Construction Project Record Keeping in Advance of Disputes

Construction Project Record Keeping in Advance of Disputes

Some years ago, before the advent of collaborative construction management software, Max Wideman, P.Eng., a veteran capital projects manager wrote, “if [a] contractor wishes to remain profitable he must maintain control of his on-going work, and control of on-going work requires on-going records.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Mr. Wideman was writing about claim avoidance and the important role of record keeping in that endeavor. Claims originate from disputes, he wrote, and disputes often end up in court, which can be costly. Good record keeping is essential to minimizing the costs arising from disputes and litigation, and it begins at the initiation of the project.

This is where a product such as EADOC’s construction management software really shines. Built for collaboration, document organizing, cost control and risk mitigation, EADOC gives contractors the power to keep control of their on-going work, and simplify the all-important issue of record keeping. And, it’s like an all-knowing, objective, eye on the project, creating a paperless audit trail of activities.

Interviewed for this article, construction law attorney Christopher Hill, of Glen Allen, Virginia, had this to say about the need for strong, organized record keeping for construction projects, “I usually have to deal with something after it happened, and I can’t put together what happened without the documents. It helps me from an information and advising standpoint, because I need to be able to figure out what happened. Memories get fuzzy, and sometimes what the client thinks happened didn’t really happen. Having the documents puts you in a position not just of ‘your word against theirs,’ but in the stronger position of ‘documentation plus your word against theirs.’ If they come in with documents and you don’t, you’re in a worse position. Typically, he who has the best documents wins.”

Mr. Hill often represents small sub-contractors, who typically use paper-based record keeping systems, in claim disputes that aren’t usually complicated as a matter of law, but are complicated in the volume of documents and how well they are organized, or not.

When it comes to moving a dispute down the path of litigation, Mr. Hill said, “If you look unprepared, the other side isn’t going to take you seriously. Even if you are willing to settle, you have to be prepared to go to court. And if you don’t look like you know what you’re talking about, you won’t get far. It’s a credibility issue. Anything that helps clients keep documents organized is good. It saves my clients money too, so they don’t have to pay me to organize documents on top of reading them and figuring out what happened. To the extent that electronic document management helps with that, I’m all for it. I use cloud-based electronic document management for my practice.”

All project team members can appreciate the benefits of a construction management application like EADOC – the ongoing, automated, organizing of project documents allows their attorney to focus on the core of the dispute, not record organizing.

On the opposite coast, construction attorney William Last, of San Mateo, California, said, “With electronic document management, it’s easy to put your finger on the key documentation quickly. With paper, it’s a lot of cutting down the forest to get to the trees. Electronic systems also help force project team members to enter information in a consistent form, improving the chance that it’s evidence admissible in court as a business record, and not inadmissible hearsay.”

Mr. Last is familiar with EADOC, and he likes the ability to “push a button and see all the relationships between owners and subcontractors” without having to spend time sorting through records to figure that out. “Clients that pay their attorney to sort through and organize their project documents often end up with a big bill,” he said.

Written in 2001, Mr. Wideman’s article references the applicability of the micro-computer to construction project record keeping. EADOC software is the natural outgrowth of that application, simplifying and automating record keeping, and speeding access to critical information when it’s needed.