A contract breach can be very frustrating in legal consulting field or any other industry for both parties involved, particularly if it is due to something they did not intend or expect. For you to not only survive but also thrive after a breach, therefore, you must follow these simple steps:
Seek Early Advice
Seek legal advice early on in the event of a contract breach to understand your rights and obligations, and how best to deal with the situation. An early complaint may also put the other party in an awkward position before they have time to come up with an excuse or justification for breaching the contract. Furthermore, there may be alternatives that they are not aware of when they first start this process, which you can then discuss with them once discovered or explained by your legal consulting expert.
Do Not Involve Third-Parties Until Necessary
Many people often act upon instinct when they find out their contractor has breached their contract. They immediately contact another tradesperson who will complete the job instead – at least when it is urgent/ emergency work. By involving another tradesperson, you are suggesting that the first contractor has done an unsatisfactory job or has not completed it at all. This, therefore, implies that a breach of contract has occurred and will be difficult to deny in court if you do not have a witness who saw the work being performed by the original contractor.
Keep Accurate Records
It is important to keep accurate records of what was agreed between you and your contractor, including photographs of the work undertaken if required – especially when there is a dispute on whether certain aspects were included/complied with by the original party. As such, evidence based on incomplete memories becomes less effective in helping you negotiate or prove your case in court against a well-prepared opponent. It is also helpful to keep copies of your invoices and any e-mails exchanged between you if you need them later on for reference purposes.
Do Not Assume They Will Fix the Work Efficiently
Disputes over contract breaches are often resolved by way of mediation or arbitration rather than litigation. That normally means that an independent person will be looking through the evidence, listening to both sides’ stories – before handing down their decision about who should pay what to whom (if anything at all). However, some parties assume that if they breach the contract themselves (e.g., do shoddy work), then they can simply undo it when it comes time for mediation/arbitration or even litigation in court. One way to respond to such a move is to refuse to do the work until ordered by the mediator/arbitrator or judge in court – and then demand payment for doing so, if they order it be done.
Offer A Settlement Before Litigation Begins
Just as some dishonest contractors might think that breaching the contract can be fixed with shoddy work, others often assume that they can win the dispute simply by dragging things out in court over a long period. The problem with this approach is that it leaves judges assuming that your life is too busy/complicated for you to prioritize sorting out this dispute quickly, and therefore taking longer than reasonable (in their opinion) to resolve it would not surprise them.
Therefore, you might want to consider offering a settlement before litigation kicks off so the mediator/arbitrator understands that you are both willing to resolve things quickly – and they will be more likely to push for this during mediation/arbitration. However, if possible, it is best not to do so until after you see what your opponent’s claims are as written down in their court documents (in case they make false or exaggerated ones). If necessary, you can withdraw your offer if their requests are unreasonable.
Keep It Small and Simple
The other party may raise complicated arguments about why they should not have to pay as much as originally agreed because of a mistake in the contract, breach by them, or something else. As such, it is best to keep your counterargument simple so you increase the chances of persuading them that they should pay what was originally agreed.
Assert Your Rights
The first party may assume that breaching the contract gives them an excuse to then breach other items in the contract because they have done so successfully once before. However, this argument can be weakened if you have heavily relied on parts of their work (e.g., by using their materials or labor) – and/or cannot easily find alternatives (e.g., due to time pressure). If you make sure you assert your rights before doing anything yourself, therefore, it might be easier for the mediator/arbitrator to suggest a viable solution to both parties.
When in Doubt, Do Nothing
The first party might want to try and smear your good name by claiming that you have done something wrong to breach the contract – even though they are the ones at fault. However, if their accusation(s) is/are false, then there is no point in responding as you should win the arbitration/mediation anyway due to them breaching first. As such, it can be better not to respond unless it would prove helpful for future cases (e.g., learning how other contractors work). The same applies if they threaten litigation or give you a lot of information about themselves – as such things will only come back to bite them. If possible, therefore, just ignore all such actions.
Keep A Paper Trail
Both parties might want to just ignore their responsibilities under the contract – which can be bad if they are lying about doing so. As such, it is best not only to keep records of what you have done but also copies of any work-related emails or phone conversations (with dates) so you can prove that your rival has breached first. Tech-savvy readers will probably find their own ways of building evidence to use against them if they breach first, but everyone else should consider taking the time to do so.
Remember, therefore, that you should aim to keep your arguments simple and not respond unless it is helpful for future cases. Additionally, assert your rights before doing anything yourself, keep a paper trail of what they have done wrong, and keep all documentation in folders on your computer if possible. Finally, just ignore any false allegations made against you – as the person who breached first will most likely lose the arbitration/mediation anyway!