Construction law is an area of the law discussing legal matters that come up in association with construction, ranging from contracts for construction services to recovery of debts owed to contractors. It is an area of civil law, meaning that violators of the law can face lawsuits and fines, but not criminal penalties. There may be cases where civil and criminal law intersect on job sites, as when activities like theft occur during construction.
This area of the law is very large and many nations have myriad laws discussing construction issues. One area of construction law is the building code, setting out legal requirements and standards for builders. Building codes increase safety by making sure people install plumbing, electrical, and other systems in a consistent and safe way. It also standardizes construction practices, making construction and repair easier. Government inspectors can enforce the building code and require permits for many kinds of construction.
Construction law also includes contract law. Construction workers are often in a unique position when it comes to the products and services they provide. Unlike other businesses, they cannot seize property for nonpayment, as it is difficult to do something like tearing down a building when the owner doesn't pay the contract. Contractors have recourse like liens they can place on real estate to force people to pay their bills.
There are also substantial liability issues in construction, including worksite liability, as well as legal responsibility for substandard work. Contractors usually need bonds or insurance to cover them in the event of legal claims against them, and can be taken to court for everything from failing to fulfill a contract as required to behaving negligently and endangering the health and safety of workers. Government officials can also issue fines for safety violations like workers not wearing harnesses for aerial work, or maintaining unsafe working conditions.
Attorneys who specialize in construction law can assist people with litigating cases related to construction matters. Some firms may keep a permanent legal team on staff to assist with handling contracts and resolving disputes before they reach the court. Others may need to hire an attorney periodically to provide consulting, assistance, and legal representation in court. Attorneys practicing construction law need to be familiar with a number of legal topics to work effectively, and may be very highly compensated when they represent major firms, especially those with substantial contracts with large corporations and government agencies.