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Design professionals must be protected when blamed for tragedies

For design professionals in the Bay Area, their business and their reputation is the linchpin to their success. If there are accusations of missteps or outright malpractice, it can do untold damage to them and their future in the industry. Unfortunately, when accidents or incidents happen and there is dispute as to its cause, those impacted will automatically look for someone to blame. If, for example, an owner or a contractor are said to have been responsible, they might try to shift that to the design professionals. With that, it is imperative for design professionals to be cognizant of how to protect themselves from this type of personal, professional and financial damage.

Commercial buildings under scrutiny after recent tragedy in Florida

It is thoroughly understandable that a tragedy in which there was loss of life and massive damage will be the catalyst to increased scrutiny. That is especially true if it is believed to have been wholly preventable. Still, that does not mean those who were not responsible should be treated as if they did something wrong. The condominium collapse in Florida in June has sparked increased interest in looking for construction defects. Property owners are doing this as an act of self-preservation. Since that condominium had structural damage that was noticed – and unaddressed – since 2018, the entire building, its history and how this might have occurred are part of an ongoing investigation. Not only does this have an impact on property owners, but it can cause challenges for architects and other design professionals.

When construction defects are investigated, it is not limited to the builders who did the hands-on work in erecting the structure. Of course, the materials could be problematic. Workmanship might be shoddy. Other errors could be made. But the design professionals who came up with the plan might face accusations of wrongdoing or incompetence. The architect or designer might miss a step or design a project that is unsuitable for the area in which it will be built. When this happens, it can be costly not just for the repair work, but in a worst-case scenario of something terrible happening with the structure itself. It might not be as significant as a full-blown collapse, but it can be a problem. Being shielded from potentially wrongful and hasty allegations of errors is imperative.

When accused of design malpractice, the entire case must be scrutinized

Environmental factors can play a role in a structure losing its integrity. Construction defects can emanate from many sources. There are times when design professionals do make mistakes. No one is perfect, nor are they infallible. Despite that, automatically thinking that the design was the problem is unfair and often inaccurate. Design professionals who are accused of wrongdoing in any way must craft a viable and comprehensive defense. This includes architects, engineers and others in the design industry. The designer might not even be aware of how the project is being run once their role in it is complete. There could be a failure to follow the plan, legal violations, a lack of attention, changing the plans without approval and more. Consulting with those whose expertise is specifically narrowed to this area of the law is vital to fight these cases and reach a positive result with the reputation and business intact.