Construction Site at Your House: What’s Your Liability if a Worker is Injured?

by ValerieC on August 15, 2013

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(US Law) When starting a new construction project, most homeowners consider the direct costs of the project and little else. Relatively few homeowners consider the potential liability in the event that a worker is injured on their property. Homeowners should consider such issues before hiring workers for their latest projects as a bit of preparation goes a long way in terms of reducing one’s liability.

Homeowner Liability and Workers

Premises liability usually divides individuals on another person’s property into three categories: invitees, licensees and trespassers. Invitees are those invited onto the property by the property owner for his or her benefit. Licensees are those on the property for their own purposes. Trespassers are those on the property without permission. Workers hired by a homeowner or his or her contractor are invitees. While the precise legal rules will vary between jurisdictions, premises liability is reasonably consistent across the nation with respect to invitees.

However, if you would like to research specifically what would happen if an invitee is working at your home and is injured you should seek advice from a local attorney who specializes in accidents. For instance, if you were doing an Internet search you would type, construction accident attorney in New York.

Editor’s note – for some of the best real estate attorneys in New York see here.

Generally, homeowners owe their invitees a duty of care to keep their property free of hidden defects. If a hazard would not be noticed by a similarly situated party of reasonable caution, the defect is considered hidden. This is the case even if someone exercising heightened levels of vigilance could have noticed the hazardous condition. Examples of common minor hazards that may be noticeable to vigilant people but not most include water on the floor and exposed wiring. In a residential setting, even something as simple as children’s toys strewn across a hallway can constitute a falling hazard.

Another requirement to being liable for injuries is that the property owner knew or reasonably should have known about the defect at the time. If the property owner did not have knowledge of a defect and could not reasonably have discovered it with reasonable inspections, the homeowner is unlikely to incur liability for the injury. If the homeowner could have known about the defect with reasonable inspections, then constructive knowledge will be imputed onto the owner and the homeowner may be liable for the injury.

Avoiding Liability and Preserving Your Future

The best approach to avoiding litigation over an injury is to avoid the injury in the first place. In addressing defects on the property, homeowners can address the “hidden” component or the “defect” component; in other words, they may choose to either warn the visitor or repair the issue. A major construction project will often involve fixing a known defect, which will involve notifying the workers about that defect, so that notice requirement will often be satisfied with respect to that defect. Other defects, like exposed wiring and rotting wood on the supports or floors should also be pointed out if it’s likely that the workers will need to access that area.

Alternatively, homeowners may repair any defective conditions of which they have knowledge prior to allowing any workers into their home. While the homeowner may be contacting professionals to avoid having to correct such conditions personally, most homeowners can still take steps to eliminate certain hazards. Homeowners can pick up all children’s toys and low-lying items, remove stray items from the floor, ensure that the floors are dry, and ensure that any light fixtures are reasonably secure.

Additionally, homeowners should screen their workers. Specifically, homeowners should ensure that their contractors are licensed and bonded and that their workers are covered under workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that all employers are required in all 50 states. It provides certain benefits in the event of a workplace accident and generally forecloses further remedies. However, this is often not employed in the construction industry.

Workers’ compensation statutes only require employees to be covered and day laborers perform much of the menial work on larger jobs. As a result, many workers are paid cash and kept “off the books.” This lowers the cost to the contractor and often lowers the cost to the customer as well. It also results in workers with no safety net, which further results in lawsuits in the event that they become injured.

Personally maintaining the property and spending a bit more up front to hire a business that properly documents and licenses its employees can pay off in the long run on residential construction projects. In the event that anyone is injured on the property, homeowners should seek medical assistance for the injured party and contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can provide legal advice and represent the homeowner in any future adversarial proceedings.

Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches accident cases. She discovered that the Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., a construction accident attorney in New York, has worked diligently for over 30 years with injured construction workers and their families to help them get compensation for on the job injuries.

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Writer, Editor, Linkbuilder at VaughnTiff Communications
I am a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience writing abbout various topics. Most of my experience is with Technical Writing. I produce guest blog posts for small businesses and assist with their online business management. Writing is my passion!

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