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Training New Workers with Virtual Reality

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The construction industry is facing an unprecedented labor shortage that has disrupted the overall growth of the industry and sent contractors into a tailspin as they seek out solutions for driving new talent into the hiring pool. Although the construction industry is steeped in tradition, new methods are being put into action to attract more workers, and many of these methods involve the use of cutting-edge technologies.

One example of how the industry is embracing technology to generate excitement working in construction is through the use of virtual reality training simulators. In this article, a construction lawyer in Franklin, TN, from Cotney Construction Law will discuss how this technology is being used to encourage people to open their eyes to the benefits of working in our great industry.

From Simulation to Realization

With the use of $80,000 Caterpillar simulators, students can operate authentic loaders and excavators without leaving the safety of their classroom. Similar to driving simulators used in drivers’ education classes, the inputs and controls directly mirror what would be found in an actual rig. More importantly, for the uninitiated, these simulators make learning fun and have the look and feel of a videogame.

Once students experience working with the simulator, they’re more likely to want to work in the field using the real thing. Additionally, students can’t get hurt while using virtual reality, which prevents them from being dissuaded to join the industry as a result of an injury. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is currently investing in these machines.

A Virtual Step in the Right Direction

According to KTVN, students are embracing virtual reality training and the outlook for these machines is generally positive. For instance, students at the Academy For Career Education (ACE) in Nevada are enthusiastic about the simulators.

Trey Henry, a senior at ACE, told KTVN, “It’s like an arcade basically for construction workers. Once I graduate, I want to be able to operate heavy equipment and take the steps to proceed in that career.”

Craig Madole, CEO of AGC, noted that the construction industry is now competing with other industries for skilled hires. Industries like “advanced manufacturing” are currently vying with the construction industry for these students.

To make matters worse, the current workforce is aging, which means the demand for younger workers is at an all-time high. According to Madole, “The average age of a heavy equipment operator is probably late 40’s or even 50’s.” Therefore, it’s important to continue developing the incoming generation of workers to strengthen the construction industry’s future workforce.

If virtual reality continues to prove itself as an effective training tool, as well as a solution for combating the labor shortage, programs such as this will continue to expand for the good of the industry. Moreover, it will increase safety on the project site and reduce the likelihood of contractors having to deal with OSHA citations and workers’ compensation claims.

If you would like to speak with a construction law attorney in Clarksville, TN, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

In March 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a proposal to expand the rules regarding mandatory overtime pay to include one million additional workers. This proposal and others like it have been bouncing around the government pipeline for years, but to no avail. Could this long-awaited proposal help workers increase their earnings? And what effect would an overtime pay expansion have on the construction industry? In this article, a construction attorney from Clarksville, TN, will discuss the implications of such an expansion and discuss the details of this recent proposal.

Overtime Pay By the Numbers

This isn’t the first time the Labor Department has attempted to expand overtime pay to more workers. In 2004, they established that any employee earning less than $23,660 was entitled to receive overtime pay. Although this figure was doubled to approximately $47,000 in 2016, effectively extending mandatory overtime pay to an additional four million workers in the United States, a federal judge in Texas ruled that this limit was too high and threatened to overextend overtime pay expansion to management workers who were legally exempt from overtime pay protections. As a result, the threshold for overtime pay protection remains at $23,660. The recent proposal would raise this figure to $35,308.

Overtime Pay Expansion and the Construction Industry

According to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the proposal would “bring common sense, consistency, and higher wages to working Americans.” Unpaid overtime is a common issue in the United States that often results in class-action lawsuits and exorbitant settlements costing companies millions of dollars. Employers argue that raising the salary threshold for overtime pay protection could lead to even more lawsuits. To contend with such a change, employers may be forced to cut workers’ hours to avoid the time-and-a-half bonus attached to overtime hours.

For reference, the median salary for construction workers was $34,530 in 2017. This positions the majority of construction workers just below the proposed salary threshold. For contractors, who are already facing a skilled labor shortage, this change would require a high degree of planning to keep costs low and projects profitable. Some contractors may have to reassess their building initiatives and reformat their business strategies to account for increased wages that may be needed to finish projects.

