Can You Be Sued if a Worker is Injured on Your Property?

May 17, 2023 | Christina M. Bezas | General Liability

It is important to note that if a contractor or worker gets injured on your job, you may be held legally responsible.

Springtime not only brings warmer weather, luscious greenery, and colorful flowers to Long Island, but it is also the season when many homeowners begin construction and home improvement or renovation projects.

Depending on the circumstances, a homeowner may be liable for damages related to injuries sustained by a contractor or worker on their property. Generally, under New York Labor Law, a homeowner of a single or two-family home is exempt from liability for injuries sustained by a worker on their property. However, if the homeowner “directs” or “controls” the work being performed, the homeowner could face liability.

What does it mean to “direct” or “control” the work? In New York, courts have found that “direction” and/or “control” can occur when a homeowner supervises the method and manner of work, orders changes in the specifications, and/or provides the equipment necessary to perform the work. In this context, the courts will consider whether the homeowner essentially becomes a general contractor responsible for supervising the entire construction project and enforcing safety standards. By contrast, merely reviewing plans, hiring subcontractors, and making general decisions about the project does not usually constitute “direction” or “control.”

In addition, a homeowner may be vulnerable to litigation under common law negligence. In this scenario, to establish liability, the injured worker must demonstrate that the homeowner supervised or controlled the work, or had actual or constructive notice of the unsafe condition that caused the accident. If the dangerous condition arises from the worker’s methods and means of engaging in the work, and the homeowner exercised no supervisory control over the work, then the homeowner will usually not be liable.

Additionally, homeowners are responsible for maintaining their properties in a reasonably safe condition. Depending on the circumstances, a homeowner who fails to safely maintain their property may be responsible for injuries sustained when the homeowner created, was aware and/or should have known of a dangerous condition within a reasonable time period to remedy it before the accident or injury took place.

If you are embarking on a home construction, renovation or improvement project, it is wise to request a copy of your contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy, a copy of their workers’ compensation insurance certificate, and also to review the terms and conditions of your homeowners’ insurance policy so that you are prepared if an accident or injury occurs while work is being done on your property.

This article appeared in the May 2023 issue of Stroll Lloyd Harbor.

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