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According to a benchmarking study by CNA/Schinnerer for the AIA Trust, claims data show that the majority of claims against the design professional are brought by the owner client.  As reported in AIA Architect (May 2000), 55 to 60 percent of claims against architects are brought by owners.  And an even higher percentage (65 to 70 percent) of claim dollars are from owner claims.  The balance of claims against architects are reported to be 13 percent by contractors and subcontractors, 12 percent by injured nonworkers, 10.4 percent for other property damage or economic loss and 7 percent for worker injuries.

As suggested by the AIA article, the fact that over three fourths of all claims against architects are made by parties that have direct contact (but not necessarily contract) with them, “good communication and cooperation [are] paramount in preventing or mitigating professional liability claims.”  A separate review of claims against Zurich American Insurance Company insureds likewise reveals that owners account for the most significant percentage of claims.   Risk management continuing education courses by Zurich, CNA/Schinnerer and others, consequently, stress the importance of good communication starting with contract negotiations and continuing through project management and documentation.

About the author: Article written by J. Kent Holland, Jr.,  a construction lawyer located in Tysons Corner, Virginia,  with a national practice (formerly with Wickwire Gavin, P.C. and now with Construction Risk Counsel, PLLC) representing design professionals, contractors and project owners.  He is founder and president of a consulting firm, ConstructionRisk, LLC, providing consulting services to owners, design professionals, contractors and attorneys on construction projects.  He is publisher of ConstructionRisk.com Report and may be reached at Kent@ConstructionRisk.com or by calling 703-623-1932.  This article is published in ConstructionRisk.com Report, Vol. 2, No. 8 (Aug 2000).

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