So what are contractors’ options? You could cut hours or wages to account for the new overtime protections, but your workers wouldn’t be happy about it and projects may take longer to finish. Otherwise, you could absorb the cost at the risk of lowered profitability. Either way, this change would have a noticeable effect on contractors, especially those with smaller companies and, therefore, less wiggle room to make these types of changes. Before making any sweeping changes to your contracting business, consult a construction lawyer from Clarksville, TN, to get a better understanding of your legal obligations to your employees.

If you would like to speak with a construction law attorney in Clarksville, TN, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

In part one of this two-part article, the Knoxville construction attorneys at Cotney Construction Law discussed the types of claims that are typically covered by a contractor’s general liability insurance policy and discussed the widespread issue of insurers that refuse to distribute appropriate payouts for claims. Now, we will answer the central question of this article: what happens when insurance doesn’t pay?

Partner with an Attorney

At Cotney Construction Law, our Knoxville construction attorneys can review your existing or new insurance policy and provide knowledgeable insight about the claim in question. They can help detail whether or not you have a case, assist you in filing a claim against the insurer, and ensure that you meet the necessary deadlines for filing. Additionally, they can help you calculate the reimbursements you are due. During a deposition with an insurance provider, an attorney can assist you by outlining the details of the claim and explaining why the claim qualifies. Lastly, an attorney can help uphold your rights if a dispute arises and provide a steadfast defense to help you procure receive the payout you are due.

Take the Issue to Court

Sometimes, there’s no other option than to take your insurance provider to court. In other industries, general liability claims may be viewed as “frivolous,” but not in the construction industry. When something goes awry on your project site, you need to make sure that you’re taking the proper steps to protect yourself and your employees.

A Knoxville construction attorney who possesses knowledge of the construction industry and the implications of general liability insurance policies can help guide you through the process of proving that the claim made against you was covered by your policy. For instance, if an employee was injured on your project site and they sought a workers’ compensation claim, it should be covered by your policy. If, for some reason, your provider decided to refuse to pay for the claim, an attorney can help you prove your case in court. An attorney can help you avoid an unreasonably long legal battle with an insurance provider. They can also help bolster your case and improve your credibility if you engage in direct talks with an insurance agent.

If you would like to speak with a Knoxville construction attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Every professional contractor knows that insurance is a vital component of any successful construction project. Every project, regardless of size, will pose a risk to the wellbeing of employees and possibly non-employees too, which is why most contractors are required to purchase general liability insurance. Typically, a secure policy will cover an array of claims including property damage, physical injury, defense costs, and personal and advertising injury.

This is great news for contractors since even the safest job sites have some potential risks. Of course, you can take proactive measures to mitigate these types of risks, but there’s always a small chance that an unexpected event will put one of your workers or a third-party in danger. Generally, your policy will make a payout when a claim is filed, but what happens when it doesn’t? In this two-part article, our Knoxville contractor lawyers will answer this important question.

Was the Claim Covered by Your Policy?

When a claim is filed against a contractor and the insurer doesn’t pay out as expected, the first question a contractor should ask is whether or not the claim is covered by their policy. As we mentioned above, general liability insurance covers a broad range of claims, but from time to time, a claim will slip through the cracks. Most general liability insurance policies cover:

  • Bodily Injury: if a person is injured on your project site, you are legally liable to cover the medical costs related to the injury.
  • Property Damage: during a project, if you damage another person or entity’s property, you are responsible.
  • Reputational Injuries: if a contractor or one of their employees slanders a competitor, they could be liable for any financial losses incurred as a result of reputational injury.
  • Data Loss: the uptick in the value of data means that contractors are responsible for the corruption, deletion, or loss of this unique and intangible property. This includes blueprints or design plans furnished by the owner or a third party.
  • Completed Products Coverage: if the contractor produces a product that is defective and leads to damages, the resulting damage is covered but not the defect itself. Typically, this type of claim is the result of a design error or workmanship defects.

Insurance Nonpayment Affects Businesses and Individuals Alike

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) publishes a list of consumers’ most common complaints pertaining to their insurance providers. Some of the most common issues that policyholders take grievance with are the fact that insurers are often slow to distribute claim payouts and that their claims were denied. Unsatisfactory claim amounts are another common affront.

