Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

Plan Ahead for the Inevitable Murphy’s Law Related Accident

Melissa BrumbackFor this week’s Guest Post Friday here at Construction Law Musings, we welcome back Melissa Dewey Brumback. Melissa (@melissabrumback) is a construction attorney and partner in the firm Ragsdale Liggett, PLLC in Raleigh. Melissa has spent over a decade representing engineers and architects, advising them on contract proposals to limit risks, and defending them when litigation does arise. She is the author of the award-winning Construction Law in North Carolina a blog dedicated to the A/E community. Melissa is rated AV, the best rating of the Martindale Hubbell lawyer rating system, is a certified LEED Green Associate, and serves as President of the RL Mace Universal Design Institute. She is also signed up to take a cruise this summer with her family (!).

The recent cruise ship fiasco, in which thousands were stranded at sea for an entire week with no running water or toilet facilities, visibly brought to mind the old axiom to “Be Prepared.” As Chris likes to say, Murphy was an optimist.

What does this have to do with your construction company? Plenty. Since time is money and a downed project extremely expensive, you should plan in advance for likely emergency situations. Some things to consider:

  1. Emergency Contacts: Do you only have a cell number for your key project manager? You should have at least two ways to reach all key employees and subcontractors, as well as owner representatives and the designers of record. Consider that in a large emergency, sometimes entire cell phone towers are out of commission from overuse. A land line comes in awfully handy in such a situation.
  2. Emergency Equipment and Materials needs: Do you know who to call if your jobsite is vandalized, and you suddenly need more bricks or new cranes? If your usual supplier of cement suddenly files for bankruptcy protection, do you have another vender you can turn to? You should maintain a database with at least one alternative vendor and/or subcontractor that could, in a pinch, get your job up and running again.
  3. Who should pay for emergencies? This is a great question—one that should be asked up front as part of your contract negotiation. You should always plan for additional compensation up front. If an Act of God causes material and time losses, are you compensated? Again, best practice is to have your contract specify when and how you can get extra time or money. The default position of most form contracts is that you do get extra time, but no extra money, for an Act of God. However, that can be changed by the parties.
  4. Insurance: You do have insurance, yes? But do you have the proper insurance, in the right amounts, for your risk? Spend some time talking with your insurance agent about what is, and what is not, covered under policies. Also determine your deductible, and make arrangements to have that deductible money on hand in the event a claim is made.
  5. The right attitude is everything. Despite using baggies for toilet needs and eating onion sandwiches, reports from the cruise passengers indicated that some, at least, were continuing to have fun. Might as well, right? If an emergency happens on your Project, you have a choice. You can either moan about your bad luck, or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and figure out how best to quickly get back on track.

Smooth sailings out there!

As always, Melissa and I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

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