Construction Contract Disputes

Resolving Construction Contract Disputes: Understanding Key Terminologies and Legal Options

When it comes to the construction industry, contract disputes are, unfortunately, almost inevitable. With large-scale projects involving numerous stakeholders––such as property owners, developers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers––understanding the complexities and nuances of construction contracts is critical in addressing disagreements and effectively resolving disputes.

From differing interpretations of contract terms to disputes arising from changes in project scope, timely and fair resolution of construction contract disputes is crucial to ensure minimal disruption to project timelines and the ongoing business relationships between parties.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the key terminologies that you should be familiar with when facing a construction contract dispute, as well as the legal options available for resolving disagreements. We will also discuss the essential role of an experienced construction litigation attorney in successfully managing contract disputes and ensuring a fair outcome for all parties involved.

Some common key terminologies associated with construction contract disputes include “change orders,” “force majeure,” “notice to proceed,” “pay-if-paid” or “pay-when-paid” clauses, and “substantial completion.” Understanding these terms and their implications can be vital in identifying potential issues and navigating contentious contract disputes.

When it comes to the legal options for resolving construction contract disputes, parties may consider litigation, arbitration, mediation, or negotiation, depending on the specifics of the disagreement and the contract provisions. An experienced construction litigation attorney can review the facts, evaluate the arguments, and provide guidance on the most appropriate dispute resolution method for the situation at hand.

To effectively navigate construction contract disputes, it is essential to be familiar with some of the most commonly used terms and concepts that can come into play during these disagreements. Here are a few key terminologies to understand:

  • Change Orders: During the course of construction projects, it is not uncommon for changes to be made to the original contract, necessitating the use of change orders. Change orders detail any modifications to the scope of work, project schedule, or contract price. Disputes can arise when there’s a disagreement over the need, cost, or impact of a change order on the project.
  • Force Majeure: Force majeure is a contract provision that addresses unforeseen events—such as natural disasters, labor strikes, or pandemics—that can result in significant delays or disruptions to the project. Disputes can emerge when parties disagree on whether a particular event qualifies as force majeure or if there are disputes about allocating extra costs resulting from the unforeseen event.
  • Notice to Proceed: The notice to proceed (NTP) is a written directive from the project owner, instructing the contractor to commence work on a project. Disputes may surface when there are differing opinions on project start dates, work completion deadlines, or payment terms tied to the issuance of the NTP.
  • Pay-if-Paid and Pay-when-Paid Clauses: These contract clauses deal with the timing and conditions for payment for work performed by subcontractors. Pay-if-paid clauses make the payment to a subcontractor contingent upon the general contractor receiving payment from the owner, while pay-when-paid clauses establish a reasonable timeframe for payment to the subcontractor once the general contractor receives payment. Disputes can arise when there is disagreement over the interpretation, legality, or fairness of these payment clauses.
  • Substantial Completion: Substantial completion refers to the point at which a construction project is sufficiently finished to allow the owner to utilize the property for its intended purpose, even though some minor work or corrections may still need to be made. Disputes may arise around the determination of substantial completion, retention payments, or the responsibilities of various parties during this phase of the project.

Legal Options for Resolving Construction Contract Disputes

When faced with a construction contract dispute, there are multiple legal avenues available to parties seeking resolution:

  • Litigation: Construction litigation involves the filing of a lawsuit in a court of law to resolve disputes arising from contracts, construction defects, or other matters related to the project. Litigation can be a lengthy, expensive, and adversarial process, but in certain situations, it may be the most appropriate means of resolving complex disputes that cannot be settled through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution.
  • Arbitration: Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that involves a neutral third party—an arbitrator—reviewing the facts of the dispute and making a binding or non-binding decision. Arbitration can be a faster, more cost-effective option compared to litigation; however, the degree of control over the outcome may be limited. Construction contracts often include arbitration clauses that specify the use of this method for handling disputes arising out of the contract.
  • Mediation: Mediation is another form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party—the mediator—facilitates settlement negotiations between the disputing parties. Unlike arbitration, mediation is non-binding, meaning the parties are not obligated to accept the settlement proposed by the mediator. Mediation can be a valuable means of preserving business relationships by avoiding the adversarial nature of litigation.
  • Negotiation: Negotiation is the process of direct communication between parties in an attempt to resolve a dispute without resorting to litigation or formal alternative dispute resolution methods. Contract disputes can often be resolved through effective negotiation when both parties are willing to engage in open and honest dialogue.

The Role of a Construction Litigation Attorney in Resolving Contract Disputes

A skilled construction litigation attorney is crucial during the resolution of construction contract disputes. They can provide expert guidance and representation, helping clients understand their rights, evaluate potential risks, and identify the optimal dispute resolution strategy. Engaging a construction litigation attorney can also play a significant role in managing the dispute resolution process by:

  • Reviewing and interpreting complex contract language, identifying ambiguities, and flagging potential areas of dispute.
  • Advocating on behalf of clients during negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or litigation, making persuasive arguments, and striving for a fair outcome.
  • Providing legal advice on the implications of different dispute resolution options.
  • Offering guidance in drafting settlement agreements or other relevant documents.


Construction contract disputes can be complex, and understanding key terminologies as well as legal options is vital in protecting your rights and interests. By teaming up with a knowledgeable and experienced construction litigation attorney, you can more effectively navigate the challenging landscape of construction contract disputes and achieve a favorable resolution.

Are you facing construction contract disputes and in need of legal assistance? Look no further than Edge Lawyers! Our dedicated team is committed to providing top-tier legal representation and guidance to help our clients successfully resolve construction contract disputes. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive legal services and how we can support your needs. With our commitment to exceptional service, expert knowledge, and attention to detail, you can trust that you’re in capable hands with Edge Lawyers.

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