You can bolster your case by keeping detailed records of all insurance claims, understanding your insurance policy and rights, and being persistent in your attempts to obtain the payout you deserve. Remember, maintaining insurance helps you avoid liabilities.

In part two, our Knoxville contractor lawyers will discuss the steps contractors can take to fight back when their insurer refuses to pay for a claim that falls within the scope of their policy.

If you would like to speak with a Knoxville contractor lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

In part one of this two-part series, the Memphis contractor lawyers at Cotney Construction discussed some of the steps contractors should take before breaking ground in a new state. Expanding your company’s national footprint by moving into new territories is an exciting opportunity that can prove to be an enormous boon to your business, but you must be diligent when taking the next big step. If you fail to acquire the proper licensing and violate local or state laws, you’ll be wishing you had been more careful as you are hit with costly fines that derail other parts of your business.

Fortunately, by partnering with a Memphis contractor lawyer, your construction business will benefit from an array of services including license defense, dispute resolution, bid defense, and more. Our attorneys can help keep your business legally compliant so you can focus on what matters most — growing your business. Here are some other tips for contractors looking to break ground in a new state.

Appoint a Qualifying Party

You must appoint a qualified individual to take responsibility for your company’s performance in the new state. This is a requirement for every contractor license, but the specific requirements for each qualifying party depend on the jurisdiction. Your company can only continue to work for as long as the qualifier is involved in the project.

Exam Requirements

According to Construction Business Owner, contractors must have a qualifying party sit in for exams in 20 states. This may require gaining approval from the state licensing board beforehand. It’s imperative that you prepare accordingly so you don’t squander money on retakes.

Licensing Reciprocity

Since some states have reciprocity agreements with other states that allow contractors to attain licensure more quickly, it’s wise to investigate whether or not your business can benefit from this type of arrangement. An attorney may be able to help you find the answers you are looking for regarding licensing reciprocity.

Application Requirements

Applying for a contractor license in a new state could require extensive documentation of your current licenses as well as detailed descriptions of your former worker experience, comprehensive background checks, and a review of your finances, insurance policies, surety bonds, and more. Make sure you have all of your ducks in a row before applying.

Foreign Qualification

In order to break ground in a new state, contractors typically must register as a “foreign business entity” through the secretary of state. Generally, contractors must undergo this process in addition to obtaining the proper contractor licensing to legally supply provisions of labor and materials.

If you would like to speak with a Memphis contractor lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

When you break ground on a new project, you want to ensure that you produce a finished product that amazes the owner and inspires them to continue utilizing your services for future building endeavors. Depending on where this owner’s business operates, additional contracts could take your contracting services to jurisdictions you’ve never had the opportunity to work in. Although expanding into new areas will inevitably lead to some complications, especially regarding licensing, you don’t want to turn away the opportunity to expand your business, grow your reputation, and maximize profitability.

Before you dive into a project in a new place, do your homework and consult a Memphis construction attorney to ensure that you are working in compliance with any and all relevant laws and regulations. In this two-part series, our Memphis construction attorneys will discuss what you should do before working or bidding in a new state.

Understand the Various Licensing Authorities

You can’t just show up in a new state and break ground without first learning about the necessary licenses, paperwork, and agreements needed to legally perform this work. There may be exams involved with information specific to the state that you aren’t prepared for without prior counsel, and the licensing process can take as little as one month or as long as six months. When a client requests your services for a project in a new state, it’s vital to understand the various licensing authorities that ultimately decide whether or not you are legally permitted to work.

Contractor licensing protocols vary from state to state. Typically, licenses are issued by a combination of state and local governments. According to Construction Business Owner:

  • In 34 states, a general contractor license is requisite for breaking ground.
  • Another 3 states issue licenses at the county level.
  • Additionally, 14 other states (including Washington D.C.) issue contractor licenses on the county and city levels.
  • If you plan to extend your services to include specialty trades like plumbing or electrical, the licensing requirements will be handled independently, usually through different boards.

Ensure You Obtain the Correct License

Generally, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to your licensing needs. Depending on the scope and value of the project you intend to take on, you may need a specific class of license to proceed.

For example, according to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, “A Contractor’s license is required prior to contracting (bidding, offering to engage, or negotiating a price) for projects $25,000 or more.”

