Am I Liable if a Contractor Is Injured in My House?
Published in Home Safety Tips, Prevent Accidents and Protect Yourself on April 13, 2016.
Many homeowners assume contractors working in their houses are protected by company insurance and that an injury on the job won’t be the homeowner’s responsibility. Unfortunately, the homeowner can be sued and held liable for worker injuries – amounting to thousands of dollars in legal costs.
There are ways to reduce your risk of being sued for damages by injured contractors on your property, but you first need a basic understanding of the surrounding legal implications. Renovating your home involves various scenarios where either you or the contractor can be sued for damages if you don’t take certain precautions.
As a homeowner, you have two choices after hiring a contractor to work in your house: exercising control or not exercising control. Both of these situations come with the possibility of being held responsible for contractor injuries, so you need to understand how each option works and what personal duties are involved.
Your First Option
If you don’t exercise control during your home renovation, you step away from the project once you hire a general contractor, review the plans, and negotiate a price. You assume the contractors will do their job properly – otherwise you can sue for damages, since the contractor will have broken the contract.
However, when you step away and assume they’ll do their job properly, the contractors are then free to assume you’ve provided them with a safe workplace environment. Therefore, if an injury occurs, you could potentially be sued for negligence. In Georgia, the law requires homeowners to keep minimum standards of safety on their properties; otherwise, they’re liable to be sued for unsafe premises. For example, if you let contractors do their job but don’t warn the workers of deficiencies on your property and an injury occurs, the contractors can sue for damages.
Say you’re having your home painted, and a worker falls through a rotten section of wood in your home. The painter entered your home with the impression that it was a safe environment to paint in, and you failed to warn him or her of the faulty area of flooring. This means you would potentially be at fault. However, if you hired a worker to fix the rotten patch of wood in your home and he fell through the floor, you wouldn’t be held liable, since the defect was obvious and the contractor was warned reasonably ahead of time.
This example follows the law of having “invitees” in your home; you have the obligation as a homeowner to repair known dangers and inspect for hidden ones the invitee may be exposed to while on your property. If you fail to do this and a contractor is injured because of it, you could be at fault for not taking due care to prevent the accident.
Your Second Option
It may seem like choosing not to exercise control over your renovation is too risky after reading about your liabilities, but taking the opposite stance can actually amount to further legal obligations – most of which the average homeowner is unaware.
Saying something as simple as “You should probably be wearing safety glasses” to a contractor suggests you’re taking responsibility for the safety of all of the workers at the site. If a homeowner gives instructions to workers about where or how to do their jobs, some courts interpret it as an acceptance of accountability for the contractors’ well-being. Therefore, if an injury occurs, you could potentially be sued for damages.
Your Liability Protection Law Firm
To learn more about your liabilities as a homeowner during a renovation and how to avoid being sued for damages, contact Nelson & Smith Attorneys at Law for a free consultation before inviting contractors into your home. Our knowledgeable attorneys have years of experience working with unsafe premises laws in Georgia and can help you navigate the rules and regulations relating to injury liability and contractors.