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Drone in Construction Site

Drone Technology in the Construction Industry

Drone technology has revolutionized the construction process, effectively cutting costs, risks, and labor. Drones offer distinctive advantages in the monitoring of a project and minimizing safety issues that arise in a complex construction project. Drone photographs and videos are valuable tools to map out the topography of large tracts of land, locate machinery on-site during a project, provide visibility reports for clients, and prevent workers from navigating hazardous conditions. They offer valuable information for a pre-construction site review or gathering data from a construction project that is in progress. They are useful for viewing pipelines, bridges, and inspecting damages of high-rise buildings without putting employees at risk of hazardous conditions, especially for force majeure events. Commercial drones utilize cameras, global positioning systems, and thermal infrared sensors to capture essential data for a site.

Risks Associated with Drone usage at Construction Sites.

   Beyond the apparent benefits of drone usage, construction professionals must understand the legalities and potential risks. Drones are considered unmanned aircraft systems. In 2016, the Federal Aviation Association introduced comprehensive regulations to monitor the usage of commercial drones. The Federal Aviation Association can impose penalties of up to eleven thousand dollars for each violation of their rules. These regulations, along with state laws and local ordinances that regulate drone usage, are ever-evolving. Construction professionals must stay current with these regulations and remain in compliance, or they may face legal consequences.

Some of the regulations for drone usage are:

  • A person that pilots a drone must have a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate through the Federal Aviation Association, which requires the pilot to pass a test on aeronautical knowledge.
  • Flight altitude cannot exceed 400 feet, and drone speed must not be over 100 mph.
  • Drones are prohibited from flying directly over people and are permitted to operate during the day or twilight hours with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • The drone pilot must maintain a visual line of sight with the drone and not operate from a moving vehicle.
  • Drone operators must yield to aircraft. 
  •      They must avoid restricted airspace unless they have applied and received a waiver.
  • A drone’s weight must be less than 55 pounds and be registered with the Federal Aviation Association.

Protection from Liability

   Drone technology is a trend that will continue to grow in the construction industry. As of March 2020, the Federal Aviation Association listed over 443,000 drones for commercial use. Many legal issues encompass commercial drone usage, and a construction professional must have risk management measures in place. It is essential to implement policies and procedures to ensure a safe operation for pre-flight and in-flight performance, and have guidelines for accident reporting and other legal issues.

   There is a potential for drone accidents to cause serious injuries. Cybersecurity and privacy is an issue with the taking of photographs and videos without authorized consent. Written permission should be obtained from employees and visitors to a construction site regarding pictures and videos. Drones are vulnerable to data theft of valuable proprietary information. Many companies outsource drone operations, which require a contract between parties to manage the inherent risks. Insurance policies are available to cover monetary damages for lawsuits. These include liability for property damage, bodily injury, violation of privacy rights, and other scenarios that may arise from drone technology.

The Boutty Law Firm Is Dedicated to the Success of our Clients

   The Boutty Law Firm P.A. is a multi-service firm that provides quality legal representation for the construction community in Central Florida. Our law firm can draft, review, and negotiate contracts designed to protect you from liability. We understand regulatory compliance and can counsel our clients on risk management matters. For disputes that may arise from the usage of drone technology or other business matters, we are your fierce advocates. We find practical solutions to your most challenging legal problems.

 We are located in Winter Park, Florida, and represent clients throughout Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Volusia Counties. Call our office at 407-622-1395 or 407-883-1024, for a free initial consultation. 

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Lump Sum Contracts

Lump Sum Contracts for Construction Projects

   A construction contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties that includes the scope of a project, the pricing structure, and the time schedule to complete the work.  It details the terms and conditions by which each party shall abide from the start of a project to its completion. A traditional agreement for a construction project is a lump sum contract, which provides a global price to complete a project, instead of bidding on individual items. This all-inclusive pricing arrangement includes labor costs, material costs, subcontractor fees, and also covers a contractor’s overhead and profit margin.  It should have a provision for risk contingencies in the event of unforeseen circumstances that may impact on the cost of a project. A lump sum contract has multiple components and can be complicated.  It is best to have an experienced contract attorney to negotiate and draft the agreement. The Boutty Law Firm, P.A., handles construction law matters of all complexities, using strategies and concepts designed to minimize risks to our clients. We can negotiate and draft contracts or resolve disputes, representing any of the parties involved in the construction process.

 Pros and Cons of Lump Sum Contracts

There are advantages and disadvantages for a contractor or property owner to engage in a lump sum contract. For a contractor, there is a greater margin for profit, especially if the project is finished ahead of time and a built-in risk contingency is not utilized. A lump sum contract requires minimal accounting documentation for the property owner, which saves time and reduces overhead costs.  For a property owner, it is easier to obtain financing for a lump sum contract, as there is a high degree of certainty regarding the total cost of the project.  The property owner is not liable for excess expenditures, unless it is addressed in the initial contract or unless the property owner requests a change order. A lump sum contract is considered low risk for a property owner.

