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Tips for Handling Construction Disputes During COVID-19

COVID-19 has forced major changes in the construction industry since being close to other people has become a problem. This is especially true for resolving disputes since the resolution process often requires meetings between multiple parties. This is no longer possible most of the time since quarantine and social distancing measures keep people apart for the sake of their health. Fortunately, we have the technology and resources to find new ways of adjusting to the world that COVID-19 has created. In this editorial, we’ll discuss tips for handling construction disputes during COVID-19 with the help of a Houston contractor attorney.

Related: The Importance of Documenting Project Delays and Damages Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Accept Virtual Meetings

One of the most significant changes in the construction industry since the introduction of COVID-19 is that meeting in person is not an option in most cases. It can be risky to meet with other parties in person since there is a significant chance of spreading the virus. However, we live in a day and age where the technology to have virtual meetings is widely available.

If you need to resolve the dispute, you’ll likely need to meet with another party. To do this, accept virtual meetings. Meeting online removes much of the risk while still letting you resolve disputes using the established process. Houston construction lawyers can facilitate virtual meetings so that they can continue to do work as normal.

The idea of having to rely on technology to conduct meetings may not sit well with everyone. Many people, especially in the construction industry, prefer to stick to traditional methods of handling problems. However, virtual meetings are largely the same as in-person. The only difference is that you need to use specific types of technology to communicate. In essence, it’s no different than trying to have a phone call with multiple parties to resolve the problem.

Related: The Future of Videoconferencing in Construction

Negotiate Terms

The interruption to businesses around the world is making it difficult for companies to stay afloat. If you need to handle a dispute, keep in mind that every company is struggling. This may mean that you may not be able to achieve everything you want when resolving the dispute. Instead of relying on legal action, consider negotiating terms to resolve conflicts.

A Houston contractor lawyer often resolves disputes by negotiating terms. The negotiation process gives everyone involved the chance to be heard and make it clear what they are trying to achieve. If you can successfully balance your needs with the needs of the other party, you may be able to negotiate a settlement that resolves the issue. This would eliminate the need for legal action while helping preserve the relationship with your business partner.

Negotiating terms can be difficult and take an extended period of time to finish. Each party has their own wants and needs, and their concerns need to be addressed so that you all may agree to the terms. Negotiation may be the best option in most cases. Taking legal action is expensive and can alienate subcontractors. If this happens, it also can impact how your business functions in the future.

Related: Resolving Disputes: Negotiations

Be Kind

Under normal conditions, resolving disputes can be stressful. This is especially true under the conditions created by COVID-19. Because of this, it is important to make sure that you are paying special attention to how you react to the other party in your dispute.

Your ability to resolve the dispute without legal action or dissolving the relationship between the parties depends on your ability to positively influence the situation. Everyone is excessively stressed out because of business issues and from trying to resolve your dispute. Being kind to everyone involved will project a level of professionalism while making it harder for the other party to be aggressive or unkind in response.

Houston construction lawyers often use this method to try to smooth out relationships between parties. You can, essentially, ensure that you can resolve the dispute amicably by creating a more positive and sensitive response to the situation. The other party will be more willing to work with you to find a solution if they see you trying to make the situation less stressful.

Follow Procedures

While COVID-19 has forced us to make many changes in the construction industry, it is still important to adhere to procedures. There are specific procedures for handling disputes, and it is in your best interest to follow them. Many of the procedures designed for handling disputes also call for documentation and attempts to resolve problems before legal action is taken. This usually produces the best results for everyone.

Failing to follow established procedures can lead you into bigger problems. For example, not filing the appropriate paperwork for getting things done on schedule can lead to expensive legal actions. It can also create an argument against your opinion of the dispute.

When a dispute arises, have your staff coordinate with each other to find ways of resolving the dispute and discuss your case with a lawyer before taking action so that you can make sure you are taking the right steps and can avoid many of the problems that can develop later.

