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When Are Civil Engineers Liable for Defects?

When working on a government infrastructure project, contractors will work with civil engineers to complete the design phase. This is an important partnership, and there must be a level of trust between the builder and the engineer. However, there are instances where an error made by a civil engineer can result in defects, and, when this occurs, it’s important for the contractor to protect themselves and understand their liability.  In this brief article, one of the Miami construction defect lawyers with Cotney Construction Law shares a few examples of instances when a civil engineer would be liable for a construction defect.   

Types of Defects

Before you can determine who is liable for a construction defect, you must understand what kind of defect you’re dealing with. Defects can be patent (obvious) or latent (delayed or not obvious). Generally, there are four basic categories of construction defects, including:

  • Subsurface Defects: Defects related to the ground beneath a building. Subsurface defects tend to occur when contractors fail to account for factors like shifting soil, hillside slopes, or proximity to mapped sinkholes.
  • Material Defects: Defects related to the materials used during the construction project. Material defects include faulty electrical systems, porous shingles, asbestos-rich plaster, and more.
  • Design Defects: Defects related to the architectural or engineering design specifications. Design defects can be a result of poor planning on behalf of the designer or lackluster execution by the builders. Some examples are poorly designed roofs that don’t drain or a lack of structural support throughout a building.
  • Construction Defects: Defects related to subpar construction that stem from inferior workmanship. Examples of construction defects include improperly installed ventilation, slanted flooring, or even issues with water pressure.

Related: Design Defects Versus Workmanship Defects

Scenario 1: There Is a Defect in the Design

The first scenario in which a civil engineer might be liable for defects is if there is a fault in the design. For example, if the design calls for the use of a specific material which turns out to be incorrect. You might consider the provider of materials to be at fault here; however, if the design itself called for an inappropriate material, that would typically fall on the designer.

Related: How Contractors Can Mitigate Design Risks

Scenario 2: There Is a Miscalculation 

To err is human, but miscalculations in the design of any project can result in major issues. When a major miscalculation results in a defect, the designer or engineer may be liable. For example, if a slight miscalculation results in a bridge being constructed with slight angles that make it too resistant to wind and, therefore, more prone to waving or crumbling, that is an error on behalf of the designer, not the builder. 

What Should You Do If Accused of a Defect?

If you have been accused of causing a construction defect, Miami construction defect attorneys can help by discussing who is most likely liable and providing a proper defense. 

Cotney Construction Law’s experienced Miami construction defect lawyers can provide sound legal advice to construction professionals at every level and for any infrastructure project you need assistance with. Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide representation in court, mediations, and arbitrations when necessary. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, OSHA citations, labor and safety violations, permitting issues, and stop-work orders. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Miami construction defect lawyers, 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.