Construction Expert Witness Practice Overview
This article offers an introduction to construction expert witness practice from our perspective. It includes some insights into: our capabilities; what a prospective client should seek from a construction expert; how to minimize the risk of being involved in a dispute, and some resources that may help the interested parties.
We all find ourselves in legal disputes from time to time. When this happens, the aggrieved party hopefully still has a good business relationship with the other party(ies) who were involved, and can also rely on discussion, a warranty, or a contract, for example, to resolve the matter, but we typically retain an attorney; hopefully one who specializes in the particular issue.
In addition to their legal expertise and possible skills in some technical specialty, attorneys often retain professionals who can expertly address subtleties of the dispute. An architect or engineer is the right person to evaluate structural design and aesthetic issues, among others. As a professional remodeler with a unique academic background and skills, The Artisans Group can address: general construction issues and techniques; applications of products & materials; project management, estimating, planning, and risk management; safe demolition; damage evaluation, and rules and regulations. As a result, we can effectively document standards of practice that will show that the “contractor” did actually perform professionally, or perhaps, that he failed to comply with the architect's specifications.
Depending, of course, on the issues at hand, your construction expert should: examine all construction documents, relevant building code, and land use law; perform a thorough site visit; be/become familiar with products’ manufacturers’ specifications; review facts of the case versus any regulatory agencies. This is only a sample of the factors that the expert should review. The expert’s agreement may include a report, court appearances and/or depositions, and require a fee for each.
Presumably, our legal colleagues would agree that we cannot absolutely prevent legal problems, but we can reduce the risk of landing in a construction dispute:
Have a clear understanding of the products involved, the project’s time frame, and the criteria for a legal construction contract and contractor.
Resources (the process and any issues to be addressed)
o Local building department
o Your construction professionals
o NJ Department of Community Affairs
o NY State’s Division of Code Enforcement and Administration
o Under the Office of the Attorney General in PA and NJ
o The Writings page on our web site.
Mutual trust and respect are essential! Undeserved cynicism kills a project as effectively as a bad contractor. One key to working well with contractors and understanding durations, sequences, and the reasons for doing things is to ask good questions, and to trust the answers if they sound logical. Mistrust or second-guessing is a sign of a troubled project and an indication to talk and either restore trust or part company.
The golden rule is alive and well. Don’t cavalierly hire the least expensive bidder and expect professional results.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.