If someone gets hurt while working on your property – are you liable?
- If someone gets hurt while working on your property – are you liable?
If you decide to hire a contractor to complete repairs or renovations on your home, and the contractor suffers injuries, can they file a personal injury lawsuit against you? As with many legal questions, the answer depends on the specific circumstances in question. If you suffer injuries while working on someone’s home, always discuss the matter with a premises liability attorney who can assess your individual situation.
Many homeowners assume contractors working in their houses are protected by company insurance and that an injury on the job won’t be the homeowner’s responsibility. Unfortunately, the homeowner can be sued and held liable for worker injuries – amounting to thousands of dollars in legal costs.
Homeowner release of liability form for worker
There are ways to reduce your risk of being sued for damages by injured contractors on your property, but you first need a basic understanding of the surrounding legal implications. Renovating your home involves various scenarios where either you or the contractor can be sued for damages if you don’t take certain precautions.
As a homeowner, you have two choices after hiring a contractor to work in your house: exercising control or not exercising control. Both of these situations come with the possibility of being held responsible for contractor injuries, so you need to understand how each option works and what personal duties are involved.
The Question of Homeowner Control
Often, the liability of a homeowner depends on the level of control they exercised over the project. Some homeowners discuss the desired work with a contractor and then leave the contractor to do their job. If a homeowner has little control over the day-to-day project developments, they might not be liable if injuries occur.
On the other hand, if the homeowner instructs the contractor to do things a certain way, use certain tools or ladders, or exercise similar control over the project, they are more likely to be liable if the contractor suffers injuries while following instructions.
What Are My Options if a handyman injured on my property?
If you don’t exercise control during your home renovation, you step away from the project once you hire a general contractor, review the plans, and negotiate a price. You assume the contractors will do their job properly – otherwise you can sue for damages since the contractor will have broken the contract.
However, when you step away and assume they’ll do their job properly, the contractors are then free to assume you’ve provided them with a safe workplace environment. Therefore, if an injury occurs, you could potentially be sued for negligence. In Georgia, the law requires homeowners to keep minimum standards of safety on their properties; otherwise, they’re liable to be sued for >unsafe premises. For example, if you let contractors do their job but don’t warn the workers of deficiencies on your property and an injury occurs, the contractors can sue for damages.
Say you’re having your home painted, and a worker falls through a rotten section of wood in your home. The painter entered your home with the impression that it was a safe environment to paint in, and you failed to warn him or her of the faulty area of flooring. This means you would potentially be at fault. However, if you hired a worker to fix the rotten patch of wood in your home and he fell through the floor, you wouldn’t be held liable, since the defect was obvious and the contractor was warned reasonably ahead of time.
This example follows the law of having “invitees” in your home; you have the obligation as a homeowner to repair known dangers and inspect for hidden ones the invitee may be exposed to while on your property. If you fail to do this and a contractor is injured because of it, you could be at fault for not taking due care to prevent the accident.
Your Second Option
It may seem like choosing not to exercise control over your renovation is too risky after reading about your liabilities, but taking the opposite stance can actually amount to further legal obligations – most of which the average homeowner is unaware of.
Saying something as simple as “You should probably be wearing safety glasses” to a contractor suggests you’re taking responsibility for the safety of all of the workers at the site. If a homeowner gives instructions to workers about where or how to do their jobs, some courts interpret it as an acceptance of accountability for the contractors’ well-being. Therefore, if an injury occurs, you could potentially be sued for damages.
What is the Meaning of Property Liability?
Property liability – also known as premises liability – is the legal obligation of a property owner to maintain reasonably safe premises for guests. A homeowner must provide reasonably safe conditions for the contractor and their team to work. If there are known defects on the property that might cause injury, the homeowner should warn the contractor of these ahead of time.
For example, a homeowner hires painters to paint the exterior of the house, which has a large wraparound porch. The contractors must stand on the porch and use ladders on the porch to paint most of the home. The homeowner knows that several porch slats are rotten, but forgets to tell the painting crew. If one crewmember falls through the porch when a board collapses and suffers a broken leg, the homeowner could be liable under premises liability principles. Anyone injured in this manner should discuss their options with a lawyer.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Contractors?
Homeowner’s insurance should protect an owner when someone is injured on their property unless they somehow intentionally caused the hazard or accident. Often, people injured on the private property of others will begin seeking compensation by filing a claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy.
Homeowner’s policies are like any other insurance policy – they will try to minimize the compensation they provide to those injured on the property. If you need to file a claim for injuries, you should first hire an experienced injury lawyer who handles premises cases.
Speak with a Premises Liability Attorney Right Away
Premises liability cases can be complicated – especially those involving contractors who are injured while working on someone’s home. If you suffered injuries, you should have the legal team at Nelson & Smith Attorneys at Law evaluate whether you have a viable claim. If so, we can handle every step of the insurance claim process so you can focus on your injuries.