Handling disputes is difficult under the best of circumstances, but there are many more restrictions to worry about now. Since COVID-19 has changed how people can interact with each other, it is important that you take steps to improve the way you handle this. If you have questions about the different methods to resolve disputes, contact a Houston construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Construction arbitration can happen between any two parties, even if they have an amicable relationship. Often, disputes arise as a result of a simple disagreement about work performed or materials provided and can be easily resolved without ever seriously comprising the relationship between the opposing parties. 

If you find yourself in a situation where arbitration seems to be the only option, there are ways to manage arbitration so that you can maintain relationships with their company. Contacting a Houston construction arbitration attorney from Cotney Construction Law will ultimately prove crucial to maintaining positive professional relationships between parties during the process of arbitration.

Related: Should I Resolve My Dispute By Arbitration?

Find Common Ground

In arbitration, the first step that you should take is to find common ground with the other party. Relationships are built on mutual experience and trust between both parties. In this case, you can use common ground to try to find a better solution for both parties.

Working in construction, your company likely has a lot in common with other construction companies. Use this position in your argument to help the other party see where you are coming from. You may find that much of the disagreement has to do with ineffective communication between the two groups.

You can use your common ground related to the project that you are working on as a basis for your position. Draw on this to reference specific issues in common experiences so that you can relate your side of the argument to either party more effectively. Once the other party can understand your point of view, there is a better chance that both sides will be able to agree on specific issues.

Act Professionally and Be Kind

Movies depict lawyers as being aggressive and ill-tempered when trying to handle negotiations. Any one of our professional Houston construction attorneys will immediately tell you that this is the opposite of what you should do. If you want to maintain a relationship or to be able to have successful negotiations, the keys are to act professionally and be kind to the other party. 

Being aggressive, unnecessarily argumentative, or otherwise unlikable will make it harder for the other party to compromise with you. It will quickly reduce your chances of maintaining a relationship with the other party has a significant and well-proven reason to not like you.

Just because you should be kind to the other party does not mean that the other party will look down on you in any way. Instead, it will actually make you appear more agreeable and make the other party more likely to want to work with you. Acting with professionalism during the arbitration process shows that you are serious about maintaining your point of view on the situation, but you place more value on the relationship with the other party than you do on just proving that you are right. At the end of the arbitration process, the other party will be more likely to want to keep the relationship going, and you will not have provided a personal reason for them to avoid working with you in the future.

Related: What are the Benefits of Arbitration? 

Be Open-Minded

When you go into any type of negotiation or arbitration, it is important to be open-minded. Although you have your own point of view on the situation, you should try to understand how the other party views it, too. You may be surprised at how they see the situation, especially if they provide evidence to back up their claims that can change your point of view.

Being open-minded also means being willing to compromise. In the end, the relationship with the other party may be more important than whatever dispute you are trying to resolve an arbitration. This is especially true if the other company provides a service that is hard to find anywhere else. It could impact your future work if you are no longer able to work with that subcontractor.

Be attentive and willing to discuss different points of view during the arbitration. Nothing kills a relationship faster than the feeling that you are not being listened to by the other party. Do not give the other party the feeling that you are not listening because regardless of how the arbitration ends, they are likely to think that you do not take them seriously.

Try Other Options First

Arbitration is usually the final step in resolving the dispute since it can be a legally binding process. It essentially ends the discussion about a dispute with few options for recourse afterward. The decisions are also legally enforceable, meaning that you can take legal action to force the other party to abide by the terms of the arbitration. Because of this, it needs to be the last option in resolving it.

You should try other options before returning to arbitration. If you jump straight to arbitration, you will likely leave the other party aggravated and unwilling to work with you. Instead, try one of the other options that are more of a discussion and gives the other party a chance to resolve the issue without taking legal action.

For example, the first step in resolving a dispute should be to talk to the other party. Once the dispute is introduced, bring together all of the involved party representatives so that you can sit down and discuss the problem. This is a very low-stress way of handling the situation since legal action is not necessary, and you have a better chance of coming to compromise. Willing compromises are almost always better than forced actions like the decision of arbitration.

