Can Architects be Held Responsible for Construction Mistakes? - Huntersure

Can Architects be Held Responsible for Construction Mistakes?

Posted on: November 4, 2021 by Huntersure LLC.

Architects wear many hats, often being called upon to offer a range of additional services beyond simply designing a new construction project. In fact, architects have unique, professional skillsets that qualify them to conduct evaluations and observations throughout the construction process. These professional assessments can inform the project owner if the construction is following the design plans as well as following contractual obligations. However, should defects be found, or there are construction mistakes, the issue of architect professional liability generally surfaces.

Who Is Legally Responsible for Defects in Construction?

Project owners often try to recoup losses experienced from a construction defect through both the architect responsible for the design plans and project oversight and the company doing the construction. Though it is normal for architects to craft contracts with the project owner that outline a responsibility to periodically evaluate or inspect the work, these contracts may also include very specific language that puts limits on the direct liability the architect may have to defects.

When a contract bears specific language that relieves that architect from liability associated with contractor errors or omissions, it is tough to prove that the architect bears legal responsibility in the matter. Though the contract might seem fool-proof, it is up to the court to settle the interpretation of contract language. Exculpatory language, as so often used in an architect’s contract, doesn’t always dissolve the legal responsibility of the architect. The architect may not bear the responsibility of negligence on the part of the contractor, but there can be liabilities concerning their failed evaluations or observations of the project.

Are Architects Personally Liable for Construction Issues?

Architects who have been retained to perform observatory services must fulfill the term of their contract to avoid concerns with architect professional liability. Designer liability becomes an issue in the following situations.

1. Reasonable Fulfillment of Services

There is a huge difference between periodically assessing a project and performing full-time construction observations. Defects that occur during construction should be more noticeable if full-time observations are required by the architect’s contract. When a contract only requires observations at periodic and reasonable intervals, the courts may be more lenient with architect liability.

2. Contract Language Interpretations

The way a contract is worded has a significant impact on the personal liability an architect has when a construction defect occurs. If the language indicates that any defects in the work are to be reported to the project owner, regardless of whether or not the defect was personally observed by the architect, it makes defining responsibility more difficult.

3. Performance Guarantees

Contracts outline performance expectations, and all parties are to fulfill their obligations. Should it be determined that an architect failed in meeting these obligations as outlined, personal liability applies.

The strongest contractual language isn’t always enough to provide relief from an architect’s professional liabilities. Good insurance and excellence in performance can help minimize the risks of personal responsibility.

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Huntersure LLC is a full-service Managing General Agency that has provided insurance program administration for professional liability products to our partners across the United States since 2007. We specialize in providing insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. Our program features can cover small firms (grossing $2.5 million annually) to large corporations (grossing $25 million annually or more). We make doing business with us easy with our breadth and depth of knowledge of E&O insurance, our proprietary underwriting system that allows for responsive quoting, binding and policy issuance and tailored products to meet the needs of your insureds. Give us a call at (855) 585-6255 to learn more.

Posted in: Architects/ Engineers