As with any profession, a contract for engineering services specifies the terms of agreements, services to be exchanged, deadlines, and estimated costs. It also outlines the specific duties of the project's engineering firm.1 However, as a project progresses, its scope—and thus the engineering firm's duties—can expand. As an engineer, it's important to be aware that taking on duties outside those outlined in your contract may increase your liability.2 To understand how, consider the real-life scenario described below.
A professional’s inability to produce important evidence during a lawsuit alleging negligence may result in sanctions.1 State law determines whether spoliation of evidence may result in sanctions, and the nature of any sanctions imposed against a party who fails to preserve important evidence can vary greatly by state.
By Terri Stough, Esq.
All professional architects and engineers risk having claims brought against them in relation to their work. Some claims may have merit. However, some professionals can get caught in a wide net cast by a claimant trying to recoup unexpected losses, regardless of actual fault. Notwithstanding the frivolity of a claim, once a case settles or a judgment is rendered, you may be obligated by your state to report the settlement or judgment to your professional board.
The specter of litigation will never instill peace of mind, but engineers are wise to implement document retention practices to prepare for the moment we all hope will never come. If you find yourself facing a lawsuit, the documents that you provide to your attorney will serve as the foundation of your defense. Keep in mind that the strongest defense is one that doesn’t merely fit your version of a story against someone else’s or require huge leaps in reasoning and facts to overcome missing information. The best defense
is built on the most complete story that you can tell in black and white.
By Terri L. Stough, Esq.