If an open discussion about the dispute does not produce results, you can begin to involve Houston construction law attorneys to help you find a solution. This could include negotiation to try to find an amicable solution to the problem. You can also have your lawyer send a notice of intent to file legal action to the other party. If you take the step, be sure that the dispute is worth risking the relationship. 

Once legal action is taken, you must be careful to maintain a relationship. Otherwise, that relationship will not work. Your notice of intent should also fully explain your point of view on the dispute and identify what steps are next. Avoid making accusations when blaming the other party, and focus on how you can work together to find solutions.

Arbitration can be an effective way to end a dispute, but you risk ruining the relationship with the other party. Take care not to alienate the other party for your actions so that you can work together later. If you have questions about arbitration or maintaining business relationships, contact Houston construction dispute lawyers from Cotney Construction Law.

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Construction liens and contractor non-payment issues can be a serious problem for construction projects. Having a lien placed on a property can ruin a relationship with a subcontractor or contractor. It can also lead to the end of a relationship between a contractor and a property owner, affecting any future work that may be available. No one wants to place a lien on a property. However, it becomes necessary if subcontractors are not paid for the work that they do. For a legal advocate who can help you file a lien against a property owner to collect your debt before you miss a deadline, contact a Houston construction lien lawyer

Avoiding liens is as simple as making sure that subcontractors are paid on time. Most liens are filed by subcontractors that tried other methods of seeking payment with no success. As a contractor or property owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone on the job is paid. There are several steps that you can do to facilitate that and avoid having a lien placed on a project. In this article, we’ll discuss construction liens and contractor non-payment issues.

Related: An Overview of Texas Mechanic’s Lien Law

What is a Construction Lien?

A construction lien is a legal method of forcing a contractor or property owner to resolve payment issues. Unlike other businesses where the product can be repossessed, subcontractors and contractors cannot repossess materials or other items of value once the work has been done. Without liens, property owners could avoid paying subcontractors for their work. A lien is also a legal alternative to filing a lawsuit, which can be costly for everyone. Houston contractor lawyers often help construction companies handle liens in Texas, which may require legal assistance to properly file or remove from a property.

When a subcontractor files a lien against the property, that lien remains attached to that property until it is resolved. Depending on where the property is, this gives the subcontractor different methods for collecting payment for the work. In some places, that property may not be used for its intended purpose. In other places, a property can be repossessed in order to cover the payments subcontractor. Regardless of what the method is, a construction lien can lead to serious issues for the property owner.

You can reduce your chances of dealing with a construction lien by taking simple steps in the beginning and throughout a project to ensure that everyone is paid for the work that they do. Many of these steps include detailed records-keeping to ensure that invoices are processed properly. You can also ask a Houston construction lien attorney about different ways of handling liens. They are often asked for assistance when trying to file or resolve a lien or payment issue. 


Related: Can I File a Mechanic’s Lien Against a Leased Property?

Notice of Commencement

One of the problems that property owners and subcontractors face is that they rarely interact with each other if there is a general contractor on the project. The general contractor hires subcontractors, and the property owner deals directly with the general contractor. This means that the subcontractor, who is most likely to file the lien, is unknown to the property owner. Furthermore, the property owner does not have copies of invoices or payment records since that is the general contractor’s job. To fix this, some states require the use of Notices of Commencement.

A Notice of Commencement is a notification sent to the property owner by a subcontractor informing them that the subcontractor was hired to do work on the project, details of the contracted work, and payment details. The notice should be sent before work on the project begins. The property owner can keep this information for later reference when a subcontractor files a construction lien. This way, all the parties involved in the projects are notified of the work that is about to be done, and the property owner can follow up with the contractor to make sure that any subcontractor that sent a Notice of Commencement is paid. When you reach out to one of our Houston construction lien lawyers, we’ll assess your situation and help you meet the appropriate notice deadlines.  

Related: Texas Retainage Laws and What They Mean for Your Mechanic’s Lien

Invoicing

Properly managing invoices is another way to avoid a construction lien at the end of a project. Invoices are essential to get paid on a project. If they are not properly managed, you’re sure to have payment issues. 