On the other hand, if you were to take on a project in Virginia, you would have to procure a license from the Virginia Board of Contractors for one of three levels:

  • Class A: Single contracts valued at $70,000 or more, or $500,000 in a single year.
  • Class B: Single contracts valued at $7,500 to $69,999, or $150,000 to $499,999 in a single year.
  • Class C: Single contracts valued at $1,000 to $7,499, or less than $150,000 in a single year.

You must also determine which type of business entity best fits your company in the new state, which a Memphis construction attorney can assist you with. You will read about this and more in part two.

If you would like to speak with one of our Memphis construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Safety on the project site is paramount to the success of each and every construction project that breaks ground. Without healthy, functional workers, contractors will be stretched thin as they attempt to meet unachievable deadlines and are forced to make additional expenditures to compensate for a lack of raw manpower.

In part one of this two-part series, the Chattanooga construction lawyers from Cotney Construction Law discussed the importance of contractors being proactive about encouraging workers to seek help when they are injured on the project site. In addition, we detailed a handful of safety posters that can be displayed to help ensure your workers are cognizant of the various safety tips, rules, and regulations meant to keep them safe. Now, we will continue to explore strategies for being more vocal about safety on the project site so you can avoid injuries and citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Provide a Training Program

While there is a certain degree of separation between the daily duties of contractors and actions taking place during the building process, when a worker is injured on the project site, the fault ultimately falls on the contractor. The contractor is responsible for understanding OSHA’s standards and informing their workers about the necessary protocols for staying safe on the project site.

Employers should provide their employees with a comprehensive training program to help mitigate the types of accidents that lead to injuries. Regardless of how seasoned your workforce is, they can always benefit from additional training. As building processes continue to grow and evolve, you will need to embrace training programs that help your older workers continue to work safely and successfully.

By providing a training program, whether free or paid, you not only help safeguard yourself from a potential claim, you verify that your workers understand the types of actions that could leave them injured, maimed, or even worse. Making training mandatory is an effective way to vocalize your concern for their safety.

Partner with a Chattanooga Construction Lawyer

As a contractor, your duties are as numerous as the workers you employ on your project sites, and falls, slips, and impacts will inevitably cause one of your employees to be sidelined. When you partner with a Chattanooga construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law, you will have access to a knowledgeable legal representative to help you ensure that your project sites are compliant with OSHA’s various safety standards and even defend you when a citation is issued against you.

If you would like to speak with a Chattanooga construction lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

As contractors take on their daily duties — from procuring materials to renting equipment to overseeing supply shipments, hiring subcontractors, and more — there’s always one thing festering in the back of their minds: worker safety.

Worker safety is a well-worn topic in the construction industry, but that doesn’t take away from its immediate relevance in the shadow of a shrinking pool of skilled laborers and a problematic shortage of new hires entering the workforce. Keeping your workers safe is integral to finishing projects on-time and maximizing your profitability. When your employees are sidelined by avoidable injuries, it only hurts your bottom line. One way to minimize the number of injuries taking place on your project sites is to become more vocal about safety. Even if your workers roll their eyes at the idea of another toolbox talk covering project site safety, practice makes perfect and repetition leads to results.

In this two-part series, the Chattanooga contractor attorneys at Cotney Construction Law will discuss strategies contractors can employ to vocalize their concerns about safety and leave a lasting impression on their workforce.

Encourage Workers to Seek Help

If you want to be more vocal about safety on the project site, you must first encourage all of your workers to speak up about their personal experiences. Workers may fail to report an injury if they feel like they will be viewed as weak for not coping independently, so it’s imperative to express the importance of reporting any incident, especially those involving head injuries. The phenomenon of unreported injuries in construction most closely mirrors unreported injuries in sports.

For example, players who bounce back after taking a crushing hit in a football game are viewed as tough because they ignored the pain to continue their work on the field. On the other hand, a player who is removed from play after such a hit may be deemed less resilient or even weak by comparison. Over time, it has been proven that the players who take more hits without being treated for a possible injury are more likely to develop serious health issues later in life. Similarly, players who don’t allow themselves to recover fully are often limited by their injury and can’t perform at the highest possible level. On the project site, it’s dangerous to allow your employees to embrace this type of philosophy.

