Imagine a new building collapsing months after it opens. Consider the lawsuits that would follow. Most families of the deceased would sue the parties involved in the construction of the building: that includes the owner of the building, the general contractor, any subcontractors who worked in connection with the stability of the building, architects and engineers. The owner, after having paid millions for a building that no longer exists, would probably sue everyone involved in the construction. Many of the tenants would sue to recover damages resulting from lost equipment and files that were stored in the building. Some of the owners of surrounding buildings would sue for damage to their properties caused by the collapse of the building.
In short, negligent construction can lead to many different types of claims on a
wide range of parts. Of course, a demand can arise from much less drastic
problems than the collapse of a building.
There are two main categories into which construction negligence claims can be
- Property damage caused by negligent construction.
- Personal injury resulting from negligent construction.
Property Damage Claims
Almost all construction projects are governed by a number of contracts. These contracts define the responsibilities of each of the parties involved in the project. So, if something goes wrong, for example, a roofer leaves a job after completing only half the roof, liability can be determined as a matter of contract law. In such a case, the roofer is likely to be liable for failure to comply with the terms of the agreement, i.e. payment at the end of the entire roof.
But construction projects are almost always completed by professionals, and professionals meet certain standards called “Care Standards”. Therefore, regardless of the language used in the contracts involved in the project, the professionals responsible for completing the construction may be liable for damage that results when they are unable to do their job competently.
In short, any party involved in a construction project may be liable for any defect, depending on the contracts involved and the nature of the defect. These are some of the critical questions that parties in a construction defects litigation should consider:
- Do the contracts involved assign liability or provide for compensation?
- Where would you assign the blame for a defect?
- What would be the cost of fixing the defect?
- What would be the new full project value if the defect is not solved?
- Was the defect the result of a defective plan, such as an engineer’s error, or the result of a defective execution, such as a subcontractor’s error?
- Does the defect create a safety risk?
Personal Injury Claims
Construction is, by its very nature, a dangerous industry. Workers perform difficult physical work, sometimes at high altitudes or with heavy machinery. The amount of things that can go wrong seems infinite. In 2016, 736 construction workers died from work-related injuries in the United States. There are consistently more work-related injuries in construction each year than in almost any other industry.
Construction can cause injuries to workers and bystanders. Some of the critical questions in cases involving both types of injuries are identified below:
Injuries to construction workers
- Do the workers’ compensation rules apply?
- Who was responsible for security at the construction site?
- Were any industry standards, such as OSHA regulations, violated?Was the injury a sudden injury, such as an electrocution, or did it develop over time, such as back pain due to heavy lifting?
- Was the injury reported to the employer?
- Did the employer provide safety equipment to help prevent this type of injury?
- Was the available security equipment used?
- Did the employer provide safety training relevant to this type of injury?
- Have other workers at the same construction site been injured in the same way?
Injuries to bystanders and other third parties
- Was the injured person a motorist?
Was the injured person a minor?
- Where was the person located when the injury occurred?
- What warning signs were placed at or near the location of the injury?
- Was the injured person aware of the construction site?
- Who was responsible for issuing the appropriate warnings?
- Did the injury occur before or after completion of construction?
- Were industry standards violated?
- Was there an open and obvious risk of danger?
Personal Injury Compensation
In most personal injury lawsuits, whether by a worker or not, some or all of the
following compensations are available to an injured person:
- Compensation for lost wages, as a result of work lost due to injuries.
- Payment of medical bills.
- Reparations for pain and suffering, this being the value, expressed in monetary terms, of having to deal with the pain and agony of injuries
Reparations for loss of normal life, i.e., the difference in the value, expressed in monetary terms, of the person’s quality of life after the injury as compared to the person’s quality of life before the injury. Negligent construction claims come in many forms and can resort to a variety of sources of law. To navigate the complex legal issues that often arise in negligent construction cases, parties are advised to seek the advice of a qualified attorney.