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Who pays when subcontractors get hurt on private property?

Who ends up paying when you're working as an independent subcontractor on someone's house and end up injured?

Ideally, you have insurance of your own. Unless you have an agreement otherwise, the contractor's insurance company certainly won't cover you. If you don't have coverage of your own, however, you're only real option is likely to file a claim against the homeowner's insurance company in order to try to get back your lost income and medical costs.

Unfortunately, that will probably come as a very unpleasant and unexpected shock to the homeowner. Most homeowners know that they should ask their contractor for proof of a license and insurance, but they don't really know what it means when they see it. They usually can't tell the difference between their contractor's own employees and subcontractors who are taking a calculated risk by working without insurance. To the homeowner, everyone on the property is somebody working on the house on behalf of the contractor.

Unfortunately for you, your ability to sue the homeowner if you're injured may not be airtight, either. Experts say that laws and rulings on the issue of who has to pay when a subcontractor gets injured on a roofing job, for example, are divided. Your ability to collect depends on what insurance and assets the homeowner has.

If the insurance isn't adequate to cover your damages, there's no guarantee that a homeowner has other assets that can be used to pay your bills. He or she may not have enough equity in the house you're working on, for example, to amount to anything.

In addition, if the homeowner has very little control over the subcontractor and the job, that may be enough to excuse liability. Plus, your subcontractor agreement may obligate you to seek compensation elsewhere -- perhaps through the contractor's business or workers' compensation.

In general, taking a chance by working construction as a subcontractor without insurance allows you to offer a much lower cost for your services. If you fall, however, or get injured another way, your ability to collect damages and cover your medical bills could be seriously impaired.

Source: ProRemodeler, "Who Is Liable for Injured Subcontractors?," accessed Feb. 23, 2018

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