Display Safety Posters

There are many safety posters that can be displayed to remind workers about the many dangers inherent to the project site. These include:

  • Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law
  • Personal Protective Equipment Instructional Chart
  • Fall Prevention
  • Fall Prevention: 2019 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction
  • Heat Illness: Stopping for Water Keeps You Going
  • Process Safety Management Depends on You!
  • Trenching

You can find these posters on a variety of websites including the official Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) site and other third-party sites. If a particular problem is transpiring on your project sites, seek out the right poster to help inform your employees about how to stay safe.

For more information about how you can be more vocal about safety on the project site, read part two.

If you would like to speak with a Chattanooga contractor attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Any construction attorney in Brentwood, TN, will give a contractor the same answer when asked about the importance of maintaining their lien rights. Put simply, it’s extremely important. You don’t want to waste your time, resources, and money working your way towards nonpayment, and the mechanic’s lien is designed to prevent that from happening. However, if you aren’t careful, you could lose your lien rights.

In this article, we will discuss three ways that contractors can lose their lien rights before even filing a claim of lien in Tennessee. Remember, for help with lien law, consult a construction lawyer in Brentwood, TN.

1. Focusing on the Wrong Dates

It’s vital that contractors have their attorneys draft up a timely Notice of Nonpayment within 90 days of the last provision of materials or labor and not the date when these provisions were billed. You could lose your lien rights by failing to send this notice in the appropriate timeframe.

2. Failing to Send the Notice of Nonpayment for Extra Work

Similar to the last point, you must file a timely Notice of Nonpayment for any unapproved change orders or extra work, too. Once again, the lien claimant must not initiate the 90-day period from the time the extra work was billed.

3. Lacking Attention to Detail When Examining Lien Waivers and Releases

Claimants may lose their lien rights if they sign and submit a “standard” partial lien waiver or application before taking the correct actions to preserve their lien rights. For example, if the claimant releases retainage before it has been paid or releases extraneous change orders during the initial release, they could waive their rights.

If you aren’t careful, you could put your lien rights in jeopardy. Before you know it, that owner who refused to pay you could be riding off into the sunset with the compensation you’re due. Don’t let this happen to you. Consult a construction law attorney Brentwood, TN, to see how a seasoned legal representative with a thorough knowledge of the construction industry can help you file perfect liens every time a pay-related dispute with an owner arises.

If you would like to speak with a construction law attorney in Brentwood, TN, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

A mechanic’s lien is often a contractor or subcontractor’s last resort for receiving overdue payment from an uncooperative owner. It is a major step towards repayment and creates more options for legal action. At Cotney Construction Law, we understand that the filing of a mechanic’s lien may be the only viable option when seeking reimbursement for materials and services provided. Here, a Charlotte construction lien attorney will detail when you should consider filing a mechanic’s lien.

A Difficult Owner

Every effort should be made to resolve payment disputes before a mechanic’s lien is filed. If you’ve reached out by way of phone calls, emails, and letters to no avail, you may be dealing with an owner who is trying to dodge their responsibilities. Don’t stop reaching out in a professional manner, but be mindful of what their lack of response means.  

Worse still is a difficult client that is indecisive on the scope of a project. They may refuse payment until the construction project meets their increasingly demanding specifications. Their constantly changing expectations could be impossible to satisfy, at which point a contractor may have little recourse but to consider placing a lien against the property.

Approaching Deadlines

A Preliminary Notice is the first step in filing a mechanic’s lien against a property. In North Carolina, it is required that a Notice to Lien Agent be sent to the lien agent prior to filing. This notice must be sent within 15 days after improvement has begun on a project.

The deadline for filing a mechanic’s lien in North Carolina is four months after the last day that labor or materials were provided on the improved property. Any lien filed after this deadline will not be valid. You need to seriously consider your options if this deadline is fast approaching.

Radio Silence  

Before a mechanic’s lien is filed, a demand letter should be sent to the owner. This letter should outline the specifics of the dispute and the legal consequences of not resolving it. A demand letter from a Charlotte mechanic’s lien attorney should be enough to motivate the owner into reaching out for a solution. The letter presents the amount you are owed and shows that a mechanic’s lien is a real possibility. If a demand letter goes ignored, you know that you have an owner that is not budging on payment.

If you would like to speak with a Charlotte construction lien attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.