In engineering, project success largely depends on preparation, strategy and sound implementation. However – despite even the best efforts to avoid them – when it comes to large, complex projects comprising many different cogs, teams, roles and responsibilities, disputes often arise.

The Initial Contract

The goal of the initial engineering contract should be twofold:

First and foremost, developing a sound, comprehensive and well-drafted contract to avoid disputes from occurring; and
Secondly, building a reliable, legally compliant strategic plan for how to approach the resolution of disputes if they do arise into this contract.

While many believe arbitration is the best route to binding dispute resolution, there are many different approaches to dispute resolution that can be taken. The key is to ensure that the correct approach is taken based on the unique facts of each case.

The Steps in Dispute Resolution

  1.  Avoid disputes
  • Rely on contractual means to avoid disputes
  • Meet the obligations of the contract
  • Act in good faith
  • Seek advice on potential claims well in advance


  1.  If/When a Dispute Arises
  • Consider how best to initiate or defend a claim
  • Refer to the contract for the required approach to dispute resolution
  • Follow the legal process, escalating where required
  • Always focus on early, neutral evaluation
  • Negotiate the best possible resolution (or settlement) for both parties


Dispute Resolution Processes

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Adjudication
  • Arbitration
  • Litigation

Global Perspective

From a global perspective, the American Society of Civil Engineers confirms in its Journal of Legal Affairs and Dispute Resolution in Engineering and Construction that engineering projects can give rise to a vast array of disputes, arising in different facets or operational areas, “spanning legal issues and litigation pertaining to all areas of engineering and construction”.

These include (but are not limited to):

  • Contract law and interpretation
  • Professional liability and negligence
  • Public bidding law and regulation
  • Tort and insurance law
  • Workers and compensation, labour and employment regulations
  • Environmental law, hazardous waste and compliance
  • Acts and statutes governing design and construction of public or private projects
  • Maritime, coastal, and ocean law
  • Real estate development and construction law, land-use law
  • Administrative law
  • Government contract
  • Corporate and bankruptcy law and regulations

This may seem like a quagmire where one could easily sink a project with a mis-step – but with the support of the right law consultants, and with a strategic dispute resolution approach, this can be avoided.

To learn more about successful dispute resolution in mining, engineering and construction, CLICK HERE.

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