Homeowner Liability for Contractor Injuries in New York

Can homeowners be held responsible for injuries that may occur to contractors while work is being done on their property? Many homeowners love new home face-lifts, but did they ever think what a dangerous home improvement job consisted of? Well, what happens if a contractor is injured while working? Who is responsible for their medical costs?

With respect to homeowner liability for contractor injuries in New York, homeowners of one or two family dwellings are exempt from liability from any contractor injuries suffered while work was performed on their property under labor law § 240 & § 241, unless he or she has directed or controlled the work being performed.

Under New York State Law §§ 240 and 241 a homeowner can be found liable for any resulting contractor injuries only if their contractor can show the homeowner provided specific instruction as to how work is to be performed or the homeowner provided certain tools or equipment to be used.

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Although, incidental homeowner interactions are not sufficient to invoke homeowner liability for injuries, a showing of directing the actual work performance is necessary.

Homeowners in New York State are also well advised to not provide substantial direction and involvement in how work should be performed. The contractor should decide how the work is to be performed. Otherwise excessive homeowner involvement and directing work itself can lead to homeowner liability for contractor injuries suffered while on the property.

Working with a construction attorney, such as Mr. John Caravella, in advance to verify these issues, as well as review and approval of all contract terms greatly increase the chances of homeowner satisfaction with the project, and decreases the chances of misunderstandings and/or disputes.

Homeowners, prior to signing any agreements for construction or home improvement services, should request copies of any proposed contractor’s insurance(s) and license(s) as required. Additionally, owners should be provided proof of:

(i) Contractors Commercial General Liability (“CGL”) policy,
(ii) Workers Compensation coverage
(iii) Any required licenses required for the proposed project

While these general recommendations may apply to many homeowners, all project considerations and requirements vary by project.  Working with a construction attorney in advance to verify these issues for any particular project, as well as review and approval of all contract terms greatly increase the chances of homeowner satisfaction with the project and decreases the chances of contractor misunderstandings.

John Caravella, Esq

The author, John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: John@LIConstructionLaw.com or (631) 608-1346.

This is a general information article and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. The content above has been edited for conciseness and additional relevant points are omitted for space constraints. Readers are encouraged to seek counsel from a construction lawyer who has experience with Long Island construction law for advice on a particular circumstance.

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