Alves RadCliffe - construction attorney - 10 Signs That a Contractor is Negligent

10 Signs That a Contractor is Negligent

You have invested a significant amount of time and money into a construction project, which means you expect the general contractor you hire to manage the project to complete the project on time and under budget. However, some construction projects fail to meet the standards established by the industry. With the help of an experienced construction attorney, you should learn about the 10 signs that demonstrate that a contractor is negligent.

Substandard Work

The most common sign a contractor is negligent concerns defective, shoddy, and substandard work. The quality of the work completed on your construction project must meet the standards written into the construction contract. If you fail to detail in the construction contract the quality of work that you expect, it will be difficult to prove the general contractor committed one or more acts of negligence.

Inferior Equipment

One look at the equipment used by a general contractor and the team of independent contractors should tell the story about the competency of the crew responsible for completing your project. Failing to use construction equipment that is in mint condition increases the risk of an accident happening onsite. 

Reckless Behavior

A construction site is not a place for workers to engage in reckless behavior, which includes operating machinery carelessly and violating standard safety protocols. You should immediately report any behavior to the project manager that violates construction or real estate law.

Lack of Permits

Before the first step of the construction project is underway, property owners must verify every contractor onsite has obtained the required state and federal permits. The lack of possessing the legally required permits represents a red flag that helps you determine whether you need the legal support of a construction attorney.

Cost Overruns

When you hire a general contractor, you expect to receive regularly submitted financial reports that describe the financial status of your construction projects. Any report that shows a project running over budget is a sign of negligence on the part of the general contractor in charge of the project.

Defective Protective Gear

Every worker on your construction project must wear the right protective gear to prevent an onsite accident. Violations of the standards created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are a clear sign the contractor is negligent in managing your construction project.

Visible Defects

From leaky pipes that discharge water to cracks in a structure, you should be able to detect basic defects of a construction project. Hiring a construction attorney during your construction project can help you notice defects.

Not Enough Warning Signs

The general contractor running your construction project cannot prevent every hazard from becoming a safety issue. However, placing warning signs in the right locations reduces the likelihood of an onsite accident costing you both time and money.

Visits from Government Inspectors

A contractor that deals with unannounced government inspections might be a contractor that has a record of violating safety standards. If not addressed, this warning sign can eventually lead to the end of your construction project.

Covering Up Mistakes

Accidents happen on construction sites, and when one happens during your construction project, how the general contractor responds can tell you whether the general contractor should be held legally accountable for the circumstances that led to the accident.

Alves Radcliffe, LLP — Construction Attorney

If you need assistance with an indemnity clause in your construction contract, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

How Property Owners Can Protect Themselves Against Mechanic's Liens - construction attorney - Alves RadCliffe

How Property Owners Can Protect Themselves Against Mechanic’s Liens

You meticulously planned every step of a home improvement project. Working with a general contractor has reduced your responsibilities because the team of project managers from the general contractor handles the recruitment of trade professionals, as well as schedules daily tasks. However, there might be one step you should add to your home improvement project.

You should speak with a construction attorney to help you avoid costly mechanic’s liens.

A mechanic’s lien gives trade professionals a tool to protect themselves from property owners that refuse to pay for specialized services and the time put into a project. Most of the steps that help you avoid a mechanic’s lien have one thing in common.


Let’s look at some basic principles that can help you avoid a mechanic’s lien.

Prequalification Process

One of the basics of a construction lien is for the general contractor to get paid what the company deserves. You can avoid the hassle of a mechanic’s lien by putting the general contractor through a prequalification process. Determine how the general contractor handled past payment practices before agreeing to a payment plan. You also need to know how a general contractor handles a missed payment.

Preliminary Notice

What frustrates a property owner more than just about anything concerning a construction project is unexpectedly receiving a mechanic’s lien. You avoid this issue by requiring the general contractor to ask for preliminary notices from every supplier and independent contractor. A preliminary notice provides you with the names of each trade professional, as well as what you owe each trade professional.

Asking for preliminary notices is one of the most important principles of real estate law.

Joint Checks

Issuing joint checks represents an effective strategy to avoid a mechanic’s lien, as well as prevent a contractor from receiving two payments during the same pay period. Issuing a joint check requires all parties to endorse the check before a financial institution releases the funds. If a trade professional and the trade professional’s supplier receive a joint check, the supplier must endorse the check before the trade professional can cash it.

Payment Bond

Taking out a payment bond removes the legal liability from your property to address a compensation issue. A payment bond transfers the inherent risk of receiving a mechanic’s lien to the issuer of the payment bond. If the general contractor, primary supplier, and independent contractor do not get paid by the payment deadline, each party has the right to make a claim against the payment bond.