One of the big issues with invoicing is contractors and subcontractors not turning in invoices on time. Contracts generally established payment terms for when invoices must be submitted. Missing the deadline can create issues with getting paid on time. It also creates issues with getting paid at all since invoices are generally processed in batches from the date that they were submitted. If your invoice is late, it may not be processed until the next batch is done. This commonly leads to issues making sure that older invoices are added to later processing batches.

Lien Waivers

The construction lien waiver is a document that waives your right to file a lien in response to non-payment for a specific invoice. Many contractors and subcontractors use them as an incentive to receive payment on time and to be chosen for work by a contractor or property owner. By offering the construction lien waiver, it gives the contractor or property owner added security and peace of mind. As a result, they are more likely to pay invoices on time and ensure that those invoices are paid in full.

The construction lien waiver also serves a purpose in record keeping. It outlines the details of the payment that the waiver is for. For contractors, this is proof that the invoice was paid, which can be helpful when resolving payment issues later in the project. It is important to only offer a construction lien waiver after payment was received as it can be used against you if the contractor or the property owner fails to pay you according to your invoice. 

Placing a lien on a property is a problem for everyone involved, which is why it is the option of last resort. However, not being paid for completed work can create major problems when trying to run a business or earn a living. The best way to protect yourself and your business from liens and payment problems is to have a better understanding of how payment works in construction contracts. If you have questions about liens, invoices, construction contracts, and payment issues, contact Houston contractor attorneys from Cotney Law.

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction lien attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Arbitration is one of the ways that construction companies resolve disputes without going to court. In many ways, it is similar to adjudication. However, it has a distinct difference that makes it useful in specific situations. Many companies choose it for its cost-effective conflict resolution system so that they can avoid costly and difficult lawsuits. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of construction arbitration. If you want to resolve your dispute in a cost-effective and timely manner, it’s time to speak with a Houston construction arbitration attorney

Related: Dispelling the Myths of Arbitration 

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a way to resolve disputes with the assistance of a third-party. Essentially, the third party serves as the judge in the case and listens to both points of view. The arbitrator makes the final decision as to how to handle the dispute. In most cases, the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding and final.

The result of arbitration differs from court trials in that the final decision is not binary. It is not a decision of which side prevails over the other but instead acts as a decision to do what is best for both parties. The arbitrator has some leeway determining what the best outcome is based on the evidence. You may not leave the arbitration with everything that you wanted, but there may be a solid compromise in place so that both parties benefit and lose to varying degrees.


Related: What To Expect During Arbitration

Arbitration vs. Adjudication

Arbitration and adjudication follow a similar process. However, the key difference is in the person that is judging the dispute. In adjudication, the adjudicator is a third-party selected by the two parties in the case. In an arbitration, the arbitrator is entirely independent of the two parties. This makes the decision more independent of the needs and influence of the parties involved in the case.

Arbitration and adjudication are often used to resolve construction disputes. Which one you use depends on a few factors. The most important factor is the relationship between the parties involved. If the two parties can agree on a person to judge the case, adjudication may be a better option. It offers more flexibility to resolve the case and appeal a decision if there is a possible problem in the case on legal grounds. Arbitration is not as flexible, and the decision is final.

Arbitration is a better option in cases where the decision needs to be final, as in cases where the decision can hold up work on the project. It is also a more preferable option if the two parties are closely related. Having an impartial third-party will make it easier to get an unbiased decision. 

Why Choose Arbitration

Arbitration is an effective means of resolving a dispute. It hands the decision to a person who is not influenced by the two parties, making the decision more impartial. This can be a major benefit if the two parties cannot agree on an adjudicator or have a particularly contentious relationship. The arbitrator will not be swayed by either side in a personal way and will be able to offer a ruling that is based solely on the evidence.

