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All Fall Down: avoid the risks of delaying a premises liability consultation.

Introduction: Digging Out Facts From Wreckage

If you’re hurt on someone else’s property, you may have a feeling that that injury ‘speaks for itself.’ While this may be true in general, and is almost certainly true in a factual sense, there are important differences from the law. Separating facts of injury from law of recovery can be started, after you consult with a premises liability lawyer. Yes, there are certain instances in the law where the legal standard does allow for an accident to “speak for itself.” But there are just as many –perhaps more–instances of where delaying a consultation will allow building accident mistakes to remain covered in rubble. It’s important not to delay how to begin to legally frame your premises liability injury. One of the most common results of delaying a consult, with a premises liability lawyer. is when a possible third-party defendant may, legitimately or not, try to use a contract for prior inspections to limit the time to sue them.

When a person gets hurt, in a badly designed building, there are important investigative steps to take. A premises liability lawyer knows that the process of uncovering defects is not always information that is readily volunteered. An example of this reluctance to volunteer information, or (worse) trying to take advantage of presumed ignorance of hidden defects, is often on display when contractors are charged with wrongdoing. Premises liability attorneys/lawyers are aware of contractor practices, as well as conflicting codes and laws, which contractors may use as an attempted shield from liability.

One instructive case used a contract clause to try to paper over a cracked wall. The case turned into a wrestling match between an architectural and engineering firm and its client, a technical college in Salisbury. Instead of delivering the highest quality of new construction for the college, the walls began to fracture within four years of the building being used.

II. Contradictions and legal standards, or unclear General Assembly rules…

… can be used as a barrier to fair recovery after property damage or injury occurs.

Premises liability lawyers know that establishing what the General Assembly may have meant in contractor or safety laws, and certain specific fact patterns in real construction practices, may be very different. How Assembly language applies to building safety in a contract may actually be among the most important factor of all. Unsafe building construction is usually going to be time limited in some way. Sometimes, from a period of construction or inspection. Sometimes, from the time of an obvious injury. And in this case, between a contractor and the college, there was an essential term of “timing” in the contract between them. All of these issues may affect who is potentially liable to a person injured by construction, years later. Thus, when trying to find the right premises liability lawyer for your case, the level of expertise is not only confined to construction cases. Knowledge of contract law is also essential to an experienced and successful premises liability practice.

III.   Premises liability lawyers must also be experts in contract law:

In this case, as noted above, there was a fairly standard reference to the contractor’s duties. This general provision was for “general administration” of the performance of construction contracts, which required continuous inspection, “as often as necessary to ensure compliance of plans and specifications.” In this case, however, the premises liability lawyer had evidence that the contractor went even further and agreed “to provide daily and continuous supervision and inspection of the work.” The importance of this contract clause was because it was not clear under the Assembly rules as to when the clock ran on a contract for liability after construction was accepted. The question here became what was the precise last “act” of the contractor giving rise to an injury or claim by the college or any injured third party.

Working with an experienced premises liability lawyer, in this case, established the fact that the last date that gave rise to the claim should be regarded as the date of certifying completed construction of the entire project. This, the premises liability lawyer said, was because of the contract language that specified the expansive, daily level of the contractor’s review of any possible damages… in this case, the walls that were fracturing, shortly after construction.

IV.  Placing limits on liability?

One of the interesting analyses used by the north carolina Supreme Court in this case had to do with the General Assembly’s attempt to limit professional medical malpractice claims. Because this case involved a suit against professionally engineered and designed buildings, the legislature’s attempt to limit professional medical malpractice claims became an issue here, though in a premises liability case.

Before this case had reached the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals had ruled that the proper time limit should be the “last act” of the contractor in the case. There are exceptions to this, the Court of Appeals noted, such as if a personal injury had only been recently discovered, and/or under reasonable reason for delay in discovering the injury. But regardless, the Court of Appeals ruled that only two years should’ve been allowed from the time of discovery. The premises liability attorney argued that the General assembly in no way intended the malpractice claims to cover all professional claims. Instead, the premises liability lawyer pointed out that these reforms were passed to limit the explosion in medical malpractice claims, and should not be applied in this contractors case. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed: the premises liability attorney/lawyer established that the language was probably, generally meant to cover doctors and not contractors, such as in this case. The result was that, instead of a two-year limit, four years recovery time, after completing work and in accord with the contract, should be allowed.

Conclusions:   

There are at the least four important takeaways in this Tech College case. There are changes coming in professional liability claims, for anyone who may have been hurt and premises liability case. Second, that there may be competing liability laws regarding the liability of the person who owns, operates, or designs the place where someone is hurt. Third, there may be difficulty and identifying exactly when an exact “injury” occurs. Fourth, there is always a possibility that– depending on the injured person’s relationship to the premises owner or operator – a separate contract exists, which may be used to try and prevent a claim for damages or recovery by the injured person.

Whenever issues of contractor liability arise, an early consultation with an experienced premises liability lawyer can help protect your rights against all the parties involved in faulty design. If you, a family member or a loved one have been hurt in an accident related to poor construction, please contact us.  You will speak with a premises liability attorney/ lawyer who can best answer your questions.  There is never a fee for this initial consultation.

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