Resolving Construction Disputes: Mediation vs. Litigation

Construction projects are complex endeavours. With multiple parties working together and the intricacies of construction come potential disputes that can disrupt progress, damage relationships, and result in financial losses. When disagreements arise, the choice of dispute resolution method becomes crucial. In this article, we explore two primary methods for resolving construction disputes: mediation and litigation.

Understanding Construction Disputes

Disputes are an almost unavoidable part of the complex and multifaceted world of construction projects. These disputes can take various forms, from disagreements over contractual terms and payment issues to scheduling conflicts and disputes related to the quality of workmanship. Construction endeavours involve numerous stakeholders, including owners, contractors, subcontractors, architects, and engineers, and with this comes differing perspectives and expectations that can often lead to conflicts. Construction disputes can lead to project delays, cost overruns, damage to reputations, and strained relationships among project stakeholders. Understanding the nature, causes, and potential resolutions of construction disputes is crucial for ensuring project success and maintaining positive relationships among all involved parties. 

Common Causes of Construction Disputes:

Contractual issues: 

Disagreements over the terms and conditions specified in contracts, including costings, timelines and responsibilities. These can vary from mild disagreements to large-scale, costly disputes.

Delays and scheduling conflicts: 

Projects frequently face unexpected delays, leading to disputes about timelines and responsibilities.  Arising from issues as diverse as scheduling conflicts, material availability and weather, small issues can add up and have a large impact.

Quality of workmanship: 

Differing opinions on the quality of completed work can lead to disputes, as well as delays in the project delivery if work needs to be re-done or new materials ordered.

Payment disputes: 

Issues related to payment schedules, extras, or cost overruns can turn a simple job into a nightmare. Ensuring that costs are properly managed, accounts and purchases documents can help to ensure any disputes are settled quickly.   


What is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third party, known as the mediator, facilitates discussions between the parties involved in a dispute. The mediator listens to each party’s concerns, helps identify common ground, and guides the parties toward mutually acceptable solutions. The process is flexible, allowing for tailored solutions that address the unique aspects of each dispute. Unlike litigation, mediation encourages open communication and collaborative problem-solving, and has a number of advantages when it comes to resolving disputes: 


Mediation typically costs less than litigation, making it an attractive option for parties looking to save on legal expenses.


Mediation proceedings are private, ensuring that sensitive information remains out of the public eye.

Preservation of Relationships:

Mediation promotes open dialogue, which can help maintain working relationships among construction project stakeholders.

Faster Resolution:

Mediation often results in quicker dispute resolution compared to the lengthy court processes associated with litigation.


What is Litigation?

Litigation involves resolving disputes through the court system. It is a formal and adversarial process where parties present their cases before a judge or jury. Litigation is often considered the traditional approach to dispute resolution. While mediation is often preferable, litigation may be necessary in cases involving significant legal complexities, fraud, or disputes where one party refuses to engage in mediation.

Drawbacks of Litigation in Construction Disputes

High Costs:

Litigation can be expensive due to legal fees, court costs, and expert witness fees.


Court proceedings can take months or years to conclude, causing project delays and financial strain.

Public Nature of Proceedings:

Court cases are public, potentially damaging the reputations of parties involved.

Strained Relationships:

Litigation tends to be adversarial, which can further strain relationships among construction stakeholders.

The Role of Legal Counsel

When deciding between mediation and litigation, seeking advice from legal counsel experienced in construction disputes is essential. Experienced lawyers, like the team at Maguire & McInerney, can provide advice into the specific circumstances of your case and help you choose the most appropriate resolution method.

Legal representation is crucial in construction disputes. Lawyers can explain the pros and cons of each resolution method, help clients understand their legal rights and obligations as  well as advocate for clients’ interests during negotiations or court proceedings.

A collaborative approach between legal counsel and clients can lead to informed decisions and effective dispute resolution.


Resolving construction disputes is a critical aspect of successful project management. While both mediation and litigation have their merits, choosing the right approach depends on various factors unique to each dispute. By carefully considering these factors and seeking expert legal guidance, parties can navigate construction disputes efficiently, minimising disruptions and preserving valuable relationships.

The team at Maguire & McInerney understand that the ultimate goal in construction dispute resolution is to find the best-fit solution that serves the interests of all parties involved while ensuring a fair and equitable outcome. If you have a construction dispute you would like resolved, get in touch today to start the journey towards resolution.

Important Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of general nature only and is based on the law as of the date of publication. It is not, nor is intended to be legal advice. If you wish to take any action based on the content of this publication we recommend that you seek professional advice.