A Faster Process

Arbitration is a much faster process than taking legal action. Building cases, filing lawsuits, and waiting to go to court takes a lot of time. Arbitration can be handled much faster and with much less hassle. It is also a much more cost-effective process than a lawsuit. The costs for arbitration are mostly limited to the fees for the arbitrator, a location, and Houston construction dispute lawyers if needed. There are no court fees or other fees to worry about. Filing a lawsuit often involves a filing fee and many other court-related fees to process. On top of that, there are the costs associated with stopping work on the project, missing work to go to court, and many other areas where the fees can begin to pile up. 

This makes arbitration feasible for a wide range of disputes and projects. Subcontractors often don’t have the resources to file lawsuits against their contractors, putting them in a vulnerable position. The low cost of arbitration makes it easier for subcontractors to work toward a better resolution to a dispute. 

Arbitration Proceedings are Confidential

One of the benefits of not going to trial is that the results are not entered in the public record. Arbitration proceedings are handled confidentially, and everyone involved usually signs a non-disclosure agreement. For contractors and subcontractors, this can be a benefit as it protects their professional reputations. Companies may be hesitant to work with subcontractors that call for arbitration, and the same can be said of subcontractors working with contractors that arbitrate disputes often. Instead, the details are protected so that few people will be able to know what really happened. 

Work Continues During an Arbitration

Unlike a lawsuit or other types of legal action, work on a project does not have to stop during an arbitration. There is not a binding concept that prevents work in other areas of a project from happening. Many contractors use this feature to continue moving the project forward to avoid delays and the possible penalties that those delays can create. 

Regardless of which side of the dispute you are on, continuing work is a good thing. You will be able to continue to do work that you can be paid for without a dispute. Plus, keeping the project from stalling ultimately saves a lot of money in equipment, supply, and employee costs that can reduce a project’s profitability. This is one of the reasons why arbitration preserves the relationships between the two parties. It will not interfere with the overall project and prevent other subcontractors or the contractor from losing money. 

A Houston contractor lawyer can help you add clauses to your contract to allow arbitration to handle disputes. This way, you can avoid many of the potential problems that a dispute lawsuit can create. If you have questions about the kinds of software and documentation you may need, contact a Houston contractor attorney from Cotney Construction Law.

If you would like to speak with a Houston contractor attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Construction disputes can be an absolute mess. When a construction dispute emerges, construction professionals must navigate a complex web of conflicting federal, state, and local laws. This web only becomes more complicated when disputes are subject to the laws of another state. Fortunately, Texas is one of 24 states that limit the validity of forum-selection clauses, clauses that stipulate where disputes are to be resolved. 

Below, we discuss the Texas law as it pertains to forum-selection clauses. If your dispute involves public interests in Texas, rest assured that it can be resolved here in Texas. For a legal ally who will fight to resolve your dispute, consult a Houston construction lawyer from Cotney Law. 

The Validity of Forum-Selection Clauses 

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that forum-selection clauses are presumptively enforceable in its decision in Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. (We know this sounds a little contradictory but hear us out). In this case, Atlantic Marine asked the federal court to uphold a forum-selection clause that required disputes to be resolved in Virginia. Their request was denied. The court found that forum-selection clauses “should be given controlling weight in all but the most exceptional cases” and that courts should only consider public interests, not private interests, when making a decision. Public interests include laws that limit forum-selection clauses like those in Texas. 

Texas Business and Commerce Code § 272.001 stipulates: 

If a construction contract or an agreement collateral to or affecting the construction contract contains a provision making the contract or agreement or any conflict arising under the contract or agreement subject to another state’s law, litigation in the courts of another state, or arbitration in another state, that provision is voidable by a party obligated by the contract or agreement to perform the work that is the subject of the construction contract.

What does this all mean? Essentially, the courts will consider state law when deciding whether or not a forum-selection clause is enforceable. Texas law states that forum-selection clauses are voidable. There are exceptions, but if a dispute relating to a Texas project emerges, you can generally insist that the dispute be resolved in Texas. 

