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The proof is in the picture

7/21/2016 at 1:51 pm by

In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of daily reports in protecting your company in the case of legal action. Pictures don’t necessarily need to be a part of the daily report, but they are critical pieces of evidence to support your case. Photos weigh heavily in a court of law because judges and juries don’t necessarily understand construction. Having photographs that depict the situation makes it much easier to prove your position.

Contractors should routinely photograph the job site. We tell our clients to take pictures ideally every day, but no less than once a week, not only of the areas they are working in but any areas to which they have access.

Case in point: We represented a stucco contractor who received a delay claim from the general contractor asserting that the stucco’s employees hadn’t completed their work according to the schedule. Fortunately, we had pictures that showed post tension cables sticking out of the building. With those in hand, we explained to the contractor that the cables prevented the contractor from putting swing stages down the building, which are necessary to apply the stucco. Therefore, we argued that since the preceding work of others wasn’t done, we couldn’t be late. This is a clear example of how a handful of photos saved a contractor from having to deal with a legal headache.

However, just taking photos is not enough. Here are two main tips for documenting with photos:

  1. Include a description including when and where the picture was taken.
    I’ve seen situations where thousands of pictures from a job have been downloaded from Dropbox and there’s no way to tell when or where they were taken. Photos need to show a visual history of the job to be useful in court. Identify all pictures with a date and time stamp and a note indicating where it was taken.
  2. Save and back up all your photos.
    Anyone assigned to take photos on the job can easily use a cell phone to take the pictures. But those visuals won’t do any good if the person’s phone is lost or damaged. Save all pictures in a central location and back everything up regularly.

Pro Tip: Especially on large jobs, but still applicable to smaller projects, we recommend that clients video tape the work by walking the site and narrating where they are and what they are looking at.  If needed, you can go back and take screenshots of the video and note the time, date and location based on the narration.

It’s said that “seeing is believing,” and when it comes to defending your company in court, nothing could be more true.

About the Author

Alexander Barthet is a board certified construction attorney in Florida and holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He manages The Barthet Firm, an eleven lawyer construction law firm in Miami, and maintains a construction law blog at www.TheLienZone.com. He can be reached at 305-347-5295 or alex@barthet.com

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