Make Full Payments Before Every Deadline

One of the most important pieces of advice given by a construction attorney to a client does not involve legal jargon. You can avoid receiving a mechanic’s lien if you issue full payments on time, every time. Issuing full, timely payments is the most effective way to avoid a mechanic’s lien.

Alves Radcliffe, LLP — Construction Attorney

If you need assistance with an indemnity clause in your construction contract, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Main Methods to Settle a Construction Dispute - construction attorney - Alves RadCliffe

The Main Methods to Settle a Construction Dispute

If you run a company in the construction industry, you understand that disputes are a part of doing business. Disagreements between property owners and contractors, contractors and trade professionals, and subcontractors and suppliers can pop up at any time. The question is not will your construction company experience a dispute down the road. Instead, the question is how will you handle a disagreement with a supplier, subcontractor, or property owner?

The short answer involves hiring an experienced construction attorney who has successfully handled a considerable number of legal disputes. A construction lawyer can help you sign a legally valid contract that clearly defines every factor that goes into a construction project. Working with a state-licensed construction attorney also ensures your company receives legal protection against any invalid disputes.

One of the greatest benefits of hiring a construction lawyer is to have legal representation when the time comes to implement one of the main methods to settle a construction dispute.

What Options Do I Have to Settle a Construction Dispute?

You have four methods to settle a construction dispute: negotiations, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. It is important for you to understand the pros and cons of each method.


The first step to settle a construction dispute involves direct negotiations between both parties. Instead of costly litigation, negotiations can end a dispute without it ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. Your construction attorney submits an offer, which is countered by the lawyer representing the other party. Even if negotiations do not resolve the dispute, at least both parties understand what are the major points of contention.


Mediation typically follows failed negotiations. Held before an unbiased third party, mediation represents a confidential legal process where both parties agree to meet and work out their differences with the help of a third party. Mediation is a common resolution process for many business and commercial law cases.


Considered a faster and less costly legal option than litigation, arbitration is the preferred method of resolving disputes for many construction contractors. Depending on the extent of a dispute, arbitration can be held in front of one or as many as three arbitrators. The arbitration process unfolds in a similar way as a civil trial, with discovery a vital part of the process. Both parties exchange evidence and the statements made by witnesses. Arbitrations decisions are binding, which means if you choose this legal option, you must live with the decision made by the arbitrator or arbitrators.


Do you need a construction attorney for a contractor dispute? The answer is an emphatic yes if your dispute reaches the litigation phase of the legal process. The advantage of litigation over arbitration is although a judge issues a decision, you have the right to appeal the decision if it does not go in your favor. However, the downside to litigation is the process can be time-consuming, as well as you cannot recover court costs and attorney fees.

Alves Radcliffe, LLP — Construction Attorney

If you need assistance with an indemnity clause in your construction contract, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Determining if You Need a Construction Lawyer for a Contractor Dispute - construction attorney - Alves RadCliffe

Determining if You Need a Construction Lawyer for a Contractor Dispute

Construction disputes can be daunting for all involved parties, whether defendant or plaintiff. As disputes build up to lawsuits or legal action, you face the uncertainty of where you’ll end up. You might find yourself at a negotiation table or in a courtroom. Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the legal world alone if you partner with a construction attorney.

If you’re facing any of the below situations, now is a good time to find an attorney.

If you’re suing or being sued

Contact a construction attorney or general consultant with construction expertise if lawsuits are involved. Standing alone on any side of a legal battle without a litigation professional can expose you to more damage. If you are the party being sued, a lawyer can identify cross-claims that allow you, the defendant, to sue the plaintiff for an issue related to the main case. If you are the party suing, a lawyer will work to keep your case airtight and fight against any cross-claims the defendant might raise.

Even if lawsuits haven’t been filed and they are merely hanging in the air as a threat, a lawyer can assist you in determining possible liabilities. Not all lawsuit threats manifest, and sometimes they’re merely thrown out to intimidate or force action. If any seem credible or likely to play out, you’ll want a legal expert on your side to get through the ensuing legal battle.

If your negotiations have stalled

The typical first step to approaching disputes is negotiations. If the property owner initiates the dispute, the contractor might offer additional or discounted future services, adjust the project cost, or offer alternatives. If the roles are reversed and the contractor sues because of the owner’s inability to meet payments, a common type of construction dispute faced by contractors, the owner might promise full payment spread out over a longer period.

