As with many other specialized professionals, architects and engineers can be sued for failing to meet a specified duty. If an architect or engineer is under contract to perform a professional service, and that service leads to injury, the victims of that injury are able to sue for damages in a malpractice suit.
When Can an Architect or Engineer be held Liable?
If a structure is found to be unsafe, the engineers and architects under contract can be sued for failure to fulfill the contract adequately. Additionally, if an engineer or architect reviews structure for a prospective buyer and carelessly approves the structure's soundness and durability, they can also be held liable.
Architects and engineers can also be liable for failure to comply with buildings codes, permits and/or zoning laws, among other safety regulations. In addition, the architect or engineer is also responsible for any fraud or abuse of the client-professional relationship, such as understating costs or failing to complete a project by a prearranged deadline.
How Is Architect and Engineer Malpractice Different From Other Professional Malpractice?
Architect and engineer malpractice differs from other professions in that they are expected to deliver a product, usually a building. This stands in contrast with doctors, real estate agents or attorneys, who provide services for their fees. In addition, the architect or engineer is expected to create the product for the client, while retail stores, for example, already have the product finished and sitting on a shelf ready for the consumer to use.
As such, architect and engineers often have extensive and specific contracts with their clients. Although other professions also have contracts with their clients, the other professions carry out their services through technical knowledge which the client may not understand. Clients may not understand all the legal strategies an attorney can come up with or know all the medical procedures their doctor can use on their behalf. In the client-architect relationship though, the client can demand what material the architect can use, how much is used and other information necessary for a successful product.
This means that architect and engineer malpractice cases can be brought on personal injury claims, usually based on negligence, or on breaches of contracts. The former is about the conduct of the architect and how that conduct harmed someone while the latter is about the unsatisfactory nature of the product because of the architect’s failure to follow instructions.
If The Architect Or Engineer Has Committed Malpractice, Should I Bring a Suit For Breach of Contract or Personal Injury?
The question of which legal claim to file will depend on the individual situation of each case. As such, only an attorney can provide such legal advice. However, there are some general guidelines regarding which to use.
A breach of contract claim is a claim that the architect/engineer failed to act as agreed upon. Usage of the wrong material, failure to meet the project deadline, and/or going over the budget allocated are all examples of a breach of contract and the failure of the architect or engineer to fulfill the terms of the deal.
A personal injury claim, however, is the claim that the architect or engineer failed to act as a reasonably licensed architect or engineer should. Such failure can result in violation of safety codes, zoning laws, and/or misrepresentation of damage on a building.
Should I Contact a Personal Injury Attorney about My Malpractice Claim?
If you have been injured in an accident involving a building or structure and believe that the structure was structurally unsound, the advice of a personal injury attorney can be helpful in assessing your prospective case.