Jones & Swanson

Roof Falls and Liability

As the holidays draw nearer and as the year comes to a close, many homeowners will be hiring workers to remove holiday decorations, perform home repairs, clean chimneys, and more. Anytime someone works on a roof or in a dangerous area of your home, it’s sure to raise the question of liability in the event of an accident.

You’ve likely heard of stories where someone fell from the roof of a home and attempted to sue the homeowner or claim against the homeowner’s insurance company. Sometimes this is indeed how injury costs are paid for – but not always. Liability in a contractor or worker injury on your property depends on a variety of factors.

Typically, it must be proven that the building or home owner’s negligence caused the accident that caused injuries to a worker. For instance, if a property owner is aware of any condition that may potentially be dangerous for a worker, they must properly inform them in advance. If you have a soft spot in the floor or infestation that affects the integrity of your roof, let a contractor know before they begin work.

Whether or not the homeowner chose to exercise control or not may also play a factor. Exercising control essentially means you are actively involved in the project with workers. While taking an interest in the work being done is fine, do so with caution. A homeowner that controls the day-to-day operation of a contractor’s work is more likely to expose themselves to personal injury liability, as opposed to a homeowner that keeps their distance on a project. Exercising control often leads to more problems because the homeowner is making themselves responsible for the safety of the contractors on site. If you may a recommendation to move a scaffold or ladder to a different location and the contractor then falls – your suggestion can be used as establishment of fault. Homeowners giving instructions to workers can be interpreted as taking responsibility of the workers’ well-being on the site. Not exercising control typically happens when a homeowner steps away from the project once they hire a contractor to do the work. It is under the assumption that the workers will do their job correctly. However, it is still crucial that a safe working environment is provided for the contractors.

The best advice one can give in regards to hiring someone to work around your property is to verify license and insurance. Your friend or handy neighbor is not the person you want climbing onto your roof or otherwise putting themselves at risk on your property. Before hiring a worker or contractor, ask to see a current license and proof of insurance. It’s also acceptable to contact the insurance company to verify coverage. Make sure to document everything when working with a contractor or workers of any sort. Always attempt to obtain signed releases from contractors so that you are not liable for injuries.

Not all contractors will be willing and ready to claim against a property owner for injuries they sustain on the job, but it’s always a possibility. So we urge you to protect yourself by educating yourself. For more information or to ask further questions, call our office at 770-427-5498.

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