Resolving a Dispute on Your Terms 

Ensuring the venue of your construction dispute is only a small victory on the road to a satisfactory resolution. Winning the battle will require a dedicated legal team familiar with Texas Law. At Cotney Law, our Houston construction dispute lawyers are not only adept at navigating the Texas legal system but also capable of resolving disputes either through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or litigation. If you want to resolve your dispute on your terms, contact the experienced legal team at Cotney Law today. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Has something gone wrong on your public construction project? Maybe you’re a subcontractor who hasn’t been paid for work provided. Or maybe you’re a material provider getting static from a general contractor despite meeting your contractual obligations. If that’s the case, you’re probably wondering how to file a payment bond claim in Texas. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing below. 

Of note, this article is for educational purposes only and will cover how to file a claim under Texas’ Little Miller Act. If your project is owned by the federal government, your claim will need to comply with the Miller Act of 1935 — a different situation but one our Houston construction attorneys can help with nonetheless. 

Texas’ Little Miller Act 

Every state has its own version of the Miller Act with its own sets of rules. Texas is no different. Under Texas’ Little Miller Act, a payment bond is “solely for the protection and use of payment bond beneficiaries who have a direct contractual relationship with the prime contractor or a subcontractor to supply public work labor or material.” Essentially, if you provided labor or materials to a general contractor or even a subcontractor, you’re golden and can proceed with filing a claim. 

Claim Requirements 

Like mechanic’s lien requirements, the requirements for filing a bond claim in Texas are tricky. To file a claim, you will first need to send a written notice of the claim by certified or registered mail to the general contractor and surety “on or before the 15th day of the third month after each month in which any of the claimed labor was performed or any of the claimed material was delivered.” (Parties that did not contract directly with the general contractor are required to send an additional notice on the 15th day of the second month). Once the claim has been filed, you must wait at least sixty days to enforce it. 

There are additional requirements for these notices that mostly boil down to having the notices be accurate, lawful, and include pertinent information. Consult a Houston construction attorney with Cotney Law for detailed information on bond claim requirements. 

File a Bond Claim With Ease 

As you can see, filing a claim pursuant to Texas’ Little Miller Act is no joke. Just one mistake could result in you losing out on your right to payment. For this reason and more, we recommend partnering with our law firm whenever you need to file a bond claim. We can ensure that you comply with all notice requirements and deadlines so that you receive the payment you rightly deserve. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

If you’ve been accused of a construction defect, you would do well to research your state’s statute of limitations and statute of repose. This is one of the most common and effective defenses against construction defect claims because they limit the amount of time that claimants have to establish a legitimate defect claim. 

In this brief article, we discuss these statutes in detail as well as what contractors, subcontractors, material providers, and design professionals can do if a construction defect claim is being filed against them. For a legal ally who will defend your company from unsubstantiated claims, the Houston construction defect attorneys from Cotney Law are here to help. 

Statute of Repose

In the state of Texas, the statute of repose is 10 years after substantial completion, meaning that an owner has a full decade to file a construction defect claim against you once a project has ended. As specified in Sections 16.008 and 16.009 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, this applies to: 

  • Injury, damage, or loss to real or personal property;
  • Personal injury;
  • Wrongful death;
  • Contribution; or
  • Indemnity

This 10-year period can be extended by two years if the claimant presents a written claim or if damage, injury, or death occurs in the 10th year of the limitations period. 

Statute of Limitations

Of note, the 10-year statute of limitations is not the only limitation to keep in mind. Claimants may be held to a four-year or even two-year deadline. As stipulated by Section 16.003, a claimant has two years to file a claim “after the day the cause of action accrues.” A claimant will have four years to file a claim if it involves a claim for breach of contract. However, the 10-year statute of repose still applies regardless of when the defect is discovered. Further complicating matters is the fact that these two- and four-year deadlines do not apply to the state or a political subdivision of the state. 

