As a homeowner, it is important that you understand what if any legal obligations you have to protect workers in your home. During renovations in your home, the risk of personal injury is high. Understanding the legal implications of an injury in your home and whether or not you are liable for those injuries is essential. Learn more about your legal obligations during renovations in your home.
One of the things that affect personal injury liability from a legal perspective is who is in control of the project. For example, if you hire a “handyman” to assist you with a DIY home renovation, and they fall off your roof, you may have some legal obligation for the personal injury. If the person you hire is not licensed and is not taking control of the property to manage the renovations, you can be held responsible for any personal injuries.
Fault in a personal injury case is assessed under a legal litmus test of sorts. There are a few questions that will need to be answered to determine whether the homeowner is responsible. Negligence, damages, and causation need to be established to support a personal injury claim. If you hire a contractor that is insured, and that takes control of the project, then the personal injury should be covered by the contractor’s insurance. If you hire a handyman to work outside their scope of abilities, and they do not carry business insurance, you may be found to be negligent and then be deemed responsible for injuries in your home.
To best protect yourself in home renovation situations, be sure to ask the contractor if they are insured, and ensure that the contract includes language that expressly mentions that workers and subcontractors will fall under the contractor’s coverage. Saving money by hiring someone to assist you that is not insured can be a risky endeavor and put you smack dab in the middle of legal problems if someone is hurt.
One of the things that a court will establish when someone is injured in your home during a renovation is who does the injured party work for? Can the injured party prove they work for you? This may not be as clear-cut as you think it is.
For example, if you have someone that takes care of things around your home for you regularly and you provide them with 1099, you may think that you are off the hook, and you might be, but you also might not be. Let’s say you have a regular landscaper that provides lawn services, and you ask that landscaper to change the filters in your furnace (which should be done every 30-90 days) and you have them doing other side jobs outside of their scope. The furnace is faulty, and they are injured in the process of changing the filters. That worker may be able to establish that they work for you because they were working outside their scope.
Those “side” jobs can establish you as an employer even though they are not a “W2” employee. Who the injured party works for matters from a legal perspective. If the worker is self-employed, works for you outright, or is a 1099 contractor that is uninsured, you likely will have some liability for the injury.
How the worker was injured is a key factor in deciding liability under legal standing. Was the worker injured in the normal course of the project or were they injured because your kid left a skateboard in the driveway that they tripped on? The distinction is important.
If a contractor is injured in your home during a renovation project while cutting wood to support your new countertops, you likely will not be responsible for the injury. However, if a contractor is injured because you or your family members played a role in the injury, you will likely be liable for the injury.
There are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself from liability. First and foremost only hire contractors that are insured. Second, control what you can. Make sure there is a clear path for the contractors, and keep family members out of the “work zone”. If you have any legal concerns about the contract reach out to an attorney to get clarity.