A contract is an agreement between people or entities such as businesses where one of the parties agrees to provide a service or goods in return for money, goods or services from the other party. An enforceable contract requires an offer, acceptance and the exchange of something of value known as consideration. While written contracts are preferable and easier to enforce, oral contracts are also enforceable.
A party may file a lawsuit for contract enforcement if the other party breaks or breaches the contract. The party filing the suit may try to have the other party fulfill their contractual promise or to pay money.
Generally, a party must file a legal action within five years from the time that a written contract was breached. This period is four years for oral contracts. In some cases, the deadline may be one year.
Filing deadlines may be extended in some cases. For example, continued payments by one party to the contract may lengthen the filing period.
Some contracts require that private arbitrators will rule on contract disputes instead of a court. These clauses are usually effective and binding.
Arbitrators are trained to conduct these proceedings. They receive a fee, usually from the complaining party, before presiding over a case and may continue to receive additional fees as the case progresses.
These fees may be costlier than the legal expenses associated with filing a lawsuit in court or even the amount of money that the parties are disputing. Accordingly, a party must carefully consider whether they are willing to give up valuable rights by entering a contract with an arbitration clause.
A party who files an action and wins in court or in arbitration may recover a judgment comprised of money or goods from the other party. If the losing party does not pay this judgment, they may face damages, interest, court costs and attorney's fees.
A party may lose important rights by entering unfair contracts or agreements they do not understand or when the party does not comply with the agreement. An attorney may help negotiate and review contracts and assist parties in contract disputes.