As a homeowner can I be held liable if a contractor working in my home is injured on the job?

Question

As a homeowner can I be held liable if a contractor working in my home is injured on the job?

Answer

In some cases, a homeowner may be held liable for injuries suffered by contractors and other workers who are on the property to perform renovations, repairs, and other kinds of work. But homeowner liability in these situations is not automatic.

A number of factors will come into play, including the degree of control you exercised over the contractor, the specifics of your homeowners’ insurance coverage, and whether or not the injured worker is eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim.  

A Question of Control. Although a number of factors will determine whether or not a homeowner is liable for injuries to contractors and other workers on the property, a lot of these cases turn on whether or not the homeowner exercised control over the contractor and the renovation project -- including oversight and instruction of the workers.

Homeowners will also be liable for most injuries that are a result of a property hazard that the owner knew or should reasonably have known about, regardless of how much control was exercised under the circumstances. Learn more about homeowner liability for contractor injuries.    

Homeowners’ Insurance. So, the bad news is that in some situations, homeowners may be liable for injuries to contractors and other workers that occur on the property. But the good news is that even if you are liable, your homeowners’ insurance coverage should kick in and cover the cost of any lawsuit that is filed, including payment of any resulting court judgment or out-of-court settlement.

Of course, check the fine print of your homeowners’ policy, but in most cases your coverage will apply to any claim that is filed against you, as long as it arises from an accident that occurred on your property (and not from any intentional conduct on your part). Your policy coverage limits may come into play too. Most homeowners’ policies have a $100,000 limit for liability coverage, although many homeowners choose to purchase more than the minim amount of coverage so that their personal assets are not exposed. Learn more about homeowners’ liability insurance and personal injury lawsuits.

Workers’ Compensation. One other thing to keep in mind when it comes to contractor injuries that occur on your property: the injured worker may not be able to file an injury lawsuit against you if he or she is considered someone’s employee, and is eligible to make a workers’ compensation claim. In most cases, the workers’ compensation system operates as an injured employee’s exclusive remedy. That means a contractor worker who qualifies for workers’ comp must make a claim under that system, and he or she is not free to file a lawsuit against you or anyone else in connection with the on-the-job accident.      

by:  , J.D.

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