Avoiding Claims and Disputes
Most companies wish to avoid conflict, acrimony and formal proceedings during or at the end of a project and we are strong advocates of that approach; particularly since the economic downturn there has been a trend towards reducing formal claim submissions. This is a culture which has been adopted in the Oil and Gas sector for a long time, where the predominance has been to place contracts on a reimbursable basis.
Changes, Delays and Extra Costs
This does not mean to say there are any less issues arising on projects, where an owner doesn’t get his important completion date achieved; or where a contractor believes he is incorrectly penalised for a project delay, or not fairly compensated for changes, events or costs. Even if these issues are to be informally negotiated to a settlement, how can the decision makers for any party, reach a measured view on what to accept, or pay, if there is no tangible basis to consider, or any technical argument demonstrated, or any causes or effects presented, or costs substantiated?
The answer is of course that, whilst nobody these days wishes to call them “claims”, there is no substitute for properly presented documentation and demonstrated positions.
Settling Without a Fight
A negotiated settlement of these issues is unlikely, unless all parties present proper analysis and substantiation which underpins its position. Without it, one parry is convinced that the answer is “10”, whilst his counterpart is confident that the answer is “zero”.
Supporting this process has been a key service that we have excelled in over many years; we can look at what each party to a contract needs to establish and present in order that they understand the position they are coming from and enable negotiations to take place which have the potential of gaining a correct or fair result.
At RB Partnership we have dealt with a wide range of issues clients can expect to run into on a major project; from delays, disruption, termination, variations, design problems, bad weather, obstructions, poor workmanship, safety issues, to strike and civil commotion.
When supporting a client in establishing its position and then helping with the data and arguments to be presented, we would typically undertake the following -
Tried and Tested Methods
Since most claims are settled informally, our experience has shown us that establishing contractual grounds for an issue is important, but far outweighed by the importance of excellent technical, logical and practical presentations, backed up by compelling documentary records, in substantiation.
For very large historical project issues and claims, we have developed a computerised system for analysing the project records, allowing database analysis. This means that the complete story surrounding a particular argument can be quickly drawn out; essential links between cause and effect can be accurately established, providing an impressive tool for supporting settlement and agreement.
Our claims teams comprise professionals from the full range of construction disciplines including quantity surveyors, engineers, schedulers and legally qualified staff. When necessary, they are supported by IT database staff in our head office.
We are able to amalgamate the skills of these various disciplines by keeping flexibility in team make up; bringing in specialist individuals only at the times they are specifically required. This means that we can minimise the core team size, which gives the greatest economy to our clients, whilst preserving the highest quality of service.