As hard as it is to admit during home renovations: You can’t do it all. So, at some point, you may need to hire a contractor to do what you can’t. However, what if the person you hire gets hurt while working on your home? Are their medical bills your responsibility or the responsibility of the company that you hired them through? The answer, as with most things, is that it depends. Let’s take a look.
Can a worker sue me if they get hurt on my property?
If you’ve hired a contractor under another company, it’s important to make sure that they have the proper licenses and workers compensation for the contractors that they’re sending over to your house. Make sure that this worker’s comp policy applies to the workers and not just the admins or office workers of the agency. If the contractors do have workers comp insurance, the company you hired them through would be responsible for repaying the employee for any injuries that happened on the job.
If you’ve hired a subcontractor or you’ve found yourself in a situation where a worker isn’t eligible for worker’s comp, assigning injury liability comes down to two factors – premises liability and exercised control.
What is premises liability?
Premises liability is a term more often used with landlords and their responsibility to keep their rental grounds reasonably safe for tenants to live and interact on. However, this term can also apply to homeowners and the various types of people that may come on to their property. When you hire a contractor, you’re technically required to provide a safe working environment. Still, keeping their work area reasonably safe may depend on the particular situation.
For example, let’s say that you’ve hired a contractor to repair your roof. They’re working on the side of the roof atop a ladder that’s sitting on a slab of concrete. If a part of the concrete breaks apart and the ladder falls because of the break, the contractor may fall. If they’re injured, you may be held liable because you did not repair the concrete or take reasonable measures to make the area safe beforehand.
However, let’s say that you’ve hired a contractor to repair your deck. If part of the deck collapses and the contractor is injured, you might not be held liable for the injury because the worker took on the job knowing that the deck was a hazard.
Still, you may also be held liable for a worker’s injury if you exercise a certain amount of control over the project.
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What counts as exercising control over a contractor’s project?
This is where bodily injury liability can get a little tricky. Exercising control over a project can include anything from directing workers on the job from start to finish, to offering advice on certain aspects of the project. Any input from a homeowner can be construed as that owner taking responsibility for the safety of the work environment.
For example, if someone is working on a high area of your home, you may comment that they could use a bit more fall protection while they work. While you may just be concerned about their wellbeing, the comment could be construed as you taking responsibility for the safety of the workers on site.
The best thing to do in this situation (while easier said than done) is probably to leave the workers to their job after you’ve agreed on things like pay rate, the scope of work, and review of the overall plans.
Will my home insurance cover a worker’s injury?
So, what if you’re in a situation where a contractor or a subcontractor can sue you for a job site injury? Well, the liability portion of your home insurance policy may be able to help you out.
Liability for your home insurance is built to help you cover the medical bills of people who are hurt on your property. It’s usually used for guests who may slip and fall inside of your house, people that may be injured by your backyard pool, kids who may be injured on your backyard trampoline/playground, etc. Nonetheless, it can extend to people who are working on your home because they’re considered invited guests.
Liability coverage and limits vary plan by plan. So, it’s important to look over your homeowner’s policy before hiring a contractor to make sure that you’re actually covered if something does happen. You may even consider personal umbrella insurance if you want extra liability coverage in general.
Overall, it’s important to know the difference between a contractor and a subcontractor when you hire. Contractors are usually covered by their company’s workers comp while subcontractors typically work on an individual basis. Know which types of paperwork to look for when hiring for either type of worker and be sure to let your home insurance agent know if you’re upgrading or renovating your home.
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