adequate insurance and understanding your policy terms.
  • Periodically inspecting the work as it progressed and dealing with issues immediately.
  • Meeting regularly with others involved on the project.

A New Jersey project owner who discovers a flaw has a limited time to file a lawsuit when financial damages occur. If a defect is discovered, you do not want to be the one to carry total responsibility for its repair or any legal action that may result. This is why it is essential to have quality control measures in place and to understand how your contract assigns liability.