Latent defects are one of the two most common types of defects found in new...
Construction negligence happens when a project fails to comply with building codes and standards of care. Negligence at any stage of a construction project can threaten the safety of occupants and the integrity of the affected structure. Construction negligence commonly arises during the actual construction or repair of a building, but it can occur during the design phase of a project as well.
Types of Construction Defects
Construction defects fall into two categories: patent and latent.
The difference between patent and latent construction defects is that patent defects refer to known or obvious construction deficiencies or those easily detectable after inspection. Latent defects are hidden construction deficiencies or those that are hard to detect even after a thorough inspection because the defect may be hidden behind walls or under flooring. The most common types of construction defects include:
Design defects stem from the failure of an engineer or architect to create error-free and properly organized construction designs. They can arise by error, inaccuracy, or omission. A redesign or replacement of a specific component may help rectify an error-related design defect.
These defects occur because of defective, damaged, or insufficient building material. Material defects arising from the manufacturer may be detected too late in the construction process to remedy the defect, or after the project is complete. For this reason, material defects may be costly to correct.
These defects arise when a contractor does not comply with specific building codes or standards during construction of a structure or a component. Workmanship defects can also happen when builders use unskilled labor to cut costs. In fact, using unskilled labor is one of the signs the builder cut corners.
What Are Examples of Construction Negligence?
Architect and Builder
An architect provides inaccurate information to a builder making a trench for electrical cables. The builder damages a water pipe, causing the neighbor’s property to flood. The architect may be liable to the builder for violating the duty to provide accurate information. The architect may also be liable for the flood and damages caused.
Builder and Pedestrian
A builder fails to construct catch platforms to keep falling materials from hitting those walking near a construction site. A ladder falls on a pedestrian passing near the construction site. The builder may be legally responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries for failing to observe reasonable safety standards.
Builder and Homeowner
A contractor or builder constructs a house with foundation problems. Upon inspection, the homeowner discovers the issue. The homeowner has the right to hold the builder or contractor liable for damages arising from his or her negligent work.
Attempts by home builders to speed up the construction process while controlling costs are one of the main factors fueling the construction defect pandemic. Unfortunately, home builders sometimes take shortcuts when the existing home inventory cannot meet the skyrocketing demand for homes.
Duty of Care in Construction Negligence Cases
Duty of care is a legal term that describes the level of responsibility of parties involved in the construction process. These parties have a legal duty to obey safety standards and building regulations to prevent defects and accidents during the construction project. This duty of care covers construction workers, homeowners, commercial property owners, homeowners’ associations, residents, and subsequent property buyers.
Multiple parties may be in charge of duty of care in a construction project. The reason is that different parties may take over management or supervisory responsibilities during construction. These parties could include:
- General contractors
- Project managers
How Do Courts Establish Construction Negligence?
Construction professionals must employ reasonable care, expertise, and workmanship during construction. Damages, including injuries, construction defects, or monetary losses, may arise if these parties are negligent in their actions.
Proving construction negligence in the court is an arduous task. You must prove specific elements to win a construction negligence case. A construction defect lawyer can compile the evidence and convincing arguments required to prove these four elements.
Duty of Care
As mentioned earlier, a contractor owes a homeowner the duty to observe safety standards and relevant building codes. This duty of care kicks in once the contractor signs a construction contract with the homeowner or when a builder decides to build a home that will be sold to the public.
Violation of Duty of Care
After establishing the duty of care, you must demonstrate that the contractor violated his or her duty of care. Your lawyer will help you show that the contractor acted negligently and failed to fulfill the contract provisions, generally through the assistance of a litigation construction expert witness.
This element requires you (or the lawyer) to show that the contractor’s actions directly led to your injury, damages, or losses. Your injury, damage, or loss could have been prevented if the contractor or builder had honored his or her duty of care.
You must show that you suffered real damages due to the contractor’s negligent actions. Foundation damage, mold growth, and exterior cracking, for instance, may indicate negligence on the part of the contractor.
What Is the Statute of Limitations/Repose for Construction Negligence?
The deadline for filing a construction negligence claim varies with state and local law. Nevada, for instance, has a 10-year statute of repose after substantial project completion. This deadline applies unless claims arise from fraud.
The fraud exception under Nevada’s statute of repose excludes junior subcontractors if they unintentionally conceal fraud-related construction defects. This unintentional concealment by junior subcontractors must be “reasonable.” Your lawyer can help you understand your state-specific statute of limitations and statute of repose and how to proceed with the case.
Then the 3-year Nevada statute of limitations for negligence also comes into play, which triggers from when you knew or should have known of the defective condition. Both the statute of repose and statute of limitation will be applied so it is important to contact a construction defect attorney so that you understand your deadline to file an action.
How A Construction Defect Attorney Can Assist in Your Case
A construction defect attorney is a crucial legal resource in establishing construction negligence and recovering damages. An attorney who has handled construction negligence cases before will know the rules, regulations, and court decisions that apply to your case. The attorney can help your case in the following ways:
A construction defect attorney can investigate your case and build a claim that accounts for the full extent of your damages. The attorney can assemble evidence to help prove how the contractor’s negligent action directly caused your damages, losses, or injuries. This is usually done by hiring experts for the types of defects present at the home.
Mastery of Construction Rules and Regulations
Local and state rules are the bedrock of construction law. A lawyer who understands your local laws can easily identify incidents of local building code violations and all pre-litigation and litigation requirements.
Accessing Qualified Construction Professionals
Construction defect attorneys regularly work with engineers, architects, and other qualified individuals in the construction industry. They can tap into these work relationships to find a qualified person to examine the structure and determine whether the contractor followed the relevant standard of care and codes.
Bringing an Expert Witness on Board
You may need an expert witness to testify for you to win a construction negligence case. The witness can explain to the Jury or Judge the applicable safety standards and building regulations in your area. The witness can then show how your contractor or builder breached those standards and regulations.
Other contractors, engineers, builders, or other parties with specific information about the construction in question may qualify as expert witnesses. Your lawyer will know whom to bring on board as an expert witness.