As an architect, you likely have a grasp on all of the ways in which your clients can bring a lawsuit against you. From a breach of contract to poor communication or plagiarism, there is no shortage of potential exposures. However, with this simple guide to architect best practices, you can protect your reputation, your firm, and your livelihood. In addition to equipping yourself with an Architect Professional Liability policy, heed the following advice.
Let your clients know they are your top priority by keeping them informed of all significant developments on the project, and responding promptly – that is, within 24 hours – to clients’ messages. Of equal importance Hanover recommends you keep well-organized records, whether copies of letters and emails or dated notes of telephone calls, of all substantive communications with clients. The more reachable you are, the less likely a client will feel the need to resort to litigation should a problem arise.
Solid communication practices also include being the bearer of bad news. If something went wrong, or there is a snag in the project, don’t be wary about sharing this information with your clients right away. Complete this delivery of bad news with a revised timeline, professional recommendations, and other solutions that are relevant to ease the client’s mind.
While a client might feel inclined to give you the reins on the project, some tough decisions have to be made by the client. Get this decision in writing to protect yourself in the event of a legal battle regarding the outcome of the project. It’s the architect’s obligation to weight the risks and benefits and provide a complete analysis, but keep yourself out of hot water by refraining from making all the decisions on your own.
Before going through with a lawsuit against a client for unpaid bills or other issue, consider the pros and cons of doing so. Do not consider only the financial cost, namely, your deductible and insurance premium, but the time you would have to invest in your defense and the risk to your reputation, whatever the result. In all but the most egregious circumstances, writing off an invoice or walking away from a dispute is often the more cost-effective path.
Determine if it’s really worth the effort, lost time and productivity before bringing a suit against an unsavory client.
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