Many homeowners believe that they cannot be held responsible for injuries suffered by contractors working on their property. In California, if someone gets injured while working on your property, you can be held liable for their injuries and damages.
Depending on the severity of the contractor’s injury and the circumstances of the accident, the resulting damages could amount to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. While there are steps you can take as a homeowner to reduce the risk of lawsuits by contractors who get injured while working in your house, you need to understand how premises liability works when you hire someone to work on your property.
As a homeowner who hires a contractor to work in your house, you will either exercise control or not exercise control over the work progress. In both of these scenarios, you may be held liable for injuries suffered by contractors.
Consult with a premises liability attorney if a contractor sustained injuries while making home renovations or doing any other kind of work on your property. Our injury lawyers at Arash Law will help you understand your rights and legal options as a homeowner in California.
If Someone Gets Hurt While Working On Your Property, Are You Liable?
As a homeowner in California, you owe a duty of care to the people you invite onto your property, including contractors and workers who make renovations, care for your children, repair broken things in your house, clean your house, maintain your front and backyard, and do other types of work on your property.
People who may get hurt while working on your property include:
Whether or not you can be liable if someone is injured while working on your property depends on the circumstances of your particular case and the amount of control you exercise over the contractor’s project. It is advisable to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss liability in your particular situation. Speak with our award-winning attorneys at Arash Law to discuss your case. Call (888) 488-1391.
Liability for Contractors’ Injuries If a Homeowner Does Not Exercise Control
Many homeowners choose this strategy because they trust that their contractors will do their job well. Basically, you exercise no control over the renovations on your property once you hire a contractor, negotiate the price, and sign a contract. Since you have a written contract with the contractor, you assume that they will fulfill their duties and finish work on time. If the contract is breached, you could sue the contractor for damages.
When you do not exercise control over the project, you cannot be held responsible for the contractor’s safety on your property at all times because you do not control how they perform their duties. Once you hire a contractor and sign a contract, the contractor will assume that you have provided a safe environment for them to work unless you have warned them of hidden dangers on your property.
However, if a contractor gets hurt because of unsafe conditions that you failed to warn about, you can be sued and held liable for the contractor’s injury. For this reason, even if you do not exercise control over the work done on your property, you should warn workers about any hidden and non-obvious hazards on your property.
If you fail to take reasonable steps to repair, inspect, and warn of hidden dangers on your property, and a contractor is injured due to the dangerous condition while working on your property, you can be sued for failing to exercise due care. The closer you monitor how a contractor does their job while working on your property, the more likely you are to be held liable for the contractor’s injuries.
Liability for Contractors’ Injuries If a Homeowner Exercises Control
If you think that exercising control over the contractor’s duties can reduce your liability, think again. Choosing to closely monitor what your contractors are doing can expose you to more liability for contractors’ injuries. If you choose to exercise control over a project, the contractor may assume that you are taking responsibility for their safety on your property.
Thus, if you give instructions to contractors working on your property, you may be assuming responsibility for their safety, and when someone gets hurt, you could be held liable for the damages. In fact, choosing not to exercise control over the work performed in your home can actually reduce your liability as a homeowner.
That is because your contractors will identify and control hazards that arise as part of their duties on their own. In that case, your only responsibility will be to warn contractors of hidden hazards on your property. When you do not exercise control, you are still required to provide a reasonably safe environment for the contractors.
Can a Homeowner Be Liable for Trespassers’ Injuries on Their Property?
Previously, under California law, it was the responsibility of a property owner or landlord to provide and maintain safe premises for their guests and invitees. In legalese, an invitee is an individual who was invited by the owner or landlord onto the property. Invitees include guests, friends, family members, and other people who were invited onto the property directly or implicitly.
California law requires property owners to conduct regular inspections of their property and eliminate any potentially dangerous conditions to avoid causing harm to invitees. But what about liability for trespassers’ injuries? Can you be held liable for injuries suffered by people who enter your property illegally? While trespassing is illegal under California Penal Code 602, trespassers may still be able to sue property owners for injuries.