Defending Against a Construction Defect Claim 

Statutes of repose and limitations are designed to aid defendants, but as you can see above, it can be difficult to determine which statutes apply to a specific case. For this reason and more, we recommend consulting a Houston construction defect attorney if a construction defect claim has been filed against you. A lawyer with Cotney Law can not only determine if a claim is legitimate but also build a staunch defense around your case if it is. Before you end up footing the bill for a claim you didn’t cause, reach out to the experienced team at Cotney Law. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction defect lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Summers in Houston, Texas, are hot and oppressive with temperatures soaring above 95 degrees Fahrenheit at the peak of August accompanied by a high degree of humidity. Construction workers are already at risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries due to exposure to hot environments or extreme heat, and this risk is further heightened by a combination of physical activity, clothing, and a rough-and-tumble work environment.

In order to detect and manage health risks and ensure no undue strain is placed upon your workers’ physical abilities, employers should educate themselves on heat-related illnesses and injuries and how to prevent them. In this brief article, we’ll touch on a number of heat-related effects and what you can do to prevent and manage them. Since heat-related illnesses are considered safety hazards, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Houston contractor attorney regarding legal advice for staying in compliance with federal and local safety regulations. 

Related: Summer Safety Tips for Contractors

Common Types of Heat-Related Illnesses

The most common type of heat-related illness found on construction sites is heat exhaustion — the point in which the cardiovascular system can no longer support the work being performed by the individual. Once the worker’s heart rate has reached its peak, he or she will begin to feel symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, light-headedness, nausea, excessive sweat, and difficulty working. Although the worker can begin to feel better within 10 to 15 minutes if he or she stops work and is directed to a shady area to cool down, workers often push through these symptoms in order to complete their task or stay productive. 

The second most common heat-related illness is exertional heat stroke (EHS) — a serious medical emergency that can result in death if not treated properly. EHS can come on very suddenly without any previous signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion and is only diagnosed when the worker begins experiencing hallucinations, behavioral changes, or a core body temperature greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. He or she will feel unable to continue working or collapse on the job. While the worker may exhibit symptoms similar to heat exhaustion, such as vomiting and hot and sweaty skin, they will always experience additional behavioral changes unique to EHS as well. This is the cue for immediate medical attention. 

Related: Survive the Heat: Safety Tips for Construction Professionals

Preventing Heat Exhaustion, EHS, & More

The three steps to addressing and preventing heat-related illnesses are to recognize the symptoms, assess the risk, and limit exposure. The most important thing you can do for your workers in these sweltering summer months is to encourage them to pay attention to what their body is telling them. Educate them on the symptoms of heat stress. Tell them that you would rather have them take a break and stop working than push through for the sake of productivity and end up in need of serious medical attention. Worker safety should always be the priority. 

After that, assess the risk of the outdoor work environment and screen workers for heat intolerance before beginning a project. This may include calculating the heat index, identifying previous heat-related illnesses in your workers’ backgrounds, and understanding how underlying medical conditions could affect their ability to tolerate heat. Lastly, limit exposure by scheduling jobs for the cooler part of the day, provide shaded areas for rest and recovery, and modify work/rest schedules to allow for more rest time. Your workers will thank you. For more information on protecting your workers from heat stress while making sure your jobsite remains in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations, consult with one of our Houston contractor attorneys

If you would like to speak with a Houston construction litigation attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has wreaked devastating havoc on the construction industry from mounting delays and missed deadlines to layoffs and a sick workforce. Among these trends, U.S. mechanics lien filings have reached an all-time high. Now, more than ever, contractors are choosing to take advantage of the legal tools at their disposal to secure payment. 

Below, a Houston construction lien attorney with Cotney Law discusses the various reasons speculated to be contributing to this increase as well as what you can do to take advantage of your legal rights during these unprecedented times. If you want to ensure your construction business will survive an economic downturn caused by COVID-19, now is the time to take quick action to receive money owed to you on jobs you have performed. 

Related: An Overview of Texas Mechanic’s Lien Law

Why Are More Contractors Choosing to File a Mechanics Lien?

In order to understand why more contractors are choosing to file a mechanics lien in the wake of COVID-19, it’s important to review the state of the construction market before COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the construction market faced an optimistic economic outlook with a record high industry confidence index. It’s entirely possible, given the availability of projects and projected growth of the market, that contractors neglected handling missed or delayed payments. 

