The best way to avoid problems arising on any construction project is to maintain open lines of communication.
Too many costly claims and lawsuits against design professionals begin as nothing more than a simple miscommunication among the owner, contractor, subcontractor, and design professional.
The key to all communication is to be pro-active. Recognizing that an issue or miscommunication has popped up is the most important first step.
Maintaining open dialogue with your clients will keep costs lower and improve overall business relationships. Many times, simply keeping open lines of communication can prevent a problem on the job site from developing into a claim or potential lawsuit.
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Weigh the value of involving experienced professional liability attorney early. Involving an experienced counsel early could protect your communications with the owner, contractor, or subcontractor as “settlement negotiations,” and possibly prevent discussions from being used against you in any subsequent lawsuit.
Involving inexperienced counsel early, however, could have the unintended consequence of elevating the situation before it can get resolved by the parties. Not all lawsuits can be avoided, but working together with experienced professional liability counsel, and possibly the insurance carrier, is often risk management best practice.
If you choose to communicate without an attorney, speak in one voice. Designate a single person to respond on behalf of the company.
Once a serious issues arises, activate the company's “Litigation Response Team” immediately. If the company doesn't have a Litigation Response Team, you should work with the company internal risk manager and attorney to develop one, and make sure every key leader understands their role at each stage of the process.