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Who pays the bill for a subcontractor's injury?

If you hire someone to replace your windows or your roof, what happens if one of the workers takes a tumble or falls from a ladder?

Once the immediate emergency has been handled, the panic over who is going to cover the hospital bills is likely to settle in -- and there may be no quick or easy answer.

If you're the homeowner, are you liable?

Believe it or not, you (or your homeowner's insurance) may be on the hook for the personal injury and lost wages the worker suffers if he or she falls while doing renovations on your house.

That's because many contractors will offer homeowners a bid without explaining that while they and their primary employees are covered under workers' compensation, the actual work you're having done is likely to be handled by a subcontractor instead -- and that subcontractor may not have any workers' comp insurance at all.

However, it's far from clear whether or not a homeowner in that situation would have liability or not. If the subcontractor is essentially a sole proprietor acting as an independent contractor, you may be off the hook. If the worker was really an employee the contractor is trying to claim was only a subcontractor, the contractor may be trying to shove liability off on you unfairly.

If you're the victim, where do you turn?

Many victims of these kinds of falls find out that they don't have workers' compensation only after they're injured.

Sure, their boss had workers' comp insurance -- for himself and his office staff -- but he may not have listed you with his insurance company because it was just too expensive to have roofers covered under the insurance. Doing so meant the boss would have to up the cost of any renovation bids -- which would probably cost a few jobs.

Whether or not you can force your employer to pay depends a lot on the working relationship you had. If you were largely under the control of the boss, you might legally be an employee, not the independent contractor or subcontractor the boss says you are.

Either way, unless it's clear who is going to pay for your hospital bills and lost income after you've been injured in a construction accident during renovations, you need an attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine who is liable.

Source: ProRemodeler, "Who Is Liable for Injured Subcontractors?," accessed Oct. 20, 2017

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