Disputes Between a California General Contractor and a Subcontractor


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The nature of the relationship between a California general contractor and a subcontractor is legally quite complex. The general contractor awards a sub-contract based upon a bid, or extensive experience with a particular subcontractor. It is not unusual for work to begin on a jobsite under a subcontract prior to any physical agreement being drafted or signed.

When a dispute about the quality of work, timeliness or other issues arise, the situation can quickly escalate. A dispute between a general contractor and a subcontractor disrupts performance on a project, and can harm the reputations of both parties.

This is why it is so important to work with an experienced and trusted construction attorney who can help to protect your business
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and contractorís license. Detailed agreements should be immediately drafted between a general contractor and a subcontractor. Describe the scope of the project and the specific work to be accomplished by the subcontractor. A strong contract should include the quality of workmanship and materials to be provided, and a timeframe for completion.

Many Disputes Between a General Contractor and Subcontractor Are Misunderstandings About the Scope of Work to Be Accomplished

One of the most common areas of dispute between a general contractor and a sub-contract is the quantity or quality of work to be accomplished. The general has one idea about the specific work the subcontractor is supposed to accomplish, and the subcontractor has a different understanding. Which one is right? Legally, without a clearly drafted written agreement or other evidence such as drawings, emails or texts these disputes can become quite clouded, and take time to resolve. Time the project and budgets donít provide.

If you are a general contractor or a subcontractor, look for a construction attorney with strong business experience. Your lawyer should understand the nature of the construction business and the relationships involved in construction projects. The lawyer should also be able to cost-effectively support your work with affordable contracts and advice on critical aspects of your construction business including mechanics liens and labor laws.

Resolving Disputes Between Construction Contractors Must Factor in Time and the Nature of Construction Relationships

Your attorney should focus on resolving the dispute quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. An experienced construction attorney should understand the nature of time and the scope of the project at hand. Lawsuits will take months (and in many cases longer than a year) to come to trial in California, and an effective attorney works diligently to resolve these disputes through effective leveraged negotiation.

Alternative means of resolving a dispute between contractors include mediation and arbitration. Each of these legal options involves a neutral third party who helps the parties to resolve areas of dispute, allowing the contractors to get back to work. Your attorney should work aggressively to keep the process moving forward, understanding the critical time constraints of the project at hand, and the costs associated with the delays that result from a dispute.

Most general contractors have a group of subcontractors theyíve come to know and trust. Many of these relationships are handled on a handshake based upon their history of completing successful projects in the past. When a dispute arises on a job site it affects the reputations of everyone involved. The owner of the project isnít usually concerned with your dispute, they want their project completed in a timely and professional manner. A strong construction lawyer helps to protect your business, and provide good advice that helps to prevent disputes before they ever arise.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Watkins
Mr. Watkins is an experienced litigator and true trial attorney with over 50 Jury and Bench trials to his credit in 25 years of practice. He has successfully represented both large companies and individuals, and achieved substantial victories in well-publicized trials throughout California and Wisconsin.

Mr. Watkins has successfully tried and litigated cases in the areas of Healthcare Compliance, Commercial Litigation, Unfair Business Practices, Fraud, Breach of Contract, Battery, Premises Liability, Product Defect, Medical Malpractice, Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Construction Defect, as well as Unfair Competition, Defamation, and Trade Secret. Mr. Watkins has over a decade of experience serving as Cumis counsel and Panel counsel for some of the largest insurance companies in the country. He is experienced in business and corporate formation and administration, as well as all forms of alternative dispute resolution, including binding arbitration and mediation.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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