There are some disadvantages to having a lump sum contract, especially for a contractor, as there is a high risk for cost overruns, such as increased material costs that were not accounted for in the contract.  The contractor may see the need for a change order during the construction phase, and the owner may reject payment on the change order, causing the contractor to be liable for the cost.  For the property owner, there can be lien waiver issues. If the contractor withholds payment from a subcontractor, there can be a mechanic’s lien file against the property.

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. Offers Insightful Representation

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. works diligently to achieve favorable contract terms for their clients. We take into consideration project inflation costs, the economic impact of change orders, and allowances for unforeseen conditions that affect the progress of the project.   We represent clients in residential and commercial disputes and claims through negotiation, mediation, or litigation. Attorney Shane Boutty is well versed in the application of construction law, as he is a state certified contractor and has owned several construction companies. The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. is located in Winter Park, Florida and serves clients in Orange and Seminole Counties.  We can be contacted at 407-537-0543.  Call for an initial consultation to discuss your construction law matter.   

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Contract Documentation

The Importance of Documentation Retention for Construction Projects

   There are many contracts drafted and signed for every major construction project and these documents can provide legal protection in the event of future disputes.  Construction projects generate a vast amount of paperwork and safeguarding these records can be a daunting task.  Implementing a document retention policy can shield a company from liability claims, as a contract, report, log, or record can provide supporting evidence for arbitration or litigation. Retention of documents is an essential practice for the success of a construction business.

 Common construction disputes include breach of contract claims including:

  • Non-compliance with payment, delays, scope of work disputes, defective work due to errors or omissions, and latent defects that can be discovered long after a project is completed. Workplace injuries and accidents, mechanic’s liens, property damage, negligent supervision, and copyright infringements are other types of claims.

    The length of time that construction records should be retained depends on the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. In the State of Florida, a lawsuit for construction defects must be filed within four years from the issuance of a certificate of occupancy or when the owner takes possession of the property.  The statute of repose, for latent defects, is ten years from the date that the owner takes possession. According to Florida and Federal recordkeeping requirements, payroll records are to be kept for a minimum of four years.  The Internal Revenue Service can audit your company as far back as six years, therefore it is recommended that tax records be kept for at least seven years.   

What Types of Documents Should Be Preserved?

   Be diligent about safeguarding your contracts and records, as documentation is the framework of a plaintiff or defendant’s legal dispute. The vast amount of paperwork for  major construction projects can include the initial contracts, insurance certificates, drawings and specs, design and engineering work, change orders, purchase orders, photographs of the construction process, bid documents, invoices, field reports, safety reports, payroll records, and business correspondence. The use of scanning for electronic storage may be a better option for document management than keeping manual records and it allows accessibility to the documents wherever they are needed. Another aspect of a business document retention policy is instituting detailed procedures that are used to destroy contracts and documentation that are no longer needed. However, intentionally destroying documents that are relevant to a pending litigation may suggest that the document contained information that is not favorable to your case.

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. is a Multi-Service Business and Construction Law Firm

The Boutty Law Firm can provide counsel on all matters regarding construction and commercial law, from the bidding on a construction project to its completion.  We handle all levels of complexity for our clients, in both state and federal courts. Attorney Shane Boutty is a state certified contractor and his experience and knowledge is invaluable in minimizing risks and finding effective and affordable solutions for his clients.  We represent general contractors, subcontractors, developers, construction companies, homeowners, property owners, material suppliers, architects, and homeowner’s associations. Our law firm is adept at negotiations, arbitration, and court room litigation. Our goal is to protect your interests.  We are located in Winter Park and serve clients in Orange, Seminole, and Volusia counties in Central Florida. Call our office at 407-537-0543 for legal advice and quality representation.

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Residential Construction Defect

Residential and Commercial Construction Defects

The population growth in Central Florida in recent years has had major implications for the real estate market.  There has been a surge of commercial and residential real estate construction for single family housing, multi-family units and commercial businesses, bringing with it a myriad of possibilities for construction defects and subsequent litigation.  Construction defects are deficiencies in the building process which can result in costly damage to the property or can put the inhabitants of the property at risk for personal injury.  A construction defect can be a serious issue or it can be a matter of just not meeting the buyer’s expectations.  Lawsuits for construction defects can be a lengthy and costly process and multiple parties can be held liable for damages.  Restitution may include the costs of repairs, property devaluation, loss of use, court costs and attorney fees. In some cases there can be fines for gross negligence paid to the state and suspension of professional licenses.  A plaintiff can file a negligence claim if there were personal injuries as a direct result of the construction defect.  For negotiation, mediation and litigation of claims, a knowledgeable attorney is invaluable on your path to a successful resolution.  Attorney Benjamin Shane Boutty has been representing clients in construction and business law, for over 20 years.  He is well versed in all aspects of construction defect law, as he is a state certified contractor as well as a construction law attorney, a professor and has owned several construction companies.

