A review of many lawsuits and claims against firms in the construction industry reveals that one of the key causes of disputes, and thus litigation, can be summarized as “unmet expectations.”
Whether it’s a clear case of the contractor failing to deliver what was promised (such as work that doesn’t meet project specs), or an evolving standard on the part of clients (workmanship issues), an unhappy client/contractor relationship creates a fertile breeding ground for allegations of liability. Although we review your Liability coverage program and needs regularly, good risk management also requires other measures to help minimize or prevent such actions.
For example, when negotiating agreements, it’s crucial to define project parameters clearly. Never begin work until the agreements are completed fully. According to one industry study, companies experienced far more claims when they provided services before a completed agreement.
It also helps to be selective in choosing clients. A potential client’s history of past litigation, complaints against you or other contractors, and their reputation for fairness and financial stability all indicate what you can expect in future dealings. If there are one or more red flags, proceed with caution.
Beyond the specifics of any agreement, it’s also critical to manage the client’s expectations. Although it might be tempting to brag about how great the final product will be and list numerous examples of superior work during the negotiation (and pricing) process, the fact is that the higher the client’s expectations, the greater their dissatisfaction when you don’t meet those expectations. Be clear about what you can accomplish within a given budget and the effects of making changes once the job is underway. The more the client is prepared to accept what happens during a project, the less likely that they’ll immediately go to the mattresses once a problem arises.
It’s always better to negotiate expectations with your clients now, than to have their attorneys negotiating settlements later.