Construction Defects & Liability

From leaking roofs to faulty wiring and uneven foundation you’ve probably had to deal with construction defects in a project or two. A construction defect typically results from a deficiency in the design, operation, or maintenance of a structure and can result in a failure that leads to damage or reduced value. 

 

What Are Construction Defects?

 

Defects can go unnoticed for some time or be seen in plain sight. Patent defects are obvious issues like foundation cracks or undersized materials. In these cases, they can be easily spotted during the construction process when liability is explicit and there is a more minimal repair cost. However, it is often the case that defects are latent, or hidden. This type of defect may just be harder to find or it may exist during the construction phase but remain undiscovered until project completion or structure utilization. Weeks, months, and years can go by without a latent defect being uncovered. In fact, they can progress over time, becoming increasingly worse as the structure is put to use and subject to wear and tear. Leaky roofs that lead to the presence of mold and beams that do not meet strength capacity are defects that may not be detected at first glance but can lead to serious damage as time goes on. 

 

Construction defects stem from different types of flaws in the construction process. The main categories of defects fall under faults related to design, materials, workmanship, and maintenance. Design deficiencies come in the form of mistakes on the part of architects or engineers during the early phases of building or planning to build a structure. Material deficiencies arise from the use of damaged or poor-quality materials. Workmanship deficiencies are a result of poor construction or handiwork while a structure is being built. Maintenance deficiencies can manifest over time and come from a lack of quality checks, which should be regularly conducted to prevent expensive repairs, progressive issues, and client grievances.   

 

Who Is Liable?

 

With defects stemming from a variety of factors, who exactly is liable and for what? The legal aspects of construction defects derive from the contractual agreements. A contractor’s duties are laid out in the contract, assigning them as the individual responsible for the work to be completed. From hiring subcontractors to ordering materials and laying out the construction process, contractors have a host of obligations that are laid out - the basis for liability. If the contract is followed throughout the process then contractors generally are not held liable for defects unless they followed through knowing the plan would not work or that it was defective, a form of negligent construction. 

 

In the same way that a contractor’s liability is bound based on a contract, so too is that of a subcontractor. A plumber would be held liable for installing a leaky pipe that leads to serious water damage. In the case of a product not working as intended, liability is assigned to the manufacturer for producing a substandard item. A contractor or subcontractor would not be responsible for the failure of a product to perform as it should. Design professionals are liable for failures in the construction plan such as miscalculations or poorly thought out designs. However, these situations can be tricky as it is not always immediately clear whether a designer or contractor should be held liable for a structural failure. That is - erroneous calculation versus execution. The lines can often be blurred in the extensive processes of construction projects, making construction defect liability a bit complicated at times. 

 

To avoid the consequences of being involved with a construction defect case, it is best to proactively protect yourself with a comprehensive insurance plan. At NBIG, we specialize in Builder’s Risk Insurance to help safeguard against potential losses that may occur in the construction process. Contact an agent today to learn more about how we can help you get the coverage you need.

 


 

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