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Bill seeks to end obscure language in construction contracts

Contractors in Maryland may breathe a bit easier when it comes to worries about liability on the job. A bill on its way to the Senate seeks to protect businesses, including architectural, engineering and construction firms, from obscure language in contracts that requires these firms to pay for the costs of defending a loss or injury claim. As the law stands, Maryland contractors sometimes end up signing contracts with this sort of vague, difficult-to-understand language and then being held liable for defending claims resulting from construction accidents that occur, even when they're not negligent.

A spokesman for the Maryland-based American Council of Engineering Companies states that even though firms can refuse contracts containing this confusing language, small businesses often end up signing anyway, just to land a job. If the bill passes, this type of requirement in a contract would be unenforceable.

According to Costello, requiring the contractor to shoulder the costs of defending a liability claim can be unfair, especially when firms end up paying attorney fees and other costs when they are not responsible for the loss. Under the current law, injuries and construction site accidents can result in loss claims that the contractor is expected to defend at his or her own cost.

The bill's sponsor, Delegate Neil Parrott, says the bill, if passed, will help surveyors, architects and others who contract through government agencies for various types of construction work. Parrott went on to say that this sort of requirement to pay these costs can land a contractor or design professional in bankruptcy.

The bill is slated to go before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in late March.

On-the-job injuries frequently occur due to an employer's negligent behavior when it comes to safety protocols. As an injured, you have the right to workers' compensation to help pay for medical expenses and lost wages. If your injuries are the result of a negligent employer, you may be able to seek compensation through civil court.

Source: Herald-Mail Media, "Washington County delegate sponsors bill that would alter engineering contracts" Kaustuv Basu, Mar. 21, 2014

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