Justice - Avoiding Disputes and Claims

How To Avoid Disputes From the Outset

Hewitt Decipher Partnership recently presented a webinar on international arbitration. Panel members included a barrister, an arbitrator and a solicitor. They were joined by HDP employees who provide expert advice to legal professionals working on construction disputes. The aim was to look at how to avoid claims.

Whilst these professionals earn fees from disputes, the overwhelming consensus was that the best way to deal with disputes is to not have them in the first place.

So, what can we do to avoid disputes right from the start of the project?

General Points

  1. Appoint competent consultants to advise you and manage your projects. Any possible savings on fees will soon be eaten up when things go wrong on the project.
  2. Make sure that the consultant appointed to administer the contract has adequately trained, qualified and experienced professionals working on your project.
  3. Employers and Consultants: Select an appropriate form of contract for the project and the Employer’s needs. Do not introduce changes that substantially alter the risk profile or obligations contained in standard forms of contract. When compiling contract conditions, or changing standard contracts, use a qualified and experienced professional.
  4. Employers Consultants and Contractors: The contract documents should reflect any changes introduced to the tender documents because of tender clarifications and negotiations between the parties. Avoid including volumes of ‘other documents’ as appendices to the contract. This is not good practice.
  5. Employers and Contractors: If things start going wrong, bring experts in to advise you as soon as possible. Avoiding expert advice until after disputes have crystalised will be significantly more expensive in the long run.

Tips for Contractors

  1. Contractors: Make sure you have properly trained, qualified and experienced professionals on your project to administer and manage the contract. Not doing so is definitely ‘penny-wise, pound-foolish’.
  2. Contractors: Create and submit a programme in accordance with the contract time frame. On complex projects, prepare an initial short-term detailed look ahead programme. But update as soon as possible with a detailed programme.
  3. Contractors: When it becomes necessary, revise the programme to take into account changes to the project or to your plan to complete the work.
  4. Contractors: Prepare programme updates on a regular (minimum monthly) basis to show actual progress and the current projected completion date. Do not falsify the results to paint a more favourable picture. Quite apart from providing inaccurate advice to the Employer, this will hurt you if you have entitlement to extensions of time.
  5. Contractors: Follow your contractual obligations around giving notices. Make sure notices contain appropriate information. In other words, prepare them in accordance with good practice (see advice in our other articles).
  6. Contractors: Submit claims in the contractual time frame. Make sure they are well-written, clear, and easy to understand.

Tips for Contractors and Engineers

  1. Contractors and Engineers: Keep good records. Make sure that they are easy to find and retrieve.
  2. Contractors and Engineers: Maintain separate registers for Notices of Claims and for Claims. Review and discuss them regularly.
  3. Engineers: Submit responses to claims within the contractual time frame and communicate your findings clearly.

I hope this advice helps your projects to avoid claims as well as costly and time-consuming disputes. And remember, HDP can help you resolve disputes either via our consultancy services or our E-Courses.