As a homeowner, you can hire a contractor to perform any number of construction jobs at your home. While homeowners are usually focused on making sure the contractor stays on deadline and within budget, there are a variety of legal issues to note as well.
Depending on the circumstances of the injury, homeowners can be held liable for injuries sustained by the contractor on the job. Whether or not the homeowner is liable will depend on the circumstances surrounding the accident, his or her involvement in maintaining the property, and the level of control he or she exercises over the job. It could also depend on the provisions in your homeowner’s insurance policy, as discussed later on.
Premises liability is a legal concept meaning that the owner of a property is liable for injuries sustained on the property due to dangerous conditions, lack of maintenance, or certain other factors. Premises liability applies in a number of different situations, including slip-and-fall accidents, swimming pool accidents, animal attacks, and construction site accidents. While accidents and falls are a normal part of life, a property owner has a duty to maintain the property and repair hazardous conditions; failure to do so could result in liability for injuries.
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There are three types of “property visitors” when it comes to premises liability discussions: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Contractors working on a private home are typically considered invitees because they have been invited to the property to do business. Homeowners owe the highest degree of care to invitees, and as such, they must promptly address unsafe conditions and make sure the property is safe for the contractor. Essentially, the homeowner must provide a reasonably safe place to work.
However, when it comes to construction, a “reasonably safe” environment will depend on the area of the house in question. For example, say a homeowner hires a contractor to fix a porch in disrepair. If part of the porch collapsed while he was working on it, he would most likely not be able to sue the homeowner because he took the job knowing that the porch was dangerous. On the other hand, if the porch collapses on the contractor while he was working on a simple light fixture, he could have a better case; being hired for electrical work does not come with the assumption that the porch is unsafe.
In certain cases, a homeowner’s insurance policy could protect against personal injury liability. In other cases, the contractor’s injuries may be covered by the contractor’s own insurance. If the contractor works for a larger company or works for another contractor, his or her claim could be covered under workers’ compensation.
However, it is no guarantee that anyone’s insurance coverage will cover the accident. It is important to understand your own homeowner’s insurance policy and the insurance policies of the company you work with in order to understand your role in the situation.