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Avoid Construction Defect Litigation By Keeping Better Records


By Corinne S. Rockoff

Construction projects often involve months of planning, waiting for permits, and other delays, punctuated by periods of intense, deadline-driven work. Last-minute changes, weather issues, and other scheduling disruptions can upend schedules, but keeping accurate, up-to-date records can not only help contractors organize and manage day-to-day operations while protecting your company when litigation arrives.

Why Use Project Management Software?

Finding appropriate construction project management software for your company’s needs can help you organize your records, improve communication, and document progress. To effectively manage and complete a job, whether you’re a general contractor or subcontractor, you must oversee both the overall progress of the project and many day-to-day administrative tasks. Each job requires that you keep workers and teams on schedule, stay within budget, ensure the quality of the ongoing work, order and receive materials, and maintain a safe work environment.

Project management software can help you organize and track all these tasks through one central hub. Most programs offer features like document management, protocols for change order submission and approval, budgeting tools, punch lists, and more. Using one program to coordinate all of those documents and communications can improve your efficiency and decrease the chance of mistakes or miscommunications. It also makes it easier to provide documentation in the future if you are asked to do so in a lawsuit or to document your company’s performance and avoid litigation altogether.

Some onsite project management software also includes employee payroll and budget management software. These features allow you to monitor where and on what projects your employees and contractors are working, give you a more accurate estimate of your payroll costs, and help you anticipate and avoid overruns.

Use Daily Logs and Job Site Documentation to Your Advantage

Whatever your role in the construction process, daily logs and job site documentation can help make your work profitable and productive. Each day’s progress can be recorded and evaluated to predict and avoid setbacks, issues, and cost overruns. By looking at data trends, you can determine whether future bids are appropriately structured or should be adjusted to ensure future profitability. Using and understanding daily logs can help you evaluate and identify whether subcontractors and workers are performing at acceptable levels and help you set schedules for the duration of the job and future projects.

Uploading photos and daily logs can do more than help you document your work in an organized manner and keep a project on track. These logs provide evidence of your performance and can protect you if you are accused of negligence, shoddy workmanship, or the use of inferior materials. Project management software can add another layer of protection and utility to those logs. Uploading daily logs to a cloud-based system timestamps those logs and provides independent confirmation and verification of the integrity and timeliness of jobsite documentation, which can be invaluable in legal proceedings. Daily logs can provide documentation of successful completion of tasks or project segments noted in writing, photographic and other supporting evidence, and confirmation from a GC or other supervisor. Having a complete record available in a cloud-based software setting can help protect you and provide proof in case of litigation.

Create a System for Managing and Centralizing Emails

Creating and maintaining proper project records that can help protect your business also requires managing and centralizing records of all communication related to a project. To the extent possible, it is helpful to conduct all your project business in writing; in today’s fast-paced society, email allows instant communication and lasting, verifiable documentation. Even where it’s not feasible to communicate in writing, follow-up emails to confirm face-to-face or phone conversations can create a timely record. To improve organization and reduce potential confusion, it can be helpful to create a system and process for managing and centralizing project emails to ensure that they’re easy to compile and produce if you find yourself involved in litigation.

Uploading all emails and communications to your project management software can be an excellent way to keep them organized, timestamped, correlated to their related subject matter, and preserved for litigation.

Use Forms Consistently and Completely

Developing standardized forms to use when beginning a job, embarking on any changes or additions to the agreed scope of work, engaging subcontractors, finishing a job, and other routine tasks can help you improve organization and reduce risk. Consistent use of these forms can also help you defend yourself against any future allegations of negligence or wrongdoing in a construction defect lawsuit. Consistent documentation helps make these forms part of your company’s standard procedure and routine. It makes it easier for documentation to become part of your organization’s day-to-day functionality over time.

Once you develop new forms, make sure you use them consistently and completely. Use onboarding processes and regular training to ensure each employee and contractor knows how to completely fill out and upload your forms to your project management system or preserve them in your records. If your software allows you to set alerts or prevent forms from being incompletely submitted, you may want to apply those settings.

Project management software can help you and your workers document every step of your project quickly and comprehensively. These powerful tools, combined with consistent training, can improve your organization’s performance and efficiency while helping to reduce risk, lower costs, and avoid the stress of defending a lawsuit.