It is very unlikely that an architect or engineer acting as lead designer can complete a project without subconsultants. This task requires very careful attention and skill in order to assemble a subconsultant team that will most perfectly match your project’s needs and ensure its success.
However, one of the risks involved is being vicariously liable for an error or omission your subconsultant makes. Here are some questions to consider before you finalize your subconsultant roster for your next project:
1. What are the main project goals and challenges?
Ultimately, your goal is to complete a project with as little to no hiccups as possible. What are the most important aspects in regards to the success of this project? How is success being measured and what are the steps that need to be accomplished in order to achieve this?
Before choosing a subconsultant(s), it’s important to identify the project goals and outline all the necessary steps that will be needed to fulfill the project successfully. Be specific in what needs to be done and how it will be done.
2. What are their experiences and past history in mitigating risks?
After determining a project’s goals and possible challenges, it’s time to meet with the subconsultants to find out how they work.
Ask them how they plan to address and tackle challenges that may arise and more importantly, what solutions they offer.
What past experience do they have in successfully navigating through similar challenges? What are their quality control procedures and risk management philosophies?
Knowing these things allows you to get a better idea of what they can do to mitigate risks while providing their services to your project. This can be beneficial to you in the long run to mitigate vicarious liability should an error or omission occur from the work a subconsultant performs while working on your project.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each subconsultant?
Does one particular subconsultant seem like a better fit for your project than another?
For example, perhaps one contractor may have many years of experience in providing a variety of relevant services, but another contractor specializes in the service your client has deemed to be the single most important factor in the success of the project.
Another example is using mediation to resolve conflict. Mediation is an effective and efficient method to resolve disputes between conflicting parties in a rational manner. Is one subconsultant willing to have a mediation clause in their contract but the other isn’t?
Compare and contrast what each subconsultant is willing to offer to fit your project needs.
4. Do they have adequate insurance coverage to suit the project?
When comparing subconsultants, has one already acquired more than adequate insurance coverage needed for the project, while another has only the bare minimum?
Remember that even if the subconsultant is 100% responsible for the error or omission, you can almost guarantee that you and your insurance company will pay for most of it, especially if they are underinsured.
However, if the subconsultant has adequate insurance limits, they will likely (and rightly) pay the bulk of the damages.
5. What would be the associated costs on my part should they make an error or omission?
If a subconsultant makes an error or omission while delivering its services on one of your projects, you are almost assured to be named in any claim and pay a portion of the damages.
However, the exact amount of damages often depends directly on the available insurance limits of the offending subconsultant. Other factors such as the size, construction value, and complexity of the project can also come into play.
Therefore, it is best to work with a professional insurance broker to help you determine the exact numbers and select the policies that will best protect your assets.
Find out more:
Download our free guidebook “Avoiding Vicarious Liability from Subpar Subconsultants” here to get all the details on how you can further protect yourself from vicarious liability: