Unfortunately for architects, negligence claims are commonplace. As society becomes more litigious and professions are increasingly under attack, it’s essential to become more aware of potential threats. Stay aware of the types of claims you may come across and obtain professional liability insurance for architects and engineers to be better prepared for a claim.
Be Mindful of Your Initial Retainer
Your retainer defines your relationship, your rights and responsibilities with and to your client. Properly articulate the terms of your relationship with your client and then comply with those agreed terms. Your risk is evident when engaging with clients who are unaware of the design/construction arena and who may have unrealistic expectations as to what services you have agreed to provide.
Take instructions and directions only from those with whom you have specifically contracted, or have been specifically authorized to deal with by your named client. Any design alterations requested by those who have not specifically contracted can be disputed and may lead to allegations of your failure to adhere to the retainer.
Communicate Design Clearly
Many claims emanate from a failure to design within a client’s stated budget or objectives. While your clients should understand that you cannot be precise about costs, it is your responsibility to provide realistic designs that align with your client’s budget.
Speak with your client about the potential for containing costs in specific areas and the potential for costs to blow out in others. Often your client’s vision for a project will expand during the design process. Remind clients that each project expansion will likely reflect on cost. Avoid situations where the budget is blown out before the client realizes it’s simply not possible to construct their vision on the initial budget.
Many claims are due to non-adherence to boundary alignments, soil conditions, overlays and permit conditions. Design with reference to site and planning conditions.
Pay every close attention to your documentation. It should align with your design, and be prepared promptly and with sufficient detail as to be practically useful in the process of converting the concept into reality. Design errors with regard to specifications and detailing appear often in the types of claims made against design professionals.
Have both internal and external mechanisms in place to check your documentation for any errors. Peer review of designs and documentation can provide an opportunity to correct smaller errors and inconsistencies before they become serious issues.
Check your specifications or any proposed substitutions for compliance issues. There may be attempts to make you accountable for shortfalls. Defend the assault with clear methodical documentation.
Always be mindful of what projects you take on, and the people you agree to work with to help prevent interruption in your practice from negligence claims.
About Bozzuto & Co. Insurance Services, Inc.
Bozzuto & Company Insurance Services has provided business and personal insurance solutions to clients throughout California since its founding in 1981. Our experienced staff understands the unique needs that each person has when insuring their lives and their businesses, and we pride ourselves on our deeply personal customer service. We are happy to help you through every step of the insurance selection process. Contact us today at (800) 400-6394 to learn more about what we can do for you.