Strategies for avoiding or resolving construction disputes

Most construction projects in Pennsylvania involve substantial investments by both a project owner and contractor. Contracts form the foundation of their relationship. Careful consideration of every detail for the project, including the potential for disagreements between the parties, could prevent costly and time-consuming disputes.

During the development of a contract, the parties should pay close attention to clauses that guide the dispute process. These could serve as preventative measures that keep the parties out of court and on track for completing the project. Both parties should spend time reading the contract and discuss clauses that appear unclear or problematic and adjust them for clarity. Diligent efforts to calculate precise estimates, establish a building schedule and hire subcontractors during the planning phase could also limit problems once ground is broken.

A contract could include a clause that requires parties to negotiate when a problem flares up. This obligation gives the parties a chance to fix the problem privately and possibly quickly. When a third party needs to enter the dispute process, options such as mediation, expert determination, adjudication and arbitration could provide neutral evaluations and recommended solutions. Litigation presents the final option. Going to court, however, will likely produce substantial delays for the project.

At any point, a person could seek legal advice when planning a project or encountering a dispute. An attorney who practices construction law might provide insights about how to structure contracts and limit liabilities. Legal representation could inform someone about how a court might interpret contract terms. An attorney's attention might allow a person to respond effectively to issues like shoddy work or failure to meet deadlines. Legal advice may help the person make informed decisions when engaged in negotiation, alternative dispute resolution or litigation.

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