When a home, office building, or any other structure is being built, defects can occur during various phases of the construction process. In most cases, these defects are relatively minor and can include things such as blemishes, walls dents, small cracks, or general deterioration. However, significant construction defects can cause major property damage and seriously compromise the safety of the property owner, as well as those inside the building or on the premises. Unfortunately, many of these defects are not discovered until long after the work has been completed. As a result, it can be difficult to pursue legal action against a contractor or construction company if a property owner or other individual is injured as a result of a construction defect. An experienced property damage lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the accident and pursue the financial compensation the client deserves.
What are Construction Defects?
There is no simple answer to this question because there are many viewpoints and interests involved in identifying a construction defect. In most cases, a construction defect is a flaw in the design, workmanship, and/or materials used that results in a failure in some aspect of the structure. Depending on the nature of the defect, this can cause significant property damage and serious injuries. To be considered a construction defect, the following three factors must apply:
- Poor design, materials, or workmanship caused a deficiency in the construction process.
- The deficiency led to a failure in the structure that was being built.
- The failure caused damage to the property or injuries to a person.
The following are examples of the costliest construction defects:
- Defective products
- Expansive soils
- Failure to build per approved plans
- Faulty installation
- Inadequate shear walls
- Negative slope
- Poor indoor air quality
- Structural integrity: concrete, masonry and division, carpentry, unstable foundations
- Stucco cracks
- Thermal and moisture protection
- Water intrusion, which can result in toxic mold
What are the Most Common Types of Construction Defects?
Construction defects are generally classified as latent or patent defects. Patent defects are obvious and should be immediately noticed during the inspection process. These also tend to be easier to fix because the defect is usually aesthetic in nature and does not require extensive and invasive repairs. Latent defects are usually below the surface or could be a defect in the overall design of the project. These tend to be problematic and are more difficult to repair. The following are examples of the most common types of construction defects:
- Design defects: These can occur when an engineer, architect, or other design professional fails to develop accurate, organized, and detailed construction documents. These defects are typically the result of an error or an omission. Errors require a redesign and replacement of a component part, whereas omissions can be fixed by revising the contractor’s work orders.
- Material defects: These occur when building materials are either damaged or inadequate. Material defects can be particularly problematic when the defects come from the manufacturer because it is unlikely that the construction workers using the material will be aware of the defect until after they have incorporated it into the building project. Fixing these defects can be very costly, since they often require new materials and additional labor. Examples can include inferior drywall, deteriorating flashing, and poor-quality asphalt roofing shingles.
- Workmanship defects: These defects can occur when a contractor fails to complete the project in accordance with the construction plan, resulting in poor-quality workmanship. Examples can include improper plumbing that leads to leaks, damage to electrical wires inside a wall, or cracks in the foundation or walls.
- Subsurface deficiencies: California has expansive soil conditions, and houses are often built on hills or other areas whereby a stable foundation is difficult to find. When a structure is built on a foundation that is unstable, it can result in cracked foundations, floor slabs, or other significant damage to the building. If the subsurface does not allow for adequate drainage, the property could shift and be at greater risk for flooding or even landslides if the problem becomes severe.
What is the Standard of Care in Construction?
Whether the design professional is a contractor, a consultant, or a subcontractor, the individual has a duty to complete the project in accordance with the construction contract, which has become a key document in the construction process. Contractors have a responsibility to visit the construction site, become familiar with local conditions, and closely review contract documents to ensure that the workmanship meets the standard within the construction industry. Whereas the contractor is responsible for overseeing the project and making sure that the work is free from defects, the design professional is responsible for ensuring that the construction documents are prepared in accordance with local laws, statutes, and ordinances.
Am I Entitled to Financial Compensation for a Construction Defect?
If an individual is seriously injured as a result of a construction defect, the claims process can be extremely complicated, simply because of the number of scenarios that can cause a construction defect and the different parties that are involved. In addition, there are certain criteria that must be met to claim compensation. However, a skilled property damage lawyer will walk clients through every step of the claims process, anticipate common obstacles, and ensure that his or her legal rights are protected every step of the way. Financial compensation may be recovered for a construction defect provided the builder can be held negligent for the following:
- Using defective building materials or components
- Failing to meet the accepted standards of workmanship when constructing the property
- Violating building codes during the construction process
- Failing to meet the professional standards of design when the plans were approved.
Even if the above criteria are met, it is not guaranteed that an individual will be able to recover compensation. To collect compensation for any property damage or injuries caused by a construction defect, there must be an insurance policy that the claim can be made against. Insurance policies cover builder liability only for a certain period. If the time of risk occurred after the policy ended or was cancelled, the individual may be unable to collect compensation. In addition, if the insurance carrier against whom the claims are being made cannot recover funds from the subcontractor’s insurance, it may be difficult to recover compensation. For this reason, it is highly recommended that individuals consult with an experienced property damage lawyer.
What Damages Can I Recover?
Fortunately, California law favors the property owner. When construction defects cause injuries or property damage, claims may be pursued for negligence and breach of warranty. Damages may include the following:
- Value of the repair
- Reasonable cost of repairing damages caused by the repair efforts
- Reasonable cost of repairing damages resulting from the failure of the home to meet standards
- Reasonable cost of removing and replacing any improper repair by the builder
- Reasonable expenses for relocation and storage
- Lost business income if the home was used as a place of business
- Reasonable investigative costs for each violation
- All other costs associated with the construction defect
How Can Construction Defects Be Prevented?
There are a range of proactive steps that designers, contractors, and subcontractors can take to minimize construction defects, including the following:
- Review the terms of the contract: There are multiple parties that can be blamed for a construction defect, so it is crucial that the contract clearly outlines who is responsible for what. If any responsibilities change, that should be stated in the contract.
- Have quality control programs in place: All project participants should be directly involved in a quality assurance group. This should be a collaborative effort, wherein individuals meet regularly to review plans, make site assessments, and ensure that there is a daily report system in place. This will help detect problems before they become costly to fix.
- Address the problem: If a construction defect is detected, someone should perform a walk-through and inform the owner, contractor, or management team as soon as possible. Having an effective quality control program in place will ensure that the necessary repairs are made in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
Los Angeles Property Damage Lawyers at ACTS Law Assist Clients with Construction Defect Claims
If you were injured or suffered property damage as a result of a construction defect, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles property damage lawyers at ACTS Law. We understand how much damage these defects can cause and how crucial it is that you receive the maximum financial compensation possible. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
From our offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Orange County and Los Angeles County, including Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Hidden Hills, Pasadena, San Marino, Brentwood, Encino, Newport Beach, and Foresthill.