Property damage claims from construction operations routinely occur. But contractors can protection themselves against construction law actions by regularly performing pre- and post-construction surveys.
Noise, vibrations, traffic disruption and other conditions can cause problems during construction. Construction effects can go beyond the construction area in larger earthwork projects involving blasting, mining, deep excavation, groundwater pumping and earthen embankments.
These larger projects may damage nearby structures and property. Many times, however, there was existing damage that was unknown to the resident.
Regardless of fault, contractors must try to prove they were not liable. Where there was serious damage, they must accurately document the damage related to the construction project.
Before beginning a project, contractors should consider the type of work and equipment that will cause ground vibrations, proximity to nearby structures and the type of adjacent structures. Contractors must assess the potential for damaging vibrations and develop plans to cease work and take other action to prevent damage. Companies should take measures to reduce ground vibrations from construction equipment.
Keeping thorough records can show why as-built conditions are different than original design documents, indicate responsibility for the work and address issues that arise years later. It should comply with procedures that track changes and written approvals throughout the construction.
This should be part of the construction planning process and develop a rough layout of the construction site. Independent consulting engineers may prepare the survey.
The proposed and adjacent structures’ locations, condition and location of existing structures and monuments, and existing roads and parking lots slated for retention should be documented. Utility, gas, phone, and cable lines near the construction site need to be recorded.
Surveys can also reveal any potential problems that should be addressed in planning. Another survey should be performed when construction is completed if there are claims that any property or structures were damaged during the work.
Contractors should, if permitted, conduct pre-construction surveys of other properties to determine whether there is existing damage. Structure surveys may include building condition reports by a registered professional engineer on foundations, walls, floors, ceilings, roof, chimney, and other structural components.
Reports may also cover piping, HVAC, hot water tanks and other delicate equipment in the building. Videotaping and photographs by a commercial photographer, under a professional engineer’s direction, can record existing damage.
These surveys are also important to show the condition of the area after the project is completed. Conditions should be documented before off-site mobilization. Subcontractors must document as-built conditions before turning over to the next contractor when the work is finished.
Attorneys can provide guidance on dealing with or preventing problems during construction. They can help protect a party’s rights.