Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. | May 24, 2022 | Premises Liability
You assume that when you hire a contractor to work on your property, you are not liable if the contractor or their employees are injured. While this might be true in some situations, you could find out too late that you are liable for damages if you exercised control over the project. Therefore, before you hire anyone to work on your property in New York, you should understand your potential liability if that person is injured during that work.
New York Labor Laws for Contractors and Homeowners
If you “control” the work performed on your home, you could be liable if the contractor or a worker is injured on your property.
“Controlling” the work done on your home could include providing equipment and tools the contractor or workers use to complete the work. Providing specific instructions or directing the actual work can also be considered “controlling” the work performed.
In those cases, you could be responsible for injuries, financial losses, and other damages sustained by workers on your property.
How Can I Avoid Liability for Injuries When Hiring Someone to Work on My Home?
Do not provide directions or instructions for performing work in your home. Other than describing the work to be performed, the contractor and workers should be in charge of how to complete the job.
Before signing any agreements for work, home improvements, or construction on your property, ask for a copy of the contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy. You should also ask for the contractor’s workers’ compensation insurance certificate.
Contractors should also provide copies of their business licenses and any licenses required for the proposed project.
Liability Under a Premises Liability Claim
Failing to maintain your home and property in a reasonably safe condition could result in liability for damages. The injured party must prove that you were negligent to recover damages. Negligence may include failing to make necessary repairs, removing hazardous materials, and failing to warn of dangerous conditions.
Unless the property owner created the dangerous condition, courts generally find that the owner must have had actual notice or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.
Actual notice would occur if the owner knew about the dangerous condition because they saw it or were told about it. Constructive notice generally means that the owner should have known about the condition. For example, the condition has lasted long enough for a reasonable person to discover the danger.
Therefore, suppose you knew about exposed wiring in your homes. However, you failed to tell a contractor who is installing a new bathroom for you. Under premises liability laws, you could be liable if the contractor is injured because of the exposed wiring.
Likewise, suppose you knew your child dug a huge hole in the backyard but failed to check to see if the hole was filled before a contractor began working on your property. If you fail to warn the contractor about the hole, you could be liable if the contractor falls because of the hole.
The contractor or worker would have the burden of proving the elements of negligence and premises liability to recover damages for an injury.
What Damages Can Be Recovered for an Injury on My Property?
If a jury finds that you are liable for a worker’s injury, you could be responsible for paying the worker’s economic damages. Economic damages can include:
- Medical bills
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Nursing care
- Diminished earning potential
- Personal care and household services
You could also be liable for the worker’s non-economic damages. These damages include permanent impairments, disfigurement, and disabilities. They also include the person’s pain and suffering, decreased quality of life, and emotional distress.
Does Homeowners’ Insurance Cover a Worker’s Injuries on My Property?
Homeowners’ insurance may cover injuries on your property. The terms and conditions of your homeowners’ insurance policy and the facts of the case determine whether you have coverage for a specific incident. However, the company would only be liable for damages up to the policy limits for covered losses.
If your homeowners’ insurance does not cover a worker’s injuries, you could be personally liable for damages. Therefore, if anyone is injured while working in your home, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice from an experienced premises liability lawyer. Even though your insurance company may appoint an attorney to defend a lawsuit, it is best to seek legal advice as soon as you are aware of a potential claim.