What is a Design Defect?

Discovering construction defects in a building project can be a frustrating experience for any property owner. These defects can arise from inadequate planning, substandard workmanship, and defective materials. Design defects are a type of construction defect related to a structure’s design and planning. Learn more about design defects and what to do if your home or business structure has a design defect below. 

What is a Design Defect?  

According to Florida Statute 558.002(5), design defects are deficiencies that affect a structure’s functionality, safety, or durability due to the planning, supervision, observation, repair, remodeling, or design specifications. Design defects occur when errors in project planning make the building dysfunctional or dangerous, even though the building is constructed according to the approved plans. If the design defect is caught early, it can sometimes be remedied by redesigning the structure and fixing the problem during construction. However, if the design defect isn’t detected during construction, it can cause serious property damage and injuries to those utilizing the property.  

Types of Design Defects  

There are several common types of design defects that can be easily overlooked during the planning phase of a construction project:  

Inferior Structural Support  

This occurs when the design doesn’t account for the necessary load-bearing requirements, resulting in weak or unstable structures that could break, fall, or collapse.  

Insufficient Lighting 

Personal injuries such as slips and falls can occur in places with low lighting. In some cases, the lighting could be a design flaw, such as not providing enough overhead fluorescent lighting at the entrance of a retail store and not having enough natural light to provide a safe environment for customers and employees.   

Lack of Accessibility  

Buildings must follow a list of requirements to make them accessible to everyone. Narrow doorways, lack of ramps or elevators, and improper placement can be design defects that make the building not ADA compliant, resulting in federal and state penalties that could include a fine of up to $75,000. 

Examples of Design Defects 

Here are a few real-world examples of design defects:  

  • A highway overpass was designed without accounting for the typical height of trucks and construction vehicles. Several trucks collided with the top of the overpass, causing extensive property damage and significant traffic problems. 
  • A new neighborhood was designed with an insufficient stormwater drainage system. Some residents experienced flooding during heavy rain and thunderstorms, causing property damage and dangerous conditions.  
  • A university library was built on a lot of lakefront sandy soil. The building’s design failed to account for the weight of the books located inside the library, and the entire structure began to sink several inches per year.  

Liability for Design Defects For Home and Business Owners  

If you think there’s a design defect in a recently completed project in your newly built home or commercial business, here’s what to do: 

  1. Document the issue. Take pictures and videos, and keep track of your expenses for repair and replacement.  
  1. Review your construction contract and blueprints. Inspect your agreement with your contractor or construction company to review your agreed-upon specifications. You can also see if construction and design defects are addressed in the contract. 
  1. Get a second opinion. Hire another designer or contractor specializing in design assessments to review your project design. They can provide a third-party opinion on whether a design defect may have occurred.  
  1. Speak with a construction attorney. Once you have confirmation about an alleged design defect, contact a legal professional, like our team at the Boutty Law Firm. We will listen to your concerns and help you through the process of receiving compensation for expenses and damage caused to your home or business due to a design defect.  
  1. Notify the designer, contractor, or construction company. You must follow specific requirements to do this, so our attorneys will help you through this process.  
  1. File a claim. You have four years after discovering the defect to file a claim. We will work diligently to help you get the compensation you deserve due to your property’s design defect, whether we use formal mediation methods or take your case to court.  

Experienced Construction Attorneys in Central Florida 

The Boutty Law Firm has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry and has helped clients with numerous construction law cases in Central Florida. We represent residential and commercial property owners and construction companies for all construction law matters. Contact us today to discuss your case and schedule a consultation.  

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