For millions of Americans, owning a home is the American Dream, and moving into your first home can feel like a major financial victory. Unfortunately, while real estate can be a huge asset, it can also be a huge liability.
Let’s say you hired a contractor to build a deck on the back of your home. Everything is going well when they suddenly sprain their ankle in a ditch. No big deal, right? About 25,000 people sprain their ankles every day, so it’s just a minor injury.
Be careful what you assume. Accidents like these could potentially put a large dent in your finances. When hiring a contractor for your next renovation, you’ll likely budget to pay for their service and labor — not their personal injury lawsuit. And there are countless ways a contractor can get injured at your home. In fact, from top to bottom, your home can be a liability nightmare. So even if you aren’t performing a major renovation project, your home’s roof still needs to be inspected twice every year. Even septic tanks require servicing every three years.
“By virtue of owning the property, homeowners may generally be held responsible for injuries caused by negligence in failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition,” according to Find Law. “What is considered negligence in a given situation depends in part upon the status of the injured person, but also the cause of the injury and the circumstances surrounding an accident.”
By educating yourself on fault and negligence, you can be prepared to prevent and handle a contractor injury situation.
According to All Law, there are two probable roles that homeowner’s play when hiring a contractor. Some will exercise control and others will not exercise control. A court may interpret fault depending on these situations.
- Exercising Control: According to All Law, homeowners who choose to exercise control closely monitor the project from start to finish. In this case, the homeowner may actually be giving themselves more responsibility of worker conditions and safety. The court may then decide that they are liable since they had a direct role in the project.
- Not Exercising Control: On the other hand, a homeowner might hire the contractor and give over complete control. This person is not involved in the actual construction part of the project, simply the pricing and logistics. As long as the homeowner told the contractor about any hazards in the house and yard, they might not be liable for any contractor injuries.
It’s important to note that personal injury laws can vary by state, so the above guidelines are not absolute. If you are involved in a personal injury case, be sure to hire a lawyer and follow their advice.
The Role Of Insurance
Depending on your coverage, your homeowner’s insurance may safeguard you in the event of contractor injury. According to Find Law, the contractor’s insurance may also cover their injury. Similarly, the contractor may have workers compensation in place as well.
It’s also important to note that these laws are not necessarily applicable to large-scale or municipal projects that are happening in your area. However, do not assume that your homeowner’s insurance includes liability coverage for injured contractors. Most renters insurance policies do include liability insurance, which is why many homeowners still invest in renters insurance.
Finally, never work with home improvement contractors who are not properly licensed and insured. By working with reputable companies that carry the appropriate amount of coverage, you can mitigate your risk considerably.
Again, to truly protect your finances in the event of an accident, hire a lawyer, talk to your insurance company, and look into the applicable laws in your state.