By: Luka Dickson

Construction projects are complex endeavours, and disputes can arise for a myriad of reasons. In this blog, we will be delving into a hypothetical example of a construction claim scenario, highlighting the crucial role of a construction claim expert witness in navigating and resolving such disputes.

Setting the Stage:

Imagine a large-scale commercial construction project involving the construction of a high-rise building. The parties involved include the property owner, a construction company, and various subcontractors responsible for different aspects of the project. As the project progresses, issues emerge concerning delays, cost overruns, and disagreements over the quality of work.

Initial Steps in a Construction Claim:

After trying to resolve the issues with the involved parties and having no luck, the property owner decides to file a construction claim with the state building authority to try and achieve some financial compensation. This marks the beginning of a potentially lengthy and intricate process aimed at resolving the dispute. The involvement of the state-building authority signifies a commitment to a fair and impartial assessment of the claim.

Involvement of a Construction Claim Expert Witness:

Expert witnesses play a pivotal role in this scenario. The property owner hires a construction claim expert witness, a seasoned quantity surveyor with extensive experience in large-scale construction projects. The expert witness is tasked with assessing the validity of the claim, evaluating the costs, and providing an unbiased opinion based on their expertise. Despite being hired by the property owner, the expert witness must remain impartial. They are not there to represent a client, simply just to provide their expert opinion on the appropriate resolution, and uphold a strict code of conduct.

Gathering Evidence:

The construction claim expert witness begins by gathering evidence. This includes reviewing project documentation, contracts, correspondence, and conducting on-site inspections. Thorough documentation is crucial, as it forms the foundation for a robust case. The expert witness collaborates with the property owner’s legal team to ensure all relevant information is considered. Using their expertise, the construction claim expert witness assesses the claims made by the property owner. This involves a detailed analysis of the construction process, costs incurred, and the impact of delays on the overall project timeline.

Construction Claim Expert Witness Report:

Upon completing the assessment, the construction claim expert witness compiles a detailed report. This document outlines the issues at hand, the expert’s findings, and the basis for their opinions. The report adheres to a strict code of conduct, emphasising impartiality and transparency. It becomes a crucial piece of evidence that will be presented in later stages of the dispute resolution process.

Scott Schedule

A Scott Schedule serves as an organised table-format document created by one of the involved parties to present diverse opinions regarding the cost of a claim. Each element of the claim, such as defective or incomplete work, is delineated within the schedule. Usually, this document accompanies an expert witness report, though its necessity varies.

A construction claims expert witness, engaged for construction claims, contributes to this schedule by providing their opinions on each listed issue. The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) outlines key components that should be incorporated into a Scott Schedule, including contractual outlines, applicants, and respondents’ comments, estimates of loss, and tribunal members’ comments. This supplementary summary document proves valuable in court claims, offering clarity on disagreements, common ground, and the potential costs of litigation, providing a convenient reference point within the tribunal.

Mediation and Resolution Attempts:

Before the claim proceeds to court, further mediation sessions are scheduled between the parties, providing an opportunity for the parties to negotiate and reach a settlement. The expert witness may be called upon to provide clarifications and insights during these sessions, facilitating a more informed dialogue. Smaller projects may choose to end proceedings here before taking matters to a higher court which may end up requiring costly legal representation – and both parties end up spending more than the cost of any financial compensation.

Potential Tribunal or Court Proceedings:

If mediation proves unsuccessful, the dispute may proceed to a tribunal or court. The construction claim expert witness becomes a key witness during legal proceedings. Their testimony, based on the thorough assessment and detailed report, holds significant weight in influencing the decisions of the tribunal or court. While it may be extremely likely, and recommended, for the tribunal to follow the opinion of the expert witness, it is not required. During the tribunal, the construction claim expert witness may be cross-examined by the judge and parties to justify their opinion and prove that they have a correct understanding of the case and costings.

Finally, after all proceedings, a construction claim will have an outcome based on the tribunal or court’s decisions. This usually will involve some form of financial compensation, or harsher penalties for repeat offenders.

Importance of a Construction Claim Expert Witness:

In conclusion, this hypothetical example underscores the importance of construction claim expert witnesses in resolving complex disputes. Their technical knowledge, impartiality, and ability to provide informed opinions contribute significantly to achieving fair and just outcomes. As construction projects continue to evolve, the role of expert witnesses remains essential in ensuring the integrity of the dispute resolution process.

This example highlights the intricate dance of legal, technical, and procedural elements involved in construction claims and emphasises the indispensable role played by expert witnesses in navigating and resolving these disputes.

Construction Estimating Services in Australia

At Accent Estimating, our team of expert, registered quantity surveyors pride ourselves on providing reliable and detailed construction estimating services. Our experienced team assures accurate information and support to all builders and contractors. We believe all parties involved deserve a fair deal, and a fast, streamlined development process.  

If you would like to find out more about our estimating services available in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, call us on 0413 953 869 or fill out the contact form on our website.