What Constitutes a Construction Defect?

   Construction defects can be the result of design deficiencies, workmanship issues or material defects and often, they are a combination of all the following;

  • A design deficiency is the failing of the architects and engineers to follow State of Florida building codes in the design of a project, usually occurring by error or omission. An example may be a poorly designed roof that causes leaks and mold damage.
  • Workmanship issues can be either aesthetic concerns or they can be a structural integrity problems. An aesthetic issue can usually be repaired quite easily, whereas a structural integrity problem may not be easily seen until major damage has occurred, such as cracks in the foundation of the building or unstable load bearing walls.
  • Material deficiencies are defects that arise due to damaged materials or inferior products delivered by the manufacturer or the contractor using improper building materials.  Examples can be inferior dry wall that cracks, roofing shingles that leak or faulty electrical wiring that can result in a fire.

   Patent defects in a building are ones that are obvious upon inspection. Latent defects in construction are those that are not easily seen, which are usually more damaging and problematic. In the State of Florida, the statute of limitations for patent construction defects is four years after the defect is discovered, or ten years for latent construction defects.

Be Proactive in Communication and Documentation to Minimize Liability

   To prevent and mitigate construction defect liability, it is important for those professionals in the construction industry to be proactive by having a quality control measure in place.  This requires frequent and diligent review of plans and site assessments.  Frequently inspecting the project and keeping detailed records of the construction progress is needed evidence in the event of future litigation. Home buyers are entitled to a builder’s warranty with the purchase contract which establishes the buyer’s rights and protections.

   The Boutty Law Firm, in Winter Park, Florida, represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide range of construction defect disputes.  Our clients are property owners, material suppliers, architects, home owner associations, general contractors, developers and construction companies. If you are the owner of a property that is claiming damages or a business owner that is being named in a lawsuit, we can negotiate or mediate your dispute for an effective solution or be your advocate in court. Call the Boutty Law Firm for a consultation to discuss your unique situation.

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Home protection against hurricane damages

How to Dispute Insurance Coverage after Hurricane Damages

Hurricane Damages and Insurance Coverage

  During the months of June through November, we are immersed in a media blitz about storms and damages.  The State of Florida, which is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, has a coastline of 8,436 miles, all of which are at high risk during a hurricane. Even those that don’t live on the coastline suffer heavy wind and water damages.  The report of a tropical storm or a hurricane brewing brings heightened anxiety levels and there can be immeasurable emotional wreckage following the storm. The history of hurricanes, such as hurricane Irma, hurricane Michael and the recent hurricane Dorian, caused devastating damages, for which there is major economic loss that may never be recovered. 

   The standard preparation for responsible homeowners and business owners, when a storm is approaching, is to do their best to secure loose items and trim or remove weak tree branches, especially around electric lines.  Creating a home inventory and reviewing your insurance coverage is imperative, if you need to claim damages.  Taking photos of your property prior to the storm, will adequately document the condition of your possessions.  When torrential rain, high tides or wind causes significant damages to your property, the results can be devastating.  Property owners are left to deal with roof and shingle damages, broken windows, flooding, moisture damages, destroyed porches, fallen trees and destruction of boats and other property.  Homes can be completely destroyed and become inhabitable.

   Insurance policies give us a false sense of security but insurance companies have an incentive to pay out as little as possible.  Your insurance policy is a contract between the insurer and the policyholder, in exchange for premiums.  This document determines the claims which the insurer is legally required to pay.  Following an event, an insurance adjuster will write a report of his subjective assessment of the damages.  This can result in a low estimate or a denial of the claim in total.  Some reasons that an insurance company will deny a claim or they may not pay for the damages in their entirety can be; policy exclusions, a missed payment can lapse your policy, coverage limit is reached but it’s not enough to cover damages, no documentation of damages, flood insurance needs to be a separate policy and/or pre-existing damage,   

   In addition to legitimate disputes between property owners and insurance companies, there are also a large number of questionable claims that need to be investigated and oftentimes, litigated in a civil court of law. While trying to deal with the trauma of your losses, insurance companies and property owners need to be aware of unscrupulous contractors that exploit customers during the confusion of a disaster.  Be wary of Assignment of Benefits fraud, which happens when you sign a deal that gives your contractor the right to bill your insurance company directly.

   The Boutty law firm will look out for your best interest and advocate on your behalf in a breach of contract dispute. You may be the property owner that feels your insurance company is unlawfully refusing to pay or you may be the insurance company that is disputing what appears to be a fraudulent claim. Or perhaps it is necessary to file for civil litigation regarding an untrustworthy contractor.  To learn more about how we can help you during this stressful time, schedule an appointment to discuss the details of your case.

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