When the global recession, also known as the Great Lockdown, happened, construction businesses became desperate for any payment they could get. Between sick workers and shipping delays on materials, many contractors were struggling just to keep their doors open. When even a single missed or delayed payment could lead to total bankruptcy, it’s easy to see why contractors are choosing to protect their cash flow via a mechanics lien. 

Related: The Intricacies of Filing a Mechanic’s Lien in Texas

Why Should You File a Mechanics Lien?

If you’re awaiting payment on any job, it’s time to consider filing a mechanics lien. As the world faces one of the largest economic downturns, you need to take a hard look at the money owed to you on projects you have completed and take action to secure your payment. Rather than focusing on the negative consequences of the outbreak, such as disruptions in supply chains or project delays, you should focus on what you can currently do to secure the future of your construction business. 

The first step you should take to protect your business is to file your lien as quickly as possible. If your state does not require a notice of intent to lien before you can file, then forego the process of sending a warning. Since many counties are still closing their doors to the public, file your lien remotely via electronic recording. Then, once the other parties have received an electronic notice, monitor the situation closely. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Houston construction lien attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Owners are likely to take action to decrease risk and maximize flexibility following COVID-19 in order to mitigate growing concerns, such as the possibility for projects to stop and start due to supply chain disruptions or decreased demand for the scope of the project. Additionally, further medical guidance may necessitate a change to the design of the final project. Below, our Houston construction lawyers discuss the kind of contract terms contractors can expect to face in a post-pandemic landscape.

The Best Option Is a Cost-Plus Contract

The cost-plus contract is the most flexible contract type and pricing model for owners and contractors alike. In this contractual agreement, the contractor is reimbursed for all agreed-upon construction-related expenses plus a fee, which is a specific percentage of the costs or a fixed amount for profit. This model is great for the owner because it alleviates any concerns that the contractor may attempt to drive up costs and provides certainty that the project will remain within a specific price range. Likewise, it’s beneficial for the contractor to be assured that all expenses associated with the project will be covered. 

Both parties benefit from the flexibility of the model, which allows the design, material, and scope of the work to be modified throughout the project. If pricing does become an issue or the supply chain is disrupted, then materials can easily be switched out. However, as with any type of contract, there are drawbacks to be aware of. Reimbursement means that you’ll be expected to front your own costs as the contractor. This can easily put both the owner and the contractor in a bind if cash flow is disrupted. Reach out to one of our Houston construction attorneys if you have any further questions regarding cost-plus contracts.

Related: Pros and Cons of Common Construction Contracts

Integrated Project Delivery May Help to Absorb Risk

Another type of contractual model is integrated project delivery (IPD). IPD has been gaining traction over the years as a method that sets out to optimize efficiency based on a shared risk/reward model with waivers of liability between team members and guaranteed costs. The method generally encourages collaboration of knowledge and experience from all stakeholders, rather than just the owner, designer, and contractor. 

Owners and contractors may be more likely to opt for integrated project delivery due to the model’s potential to avoid delays, budget overruns, and change orders. Additionally, the profit for the project is set aside in a “bucket” to be divided at the end according to a predetermined percentage. In theory, this should incentivize all members to come to an agreement before resorting to legal measures, such as force majeure. Everyone shares in the reward and thus, shares in the risk. 

Related: What to Consider Before Signing a Construction Contract

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that even other forms of construction contracts may be amended to include provisions that will protect the owner and contractor. Contractors are likely to see more and more contracts with termination provisions that allow the owner to terminate without cause and without penalty. Likewise, they may see costs outlined with regards to how much they may be entitled to if work is temporarily suspended due to a project shutdown. More likely to arise are provisions that allow for project slowdowns, rather than shutdowns that lead to further expenses. For legal assistance navigating the post-pandemic landscape with changing contract provisions, consult with a Houston construction attorney with Cotney Law.

If you would like to speak with a Houston construction lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.