Sometimes these negotiations work out, but sometimes one or both parties won’t budge and progress hits a wall. A lawyer versed in construction litigation can jumpstart negotiations and help both parties reach a common ground without sacrificing your best interests. In the case the negotiations transform into a lawsuit, a lawyer will be necessary to minimize your risk exposure and give you a higher chance of success in court.

If you’re dealing with a jobsite injury

It’s in your best interests to find an attorney if you’re facing a jobsite injury. These claims can get complicated very quickly when construction workers’ compensation is involved. You can try to keep these disputes out of the courtroom, but in many cases that simply isn’t possible. That’s why it’s important to find a qualified attorney as soon as the dispute begins to intensify. Once momentum builds, you could be dropped into an unfamiliar legal situation with little to no warning.

Regardless of the dispute, if you feel legal challenges could quickly arise, it’s good to have a construction attorney on your contact list. Preparation can make a huge difference, especially when you’re involved with a major construction project.

Alves Radcliffe, LLP — Construction Attorney

If you need assistance with an indemnity clause in your construction contract, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Pool Construction Disputes Look Out for These Common Issues - construction attorney - Alves RadCliffe

Pool Construction Disputes: Look out For These Common Issues

As with all construction projects, pool construction can be privy to complications resulting in legal disputes that need litigation from a construction attorney. Even thoroughly crafted contracts can be challenged. Whether you’re a pool contractor or property owner, it’s a good idea to be familiar with a few of the common legal issues that construction attorneys and general consultants see when construction doesn’t go according to plans. 

More work is needed than anticipated

Before taking a new project, pool contractors inspect the prospective construction site for feasibility. The geographical location and ground slope can impact the pool depth, width, construction materials, and where drainage should be installed. Every detail is necessary to create a pool plan the client approves of, and write a contract that protects the interests of the client and contractor.

However, there is no such thing as an inspection that catches every detail that could impact construction. Some details might not even be perceivable until construction is underway, due to incorrect or incomplete property floor plans or obstructions. A contractor might be halfway through excavating the site when they discover an issue that requires more work than listed in the original project plans.

New developments are to be expected in any construction job, and contractors are prepared to pivot and meet new needs. However, pivoting can sometimes result in additional work that pushes out the project timeline or raises the construction cost. In some cases, additional contractors or subcontractors may need to be brought on. The contract should explain how these events are handled, but property owners might take issue regardless. The dispute could escalate to the point you need to find an experienced construction attorney.

The pool needs repairs shortly after completion

Pool construction is intensive and has many moving parts. A mishap with one part or step of construction could cause ripples impacting later steps of the project, ultimately resulting in a pool that needs immediate repairs. Property owners might raise issues with superficial defects on tilework and grouting, or serious defects that undermine the pool’s wall or structure and could collapse. They might also blame contractors for a newly installed ladder that disconnects from the pool wall.

Standard construction contracts have indemnity clauses that lay out how responsibility is split among contractors, subcontractors, and property owners when construction is impacted by negligence. This helps determine how medical and legal costs are allocated should the pool defects result in injury. This also is a common cause for disputes because property managers and contractors alike could disagree about how indemnity is applied in practice.

There are disagreements about collection

Even if pool contractors and property owners agree about how and when payment is made, construction events that push out the timeline or result in larger costs could change the payment method. The property owner might expect a longer time to deliver while the pool contractor might expect more concise payments. Property owners might change their mind about increased costs and ask for additional services to make up the gap between what they deem appropriate and what they’re charged.

Any pool construction dispute can stir up legal issues, stress, and cost you time and money. If you’re a pool contractor or a property owner facing pool construction disputes, reach out to a local attorney for legal assistance.

Alves Radcliffe, LLP — Construction Attorney

If you need assistance with a pool construction dispute, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Understanding Your Construction Contract The Indemnity Clause - construction attorney - Alves RadCliffe

Understanding Your Construction Contract: The Indemnity Clause

Imagine this scenario: You’ve hired a general contractor to patch up your roof that has been stripped by extreme weather. While on the job, a subcontractor injures themself and sues you, the property owner. Fortunately, your contract with the general contractor has an indemnity clause that requires the general contractor to pay the subcontractor.

The above is a simplified example of how the indemnity clause can protect you when accidents happen. Often, a construction attorney or general consultant with experience in construction law  is needed to lay out the intricacies of the clause and figure out exactly who holds responsibility for injuries and damage.

What is an indemnity clause?

An indemnity clause determines who assumes responsibility for risk. There are three main parties in a clause: the claimant (the party making the claim), the indemnitee (the party being accused), and the indemnitor (the party taking responsibility for the accused). 

