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Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Claims Defense Documentation

The compelling report, Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Claims Defense Documentation, addresses documentation by the architect, centering on the presumption, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.” The paper is a guideline for managing your documentation with helpful suggestions for beneficial recordkeeping and documents retention and retrieval for an effective claims response in the event you must prove your innocence.

Beginning with the 5 Rules for Documentation and the 5 Rules for Meetings, the paper plunges headlong into project documentation and the documents that are typically required of the owner, contractor, and architect on a project. Variations from AIA parameters are discussed with suggested actions to take for a claims defense when things go sideways. Each topic finishes with a helpful “Documentation Discussion Summary” in checklist format to guide you.

Some of the often challenging conditions that are addressed regarding the owner’s documents include, an unclear owner’s program, atypical General Conditions, questionable VE substitutions, and how to respond when traditional construction contract administration services are deleted. An examination of contractor’s documents includes suggested responses to an elusive submittal schedule, biased meeting reports, and improper RFI usage. Also addressed are sound documentation approaches to basic CCA activities such as contractor applications for payment, change order pricing, contractor punch lists, and project completion. A review of the architect’s documents includes suggestions on documenting owner suspended services and helpful practices on typical CCA issues such as site visits and observations, meeting reports, logging and tracking, changes, RFIs, certificates for payment, and project completion.

The other half of good documentation is effective records retention. The basics of an archival management system and filing protocols are addressed along with specialized management records such as the Project Record File, Project Cost Summary, Project Closeout Checklist, and documentation of contentious project issues. A Project Documentation Checklist that addresses project documentation needs is included at the end of the paper to guide you.

Don’t be fooled, the industry evolution toward paperless projects in no way relates to or diminishes the need for effective documentation. Be prepared to prove yourself innocent with sound documentation recording, response, and retention. Helpful guidance awaits you in this comprehensive review of beneficial documentation principles so that you can beat the rap should you be accused in a claim or lawsuit.




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