The construction industry is riddled with risk and disagreements, and some say it’s only a matter of time before a construction organization finds itself in litigation. Regardless of its certainty, litigation is a fact of business and has the potential of costing your organization thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions.
Accordingly, your business wants to weather the litigation storm as painlessly and quickly as possible. Here are three principals to mind if your construction company is facing litigation.
1) Settlement Should Always Be An Option
If the dispute is in litigation, there were likely settlement attempts before formal filings. Simply because these pre-litigation settlement efforts have failed, however, does not mean post-litigation settlement efforts are without utility. To the contrary, the reality of litigation often hits parties only after filing and can be a powerful influence to settle.
Attorneys oftentimes are scorned by the public for their desire to settle cases rather than litigation. The practice, however, is not the result of laziness or a fear of the courtroom. To the contrary, attorneys are usually looking out for the best interests of their clients – and in most cases, it’s in all parties’ best interest to settle the case.
Litigation of all types is expensive. The associated legal fees, expert fees and court costs associated with taking a case to trial is going to be a minimum of $10,000 – $15,000.00, regardless of the amount in dispute. The more complex a case, the more expensive the litigation – oftentimes costing parties hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
As such, parties should make objective reviews of their legal positions and consult with attorneys to discuss the challenges of their case, its possible exposure, and estimated legal costs.
Judges and mediators often say, “a good settlement is when both parties leave unhappy.” While unhappiness is not the most pleasant end to your legal dispute (in which you may be emotionally and personally invested), it may be the best. Depending on the associated risk of the case and your company’s exposure, full-blown litigation may result in a much worse scenario than a mediocre settlement.
2) Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution
It’s never, ever too late to explore alternative dispute resolution options. In the past, parties have chosen to mediate or arbitrate their differences even on the eve of trial – and successfully so.
In the event of litigation or arbitration, however, you shouldn’t wait that long to explore the possibility to resolving the parties’ differences through mediation or some other less expensive resolution program.
Mediation may be a great alternative to litigation since it is entirely driven by the will of the parties, voluntary and less expensive than a formal dispute. However, mediation is not free (depending on complexity of your case and length of mediation, it may cost between $2,500 and $25,000, or more). Accordingly, you want to agree to participate only if both parties come to the table in good faith to settle the case. Both parties, in other words, should be prepared to have a flexible settlement discussion.
Settlement discussions within mediation are confidential, allowing the parties to discuss details of the case frankly and to exposure each other’s weaknesses. Furthermore, in the event mediation is not successful, it is a great way to prepare your for trial and to gain a stronger understanding of your opponent’s position.
3) Good Counsel is Priceless
The type of attorney you’ll need to most effectively and least expensively litigate your claims will depend on your desires and circumstances. And unfortunately, there are so many shades of desire and types of circumstances that your company may face in the event of litigation.
A good counselor will review your claims, defenses and financial health to determine the best course of action for your company. While it’s always important for an attorney to be a qualified litigator, “being right” or “litigating your claim” might not be best for your business. There are a number of factors to consider before setting forth on your litigation course.
Counsel should review the risk associated with your claim, your company’s financial exposure and your ability or desire to go through to trial to properly advise an organization on its options to proceed.
Perhaps it is in your company’s best interest to push the matter towards trial as rapidly as possible….but that it not always the case. Mediation may be a better option, or some other sort of settlement procedure.
In short, it’s important to have a counselor to give solid and objective advice about your company’s legal position and options. Your selection of legal counsel is perhaps the most important component of your claim. As such, be careful to choose wisely.