Contrary to popular belief, a property owner can be held responsible for trespassers’ injuries if any of the following is true:
- The premises were not safe.
- The premises were not clearly marked (e.g., there is no fencing).
- The premises is considered an “attractive nuisance” (the property has attractive conditions that could be enticing to children).
Unlike other states, California no longer has an “attractive nuisance” doctrine.
Do You Owe a Duty of Care to People Working on Your Property?
Yes, homeowners owe a duty of care to people they hire to work on their property. Any individual who enters your property for your benefit is considered an invitee. Under California’s premises liability law, property owners owe the highest level of care to invitees.
Duties of care to invitees, including workers on your property, include:
- Inspecting the property to search for hidden hazards
- Repairing known hazards within a reasonable amount of time
- Not engaging in any wanton or willful conduct with the intent to cause injuries
- Warning invitees, including contractors workers on the property, of existing hazards that may not be immediately clear or obvious
If you fail to fulfill any of these duties and a contractor gets hurt while working on your property, you could be liable for their resulting damages and losses. However, in order to sue you for the damages, the worker will have to establish the following elements:
- You knew or should have known about the hazard.
- The hazard caused the worker’s injury.
- You failed to take reasonable steps to eliminate or remedy the hazard.
If someone got injured while working on your property, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys at Arash Law. Our lawyers will review your particular situation and help you understand your options.
Will Your Homeowner’s Insurance Cover the Injured Worker’s Damages?
If you are liable for a contractor’s injury on your property, your homeowner’s insurance will most likely cover some of the damages. If you have Med-Pay coverage or liability insurance, it may cover the injured worker’s damages and protect you from a liability lawsuit. Generally, a homeowner’s insurance policy covers any injuries that occur on your property, including injuries to contractors and other people who work on your property.
The only exception to coverage is if there is evidence that you failed to exercise due care to prevent the accident. If you were negligent or careless, the injured worker might file a lawsuit against you to seek compensation for their damages.
What Damages Are Available When Someone Gets Hurt While Working on Your Property?
In legalese, the word “damages” refers to monetary and non-monetary losses incurred by someone as a result of another party’s negligence. When a person is injured while working on someone else’s property or otherwise being legally on the property, they may be eligible to recover:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Let’s talk about the three categories of damages in detail.
As their name implies, economic damages are designed to compensate the injured party for their monetary losses. With economic damages, you can easily assign a dollar value to the losses. These damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Damage to personal property
- Loss of profits
Non-economic damages are more subjective than economic ones. These damages are not easy to calculate, which is why an injured party may need a lawyer to help them put a dollar value on such damages as:
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
While this type of damages is extremely rare in premises liability cases in California, it does not change the fact that these damages may be available when a person gets hurt on someone else’s property. Under California law, punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant for their harmful conduct, are awarded when there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in oppressive, fraudulent, or malicious conduct (California Civil Jury Instructions No. 3947).
How to Shield Yourself From Liability for Contractors’ Injuries on Your Property
As a homeowner who hires contractors to perform work on your property, you can take certain steps to shield yourself from liability for possible injuries. However, it is important to note that you may not be able to shield yourself from liability for all injuries. If you are a homeowner hiring a contractor to make renovations or perform other types of work on your property, take the following steps to reduce your liability for injuries on your property:
- Warn contractors of all hidden and non-obvious hazards on your property before they begin working on the project.
- Hire only licensed contractors.
- Confirm the extent of your contractors’ insurance coverage before hiring them.
- Check if you have additional protections under your own homeowners’ insurance policy when hiring licensed contractors.
- Consult with an experienced attorney to find out how you can protect yourself from liability for contractors’ injuries on your property.
Our California-based premises liability lawyers at Arash Law are prepared to help you protect your rights if you are a homeowner who hires people to perform any kind of work on your property. Call (888) 488-1391 or complete this contact form to see if you have a case, with our record-setting California injury attorneys.