In an ideal world, the parties to a contract would perform their duties, pay what is owed, and would feel that they benefited from the agreement. Unfortunately, in the real-world life of both consumers and businesses, this does not always happen. People and businesses can experience financial difficulties, disputes can arise as to the obligations of the parties, and other problems can occur that result in the terms of the contract not being performed. Fortunately, you do have remedies under Virginia law if the individual or business with which you entered into a contract fails to uphold its end of the bargain.
What Is a Contract?
A contract is a legally binding agreement between parties that includes an offer, an acceptance of the offer, and consideration—the exchange of money, property, services, or some other promise to do or refrain from doing something. Generally, a contract will contain these terms:
- Identity of the parties to the contract
- Rights, obligations, and duties of the parties
- Representations and warranties offered by the parties
- Consideration under the contract, such as the payment for the services provided
- What is considered a breach of the contract
- Penalties that the breaching party will face
- Remedies of the non-breaching party, such as the right to file a lawsuit for compensation
Can You Enforce an Oral Contract in Virginia?
Many contracts are written agreements, such as complicated business contracts, leases, purchase agreements for real estate and vehicles, and home improvement contracts. Sometimes individuals or even businesses agree to enter into a contract orally. These agreements are generally enforceable in Virginia as long as they contain the basic terms of a contract: offer, acceptance, and consideration.
However, there are exceptions to the rule that oral contracts are binding on the parties to them. Certain contracts must be in writing if they fall under one of the circumstances under the Virginia Statute of Frauds. Agreements that must be in writing and signed by the parties to the contract to be binding include:
- Contract for the sale of real estate
- Lease of real estate for longer than one year
- An agreement that cannot be performed within one year of the date it was entered into
- Ratification of a contract by a minor under 18 years old
- Agreement by an executor of a deceased person’s estate to pay what the estate owes out of the executor’s own funds
- Promise by a person to be legally responsible for the debt of another person
- Agreement made on consideration of marriage or a non-marital co-living agreement
What Must You Prove in a Breach of Contract Action?
When a party to a contract fails to fulfill an obligation under the agreement, this is considered a breach of contract. Many actions can be considered a breach of contract, such as failing to perform on time, not performing at all, or failing to make a payment required under the agreement. In order to prove a breach of contract, a party must prove the following:
- A legally enforceable contract between the parties
- A breach of a duty under the contract
- Damages suffered by the party not in breach caused by the breach of contract
Even when a contract is in writing, proving a breach of it is not always clear cut. When the contract is oral, the existence of the contract and its terms can be even more challenging to establish in a breach of contract action. There can be many disputes in a breach of contract action, such as:
- Who breached the contract first
- What disputed terms of the contract mean
- Whether one party waived the other’s breach of contract by its own actions
- Whether either party engaged in fraud in entering into the contract or performing its terms
How an Experienced Breach of Contract Attorney Can Help If a Party Breached Your Contract
Although breach of contract claims are very common, they can also be very complicated with many factual and legal disputes, especially when a business contract is involved. Hiring an experienced breach of contract attorney as soon as possible is important. He can notify the breaching party of the terms of the contract that he is violating, attempt to negotiate a settlement of the breach if possible, and file a lawsuit for you if this becomes necessary. Call our office or start an online chat today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our breach of contract legal team can help you with your consumer or business breach of contract claim.