In the sample scenario above, the property owner is the indemnitee, the subcontractor the claimant, and the subcontractor the indemnitor. The clause transferred responsibility to the general contractor, protecting the property manager from legal expenses. Because indemnity clauses deal with the transfer of legal risk, they’re a common type of construction dispute.

What are the different types of indemnity clauses?

There are three main types of indemnity clauses. The broad form of indemnity states that the indemnitor assumes all responsibility for the indemnitee. In practice, this could be a general contractor taking responsibility for damages/injuries caused by subcontractors. In this case, if the subcontractors are explicitly negligent, their risk is passed onto the general contractor.

The immediate form of indemnity is a more restricted version of the broad form, but still relatively broad. The indemnitor assumes all responsibility unless the indemnitee is completely responsible. This means if the indemnitee is partially responsible, the indemnitor still assumes responsibility. In other words, immediate indemnity is “all or nothing.”

The third and most common indemnity clause is the comparative form, which follows common law principles by allocating responsibility to the party associated with the negligent act. The associated party has to be fully responsible for the negligent act, which can stir dispute among parties.

How can you deal with an indemnity clause?

As a property owner working with contractors, get familiar with your contract’s indemnity clause. Keep an eye on your project and look out for unforeseen circumstances. If an indemnity clause is invoked, negotiation or taking legal action on your own could turn a complicated situation into an even more complex tangle of accusations. Seek legal assistance from an experienced construction attorney who specializes in litigation.

Alves Radcliffe, LLP — Construction Attorney

If you need assistance with a construction law dispute regarding identity clauses, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Common Types of Construction Law Disputes You Could Face as a Contractor - construction attorney - Alves Radcliffe

Common Types of Construction Law Disputes You Could Face as a Contractor

When you take on a construction project, you take on the risk of disputes with clients, subcontractors, and other relevant entities. A client might be dissatisfied with your work, expecting more than you’re able to produce. A subcontractor might accidentally burst a water pipe and blame you for inadequate project information. These disputes could resolve with negotiations, but when large amounts of money or time is at stake, a construction attorney familiar with your local and state laws will be needed.

Below are a few common types of construction law disputes you could face.

Contract Disputes

If a client accuses you of breaching your contract or leaving it unfulfilled, you could try negotiating with them. Some clients are willing to drop the dispute for additional services or repairs without extra cost. However, if the client demands something that would cost more time or money than you’re willing to lose, you should reach out to a general consultant who specializes in construction litigation. They will thoroughly investigate the contract, project status, and determine the best approach to solve the dispute.

Indemnity Disputes

Disputes about who is responsible for damage caused during construction are quite common. Your contact might free you of responsibility from damage caused by subcontractors, but it might not be as clear cut as pointing fingers at a specific person. Subcontractors might point at suppliers for providing low quality materials, while the property owner might point at you, the general contractor, for failing to hire someone of ideal skill.

Depending on the project scope, your dispute might also extend to suppliers, manufacturers, or others involved with your project. You might face accusations from multiple people, making for a complicated resolution process. Indemnity clauses might be simply stated on contract, but in action they can be complicated to unravel without legal help.

Collections Disputes

With all construction projects comes the risk of collection disputes, including payment collection, construction liens, and stop notices. Clients might refuse to pay because of what they believe is subpar work, or they might challenge you on unforeseen extra costs. If you respond with a construction lien, locking down their property title until they pay you, they might take you to court. Avoid the inconvenience of defending your construction lien in court by negotiating with the client, offering longer payment periods or additional services if they pay in full.

Liability Disputes

Construction can be dangerous even when following state laws and regulations. You or your subcontractors could follow every guideline and fall victim to a tool malfunction or take a violent tumble off a ladder or rooftop. Accidents could also happen to property owners or people near the construction zone. Your liability clauses can guide you through a proper response, but you could still face challenges in court. You could be sued for negligence, improper construction, or anything that makes you legally responsible for injury or damage.

It’s safest to navigate disputes with an experienced construction attorney

If you need assistance with a construction law dispute, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Basics on Construction Liens and How to Deal with Them - construction attorney - Alves Radcliffe

The Basics on Construction Liens and How to Deal with Them

When you hire a contractor to oversee a construction project, they might give you a preliminary notice about their right to construction liens, also called mechanic’s liens. Construction liens are powerful legal tools to protect contractors from missing out on payment. However, liens can also be invoked when the contractor’s work is of lower quality than should be delivered. In those cases, a construction attorney can help you navigate your way through them.

What are construction liens?

