Prince George is in the midst of an exciting construction boom, issuing more building permits in the first four months of 2022 than in the same period for 2020 and 2021 combined. When construction projects run smoothly, it can be exciting and satisfying to see their vision realized. However, when things go awry and disputes arise, it can be both stressful and overwhelming. Understanding your legal options can help find a resolution for your construction dispute.
Why Do Disputes Happen?
Problems arising during a construction project may be a result of a lack of proper planning or mid-project changes. Contractors can sometimes overbook and not show up to the job site when expected, or there may be a lack of coordination among subcontractors leading to delays. Late permits or material deliveries or unexpected natural occurrences such as weather or the discovery of asbestos or mold can also result in delays and added costs. Sometimes the quality of work simply does not meet your expectations. All these factors and others can lead to legal disputes.
Once a dispute has arisen, it’s helpful to know your options. When emotions are heated, you may be tempted to rush out and file a lawsuit. However, it’s almost always best to try solving your dispute outside of court first, as it will likely be less expensive and faster than initiating a more formal process. In fact, some contracts include terms that set out a requirement to initiate alternative dispute resolution prior to litigation.
Most lawyers will start by attempting to negotiate a resolution. Your lawyer can help you understand your rights and obligations and guide you through the negotiation process, providing suggested solutions and reasonable compromises.
The negotiation process can occur in various formats, often involving emails and phone calls between your lawyer and the other party or his/her lawyer. Resolving your matter using negotiation is the most efficient and cost-effective approach – if you can both make it work.
A mediator is a neutral and agreed-upon third party, often a lawyer, who is trained to bring both sides together and assist in finding a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediator may meet with all parties as a group and also individually. Often each party brings their respective lawyer to the mediation, but a lawyer is not required. The mediator emphasizes consensus building and compromise, facilitating flexible solutions to which both parties can agree.
When parties cannot come to a resolution through negotiation or mediation, they may agree to refer the matter to arbitration. This process also involves a neutral third party who often has expertise in the area under dispute. An arbitrator is authorized by the parties to make a legally binding decision based on the facts they are presented with.
Sometimes the lack of trust between parties or motivation to come to a resolution makes litigation the best choice. In some cases, there is so much at stake, or one side’s claims are deemed so unreasonable that investment in litigation is necessary.
When dealing with a dispute, or if you are anticipating a dispute, it is in your best interest to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options. Doing so will ensure you receive some early guidance and help you avoid making any missteps that could undermine your case. There may also be some urgency if you have potential limitation periods and tight timelines to file construction liens.
Contact Justin L.W. Haines for more information.