Under the rule of premises liability, you can end up being liable if someone gets hurt while working on your property. However, since each case is unique, whether you will be financially responsible depends on your unique circumstances, including how the worker was injured and whether they carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Duty of a Property Owner
Generally, property owners owe a duty to those who legally enter their premises to maintain their property in the same way that another reasonable person would. This is to ensure the area is safe from hazardous conditions. If they fail to do so, it would be considered a breach of their duty of care, and they may be responsible for any resulting damages caused by their negligence. This type of responsibility is called premises liability, referring to the rules that dictate when a property owner can be legally liable for an injury. A property owner’s level of responsibility is primarily based on the status of those who enter the property. There are three main categories of status a person can fall into: invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
Someone working on your property is classified as an “invitee,” which is an individual who has the owner’s consent to be on their property, typically for a business transaction. An invitee is owed the highest level of care under the law, which means the owner must:
- Regularly inspect the property for potentially dangerous conditions; and,
- Take reasonable precautions to protect invitees from foreseeable dangers (e.g., properly maintain the grounds, block off dangerous areas, post warning signs of any hazards that are not obvious, etc.)
Property owners have a lower level of responsibility to licensees, who are social guests (e.g., family or friends). They bear no responsibility for trespassers who are illegally on the property unless it is a minor child who wandered onto the grounds.
Exercising Control Over a Project vs. Not
A homeowner who exercises some degree of control over the work being completed at their home is more likely to be liable for a worker’s injury than one who hires a worker, reviews their plans, and then steps out of the way. For example, suppose the property owner is giving instructions to the workers on how and when work should be performed. In that case, they may unwittingly take on the obligation to ensure the worker’s safety. On the other hand, a homeowner who does not exercise control over a project, but for example, fails to warn the worker of a known hazard, can still be liable for an injury.
Some workers may be employed by companies that have workers’ compensation insurance, or they may carry it themselves. Regardless, a homeowner can still be held liable if their negligence contributed to the worker’s job-related injury and the worker decides to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Will Homeowner’s Insurance Pay for an Injured Worker’s Damages?
In most cases, your homeowner’s insurance will cover the costs for an injury that occurs on your property up to policy limits, as long as you explained the safety standards of your home. However, most homeowner’s insurance policies will not cover an injury caused by intentional acts.