Like most personal injury questions, the answer to whether a contractor can sue a homeowner for injury begins with “it depends.” Chiefly, it depends on how much control the homeowner exercised over the contractor’s work.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about personal injury claims for contractors, including:
- The homeowner’s obligation to provide a safe workplace
- Cases where the homeowner hires a general contractor
- Cases where the homeowner personally manages a project
- The role of homeowner’s insurance in contractor injury claims
- How to prove an injury
- FAQs about suing a homeowner for injury
- What to do if you need help
Homeowner’s Obligation to Provide a Safe Workplace
Homeowners are always responsible for providing a safe workplace for contractors on their property, regardless of how much control they exercise over the contractor’s work. This means that the homeowner must address any known safety issues on the property, and inform the contractors of the known safety issues.
For example, a homeowner who knows that their backyard deck is unstable should hire a contractor to fix it. If the homeowner hires another contractor to paint the exterior of the home, he’ll need to warn the painter to avoid the deck until it’s fixed. Failure to fix the unsafe deck and warn the painting contractor would make the homeowner liable for a personal injury lawsuit.
However, if the homeowner takes appropriate action to fix the deck and warns the painting contractor, the contractor would not be able to sue the homeowner for personal injury if he or she is injured on the deck.
Also, keep in mind that the contractor hired to fix the broken deck cannot sue for injury if the deck collapses. It’s presumed that the homeowner made the contractor aware of the issue by hiring them, and the homeowner is clearly taking steps to rectify the unsafe condition.
Cases Where the Homeowner Hires a General Contractor
When a homeowner hires a general contractor to manage a project with subcontractors, the homeowner is generally shielded from personal injury claims as long as they inform contractors of any known safety issues on the property. Here, the homeowner exerts little-to-no control over the contractor’s work, so there’s little-to-no personal liability for injuries.
In this situation, a subcontractor who is injured on the job would sue the general contractor for personal injury damages — not the homeowner. If the worker is an employee of the general contractor, the employee could recover damages through worker’s compensation.
Cases Where the Homeowner Personally Manages a Project
When a homeowner personally manages a project and does not hire a general contractor, the homeowner is responsible for the contractors’ safety. A contractor who is injured on the property may sue the homeowner directly in this situation.
That said, the court will need to determine exactly how much control the homeowner actually had, and the extent to which the homeowner could have avoided the injury.
It’s certainly easier to sue a homeowner for injury when he or she personally managed the project, but it’s not a guaranteed win. You’ll still need to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who can prove that the homeowner was negligent in their obligation to provide a safe workplace.
The Role of Homeowner’s Insurance in Contractor Injury Claims
Personal injury claims against a homeowner are usually handled by the homeowner’s insurance company. The insurer will assign an insurance adjuster to evaluate the claim, and the adjustor will be the one to negotiate a settlement.
If negotiations with the insurance adjustor fall through, the homeowner’s insurance company will hire an attorney to take over the negotiations and defend against the claim in court if necessary. That said, most personal injury claims are resolved in a private settlement outside of court, so it’s rare (but not impossible) for a contractor’s personal injury claim to actually go to court.
In other words, it’s rarely the homeowner that’ll actually pay for a contractor’s injuries — it’s the homeowner’s insurance company. A contractor may sue the homeowner, but the homeowner’s insurance company is obligated to intercede, represent, and protect the homeowner.
How to Prove an Injury
The first thing you should do when you’re injured on the job is to seek immediate medical treatment. Your health is of paramount important, but it’s also critical for licensed medical professionals to document your injury.
Once your injuries are properly treated, meet with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will help you gather additional evidence to prove your injury and the responsible party’s negligence, such as photographs of the location, witness statements, faulty safety equipment, etc.
FAQs about Suing a Homeowner for Personal Injury
Q: Can a homeowner be held liable for injuries to a contractor?
When a homeowner personally manages a project (i.e. they don’t hire a general contractor) and they fail to provide a safe workplace, the contractor may sue the homeowner for personal injury. However, it’s ultimately the homeowner’s insurance policy that’ll negotiate and settle the claim, not the homeowner.
Q: What if the contractor is not insured?
The Arizona Registrar of Contractors requires that contractors carry bodily injury insurance in order to be licensed by the state. Furthermore, only licensed contractors are covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy.
If a homeowner knowingly hires an uninsured contractor, he or she may be liable for the contractor’s injuries when they’re due to unsafe working conditions and/or the homeowner’s negligence.
Q: Can an independent contractor sue for injury?
Licensed contractors should be covered by their own bodily injury insurance. When a serious injury exceeds the damages allowed by their personal policy, an independent contractor may sue the general contractor or homeowner if the responsible party’s negligence contributed to the injury.
Q: Are independent contractors covered under workers compensation?
No, independent contractors are not covered by state workers compensation plans. That’s why licensed contractors are required by the state to obtain bodily injury insurance coverage.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured
If you’re a contractor who’s been injured on the job, it’s critical that you meet with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help you document your injuries, determine the responsible party (the homeowner, the general contractor, or your employer), and take appropriate legal action to get the damages that you deserve.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.