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Is a Land Owner Liable if a Contractor Gets Injured on the Job?

LAND OWNERS ARE GENERALLY NOT LIABLE FOR INJURIES TO CONTRACTORS OR THEIR EMPLOYEES

Generally speaking, property owners are not liable for injuries to contractors or their employees who get injured on the job. This is because the contractor, not the property owner, is normally in charge of the time, place, and manner in which the work is performed, and thus is in a better position to control and avoid injuries (both to the contract and to his or her employees and laborers). Additionally, most contractors must have workers’ compensation insurance covering their employees and laborers. Thus, workers’ compensation is the appropriate remedy for job-related injuries, even those occurring on someone else’s property.

That said, public policy has created a number of exceptions to this rule, and if any of those exceptions apply, the land owner may be held liable for injuries suffered by people working on the property.

HOWEVER, IN MANY CIRCUMSTANCES, LAND OWNERS ARE LIABLE FOR CONTRACTORS’ INJURIES

Although the general rule is as stated above, public policy has created some exceptions–situations in which a land owner (or those in possession or control of land) may be liable for injuries suffered by contractors (or contractors’ employees) working on the property. The exceptions are too numerous to list in a single blog post or article, so property owners should consult an attorney before hiring workers to ensure the owner has complied with his or her legal duties.

For purposes of example only, here are a few of the exceptions recognized under California law. If any of these situations exist the property owner may be held legally liable for injuries suffered by contractors or their employees:

1.   The property owner fails to warn the contractor and/or the contractor’s employees of a pre-existing hazardous condition on the property.

2.  The property owner retains control over the work.

3.  The work requested by the property owner qualifies as “inherently dangerous.” (Note: consult an attorney to determine whether or not this is the case before engaging contractors to perform it.)

4.  The property owner provides the contractor, or other workers, with hazardous or defective equipment.

5.  The property owner is subject to a legally recognized, “nondelegable” duty. (This means a duty that, by law, the property owner cannot pass off to another person. Once again, consult an attorney about your individual circumstances before hiring contractors.)

While this is not an exhaustive list, it gives some idea of the breadth of the “exceptions” – which, in many cases, overpower the general rule. The takeaway: property owners should always maintain property in a reasonably safe condition, should warn contractors and other workers in advance about hazards on the property, and should consult an attorney before commencing work, to ensure compliance with all legal duties and obligations.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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