Unsurprisingly, we are currently advising several clients on matters related to COVID-19 and the topic of interim claims frequently comes up. One of the questions we are asked is ‘Should we wait until the delays arising from COVID-19 have ended before we submit our claims?’.

Our answerer is an emphatic…NO!

Most contracts oblige the claimant to submit claims within a specified time period and if the final effects cannot be ascertained, to submit interim claims until the delays have ended and the final effect on the time for completion and/or the costs may be calculated. Using FIDIC 1999 as an example, Sub-Clause 20.1 (Contractor’s Claims) states that:

‘Within 42 days after the Contractor became aware …the Contractor shall send to the Engineer a fully detailed …. If the event or circumstance giving rise to the claim has a continuing effect:

‘(a)    this fully detailed claim shall be considered as interim;

‘(b)    the Contractor shall send further interim claims at monthly intervals, giving the accumulated delay and/or amount claimed, and such further particulars as the Engineer may reasonably require; and

‘(c)    the Contractor shall send a final claim within 28 days after the end of the effects resulting from the event or circumstance, or within such other period as may be proposed by the Contractor and approved by the Engineer.

This is stipulated to ensure that the Employer and Engineer are aware of the likely effects on a regular basis and make plans for a late handover and/or provisions for additional financial requirements. If the contractor does not fulfil these obligations they won’t be able to do either.

From a practical point of view, the longer a claimant leaves a claim, the more difficult it will be to agree – circumstances change, people leave the project, consultants are demobilised and of course, if the Employer has been presented with a completed project, his incentive to settle claims is considerably reduced.

Some contractors believe that the submittal of several updates will be time-consuming and costly, but this is only partly true. The time-consuming and difficult work is required for the first interim submission because this is where the majority of the investigations, data gathering, setting up of the delay analysis programmes and examination and demonstration of cause, effect and entitlement takes place. This, of course, is necessary whether the claim is being prepared on an interim or a final basis. Once the base document and calculations have been created though, the updates are reasonably straight-forward and do not require nearly as much time and effort as the first submission.

Some contractors are reluctant to put the effort into preparing adequately expressed claims or incur costs in doing so and keep deferring a decision on what action to take. Some of these contractors may also be facing delay penalties running into millions of dollars, so putting contractual obligations aside, does it make any financial sense at all to defer securing an extension of time until later? We think not.

Hewitt Decipher Partnership’s expert consultants have been preparing and responding to claims for many years. We know how to comply with good practice to ensure that our clients have a justifiable claim that is adequately expressed. Therefore, if entitlement to an extension of time exists, the claims will be accepted in a timely manner and delay penalties will be negated.

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