A contractor can place a construction lien on personal property to ensure payment for their services. This lien puts a “hold” on the property, giving the contractor a security interest in your property title. If you find yourself under a lien, you must pay the contractor a specific amount of money to regain total ownership of your property. This makes it near impossible to refinance or sell your property.

If a lien is filed on your property, you could face foreclosure and a lien recorded on your property title. You also could face double payment on the lien if you paid the general contractor, but they didn’t pay the subcontractors, suppliers, or other laborers.

What is a valid construction lien?

In California, a contractor must provide you with a preliminary notice delivered in person or through certified mail before work begins, supplies are delivered, or 20 days afterward. If the notice is given after 20 days, the lien can require payment only for work done 20 days before the notice is given and afterward.

The claim should include:

  • Specific monetary amount owed
  • Services/products provided
  • Names of the employer and property owner
  • Address where work was done or supplies delivered
  • Contractor’s address
  • Completed and signed Proof of Service Affidavit

The lien should also be filed within the legal time frame of 90 days after work completion, when you begin using the project, or when you accept the improvement. Anytime afterward makes the lien invalid.

How can you deal with a construction lien?

If your lien is valid, you should seek a construction attorney or general consultant with experience defending against mechanic’s liens. They can help you resist foreclosure of a lien through several methods, the three most common ones listed below.

  1. Negotiating with the contractor

Some contractors are willing to accept lower payment if it’s provided over a shorter amount of time. Others might include extra services if you agree to pay the full cost.

  1. Filing a lien bond

Provided by an insurance provider, a lien bond removes the lien from your property and attaches it to the contractor’s claim instead. You would still owe the contractor payment, however it wouldn’t be tied to your property, which you could then freely refinance or sell.

  1. Filing lawsuit against the contractor

To remove a construction lien and refuse any payment to the contractor, you’ll have to testify with evidence that the contractor didn’t fulfill the contract or slacked off on their work. A construction attorney will help you gather the evidence to present a compelling case at a formal trial. 

If you need assistance with a construction lien, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

How to Find the Best Construction Attorney For Your Dispute in California - construction attorney - Alves Radcliffe

How to Find the Best Construction Attorney For Your Dispute in California

If you’ve hit a major dispute with your construction project in California, whether relating to the project or the contract, you need a construction attorney specializing in construction litigation. They can help you construct a powerful case. If you’ve never worked with one before, you can find the best one by following the steps below.

1. Look up construction attorneys local to your project

They’re familiar with construction law as it applies to property in your area of California (e.g. Bay Area, North California, Greater Sacramento). Attorneys and lawyers who are outside the area could still be well informed about your local or state laws, but local practices have precise knowledge. Local attorneys also have experience working local cases, whereas distant attorneys might not have worked a case in your area recently—or at all.

Search online for California construction attorneys near you, then make a list of those who offer litigation services related to your dispute. For example, many attorneys are focused on contract drafting and negotiation, while a few specialize in defect and contract disputes. It’s less common for attorneys to offer construction litigation, so there might only be a few with offices in your area.

2. Research their credentials and experiences

Once you have a list of local attorneys providing litigation services, research each one’s involvement in construction law cases. Many attorneys represent cases in multiple law areas, not limited to construction. Your attorney doesn’t need to exclusively work with construction cases, but they should still have extensive credentials and experience relating to litigation. It can help to have an attorney well-versed in various aspects of law, such as real estate and business and commercial law, as that can inform how they approach your case.

Go through each attorney’s website and search online for information on their education, training, and experience. All law is complex, but construction involves many entities, including general and subcontractors, developers, property owners, material manufacturers and supplies, and many more. Construction cases typically require investigation of several entities to determine where responsibility lies. 

You can tell an attorney is skilled at navigating intertwined relationships if they have a high success rate of defending or winning construction cases. Browse their website to see if they sample case results listed, and note if any of them relate to yours. See if they’ve worked with your property type, whether private, commercial, or public.

3. Read client reviews and testimonials

The best measure of an attorney’s potential success with your case is their track record. Are prior clients happy with their results? Check Yelp! Reviews, online testimonials if provided, and browse online directories of recommended lawyers. Also look for mentionings of communication style and if the experience was relatively stressless.

You can also find information on their representation style by looking at their website. For thorough representation, you might be interested in an attorney who is firm about their dedication to providing clients transparency and respect.

4. Choose the attorney that best fits your needs

Once you’ve built a list of reputable attorneys, schedule a call or in-person meeting with each one. You’ll have a brief meeting to discuss your case and determine if the attorney is a good fit. Typically, this first meeting is short and free of charge. Use every minute to ensure when you finally make a decision, you’re choosing the right attorney.

If you’re facing a construction dispute, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.