What to Do When a Construction Accident Happens on Your Property

by Karla Somers on September 20, 2012

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Construction site Masshouse Lane / Albert Street - Construction site Keep out - sign(U.S. Law and generally) Construction is a hazardous industry. Workers are injured regularly, site visitors can be hurt, and trespassers can be injured. The property owner may be liable if a construction accident occurs. How do you know if and when you are liable for an accident on your premises?

How the Laws Apply

Property owners owe a duty of care to individuals on their property. This duty varies depending upon the nature of the individual; invitees are owed the highest duties of care, licensees are owed a slightly lesser duty, and trespassers are owed the lowest duty. Within a construction project, everyone directly involved with that project will be an invitee. The neighbor who wanders over and says, “Putting in a pool, Bob?” is a licensee, and the kid who jumps the fence and cuts through the property on the way to school is a trespasser. If any individual is injured as a result of a condition on the premises, that person’s status can affect the owner’s duties and liability.


An invitee is someone who enters the another person’s property with owner invitation, for mutual gain. Property owners hire contractors to coordinate the construction of a particular building. That contractor will be a licensee. However, that contractor can still invite individuals onto your property, and contractors usually use an assortment of subcontractors. If an incident occurs, you will be vicariously liable for the contractor’s actions, even though you did not expressly approve that individual’s presence on your property.

A property owner owes licensees a duty to keep the property free of latent defects. The property owner must fix the defect or warn others. Warning signs and fencing off dangerous areas can satisfy this requirement. Property owners can owe licensees a duty to rescue if there is a special relationship between the parties, if the property owner engages in a voluntary undertaking and thus assumes a duty, or in certain other limited situations.


A licensee is a person on the property who has permission from the owner, and is there for his or her own benefit. Licensees are owed a similar duty, but property owners need not inform licensees of defects of which the owner is unaware. Licensees include first responders, mail carriers, and individuals of that nature.


A trespasser is someone who is on the property without the owner’s permission. According to common law, trespassers were owed nothing, but that is no longer true. The property owner must warn of any defect likely to cause death or great bodily injury. If the defect is an attractive nuisance (a dangerous condition which is likely to attract children) the property owner will owe a duty of care to the trespasser.

What Should You Do if an Accident Occurs?

If an accident occurs on your job site, you should immediately retain a construction accident attorney and discuss the matter with them. Even if you believe that you were not liable, most states allow for juries to apportion negligence and to award a percentage of the damages to a defendant. Even if the plaintiff’s error was particularly glaring, it takes little to convince a jury that you were ten percent at fault because you didn’t have certain signage, screen your contractors more effectively, or supervise the construction site.

If an accident occurs on your property, document everything, write down anything that the injured party said, identify the witnesses, and contact an experienced attorney. Do not talk to anyone else and do not admit fault. Depending on the circumstances, you have rights, and a positive outcome may be possible.

With a background in conflict management, Karla M. Somers is a legal researcher and writer. She contributes articles to the Perecman Law Firm, a New York construction accident attorney team. The lawyers of the Perecman firm are well-versed in all areas of premise accidents including unsafe building injuries, defective elevators, negligent security, slip and fall accidents, and premises liability.

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