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What happens when a subcontractor makes a big mistake?

As a general contractor, you probably tend to rely on your subcontractors for a lot of the actual work that gets done on your projects. After all, you can't be everywhere at once -- nor an expert in every field. You do your best to hire subcontractors that are reputable, experienced and dependable for every project -- but sometimes mistakes happen or a subcontractor just doesn't live up to his or her reputation.

So, who is responsible when a subcontractor messes up -- badly -- and there's no way around a costly repair?

Well, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have subcontractor insurance as part of your general liability insurance policy?
  • Have you purchased a separate insurance policy that covers subcontractors?
  • Does your subcontractor have insurance coverage of their own?

If you answered, "No," to all three of those questions, the odds are good that you're going to be footing the bill for your subcontractor's mistake.

Generally speaking, you are liable for the mistakes made by any subcontractors you hire for a project. That's a tough position to be in when you have little control over the subcontractor's actions and aren't even likely on the site 100% of the time.

Your best defense against a problem with a subcontractor's work is a good offense. While you should always choose good subcontractors (just like you choose good building materials), you also need to have well-written contracts in place in order to indemnify yourself against a lawsuit if a problem does occur. Those contracts need to be with both the property owner and any subcontractors you employ in order to fully protect you.

If you're in a situation where hindsight is 20/20, but your foresight wasn't quite good enough to protect you from trouble, an experienced construction litigation attorney may be able to help.

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