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Disputes between a contractor or a construction company and a customer are all too common. Disputes often arise out of delays in getting the work down, unsatisfactory work, or a customer's failure to make payments. Construction-related disputes can consume a lot of time and money on the part of everyone involved. In many cases, the expense involved in pursuing a dispute is far out of proportion to the money actually at stake. An attorney with experience in construction disputes can help you pursue your claim in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
Most construction contracts set out the manner in which disputes are to be resolved. Usually, those contracts call for use of a means other than litigation, such as arbitration or mediation, to resolve disputes.
There are some construction-related disputes that will only be resolved through litigation. A claim under a mechanic's lien requires court action for enforcement. A mechanic's lien is a method used by contractors or others involved in improving real property to ensure that they are paid for services performed and materials supplied. The lien attaches to the property when the work is performed or goods are delivered. It remains on the property until payment is made. If the property owner does not pay for the services or materials, the person who performed the work or sold the materials may initiate a court proceeding to enforce the lien. A mechanic's lien proceeding, if not settled or resolved before final judgment, may require a sale of the property to pay for the services and materials.
Many construction contracts require that disputes arising under the contract be resolved by arbitration. In addition, many courts will order that a case be submitted to arbitration before allowing it to come to trial. Arbitration is like a trial, except that it is usually much less formal. The dispute is heard by one or more arbitrators, who are selected from a panel of neutral arbitrators. Depending on the local practices and rules, the arbitrators may be attorneys, or people with expertise in the construction industry. The arbitrators act like a judge, in that they hear the case and make a final decision based on the evidence presented.
Arbitration may be made binding on the parties, if they so agree. Many construction contracts do require binding arbitration, and if you sign such a contract without removing that provision, you will be deemed to have agreed to binding arbitration. The courts will not overturn the order of an arbitrator in binding arbitration unless the arbitrator made a decision that completely lacked any legal foundation.
Although arbitration is less formal and complex than a regular trial, it still is important that you have legal counsel you can rely on to make your case. An experienced construction law attorney will work hard to present your case in the best manner possible.
Mediation is another method of dispute resolution that is often ordered by courts before a case may be brought to trial. Mediation is seldom required by a contract, and it also differs from arbitration in that it is not like a trial. Mediation is an effort to get the parties to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. A mediator, like an arbitrator, is a neutral party, but unlike an arbitrator, a mediator does not make a decision as to who is right or who is wrong, but will do what she can to get the parties to some common ground for an agreement. The mediator's role is limited to listening to each party, and presenting settlement options and proposals to the parties. Most mediators are selected for their knowledge of a particular area of the law. This lets them advise a party as to whether a particular claim may or may not be successful in court, and whether a party might be best advised to accept a settlement offer. No one forces the parties to come to an agreement, and there is ordinarily no penalty on a party who refuses to compromise or settle a claim.
Construction disputes can be complex, expensive affairs. No matter the method used to resolve your dispute, you should be represented by an attorney who can help you explore your options, and pursue your claim in a way that meets your needs and that is in your best interest. An experienced construction law attorney can provide you with the representation that you need.
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