If you’re thinking about hiring some help to rake leaves, shovel snow, or hang your Christmas lights, you may wonder about your liability as a property owner. Do you know what your responsibility is if someone is injured while working on your property?
Professionals are required to carry insurance protecting its workers against accident and injury claims, whereas you may be liable for injuries to non-licensed persons engaged in professional work (like house painting). Also, most New Jersey employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which pays benefits like medical expenses and lost wages to employees who are injured on the job. If you hire a professional contractor that is operating legally in New Jersey to perform services like yard work, gutter cleaning, installation of holiday lights, snow shoveling, or other ordinary maintenance tasks, its employees will likely be covered by workers’ compensation. If one of the workers at your home suffers an on-the-job injury, New Jersey law holds that they are generally limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim rather than a lawsuit or claim against your insurance (although there are certain limited exceptions). If an injured worker does initiate an additional claim against a property owner, they must pay back what workers’ comp and other insurance have paid on their behalf out of any recovery, which further reduces the likelihood of such a suit.
If you hire non-professional workers directly to work in your home or on your property, you may want to consult with an attorney and/or your insurance carrier first. Certain workers, including cleaning professionals or groundskeepers who perform work for you on a regular basis, may qualify as “domestic workers” under New Jersey law; this requires you to provide a variety of employment benefits, including workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Casual laborers engaged in tasks like yard raking or snow shoveling on an occasional basis will likely be covered under your homeowners’ insurance policy, but you should make sure your coverage is adequate to cover reasonable medical expenses in case of an injury.
Let the Professionals Do Their Jobs
Generally, a landowner does not have a duty to protect a contractor’s employees from the hazards created by the contract work. However, there are several exceptions to that rule. If you involve yourself significantly in the work that your contractor does and exercise sufficient control over the manner in which it is done, you may expose yourself to liability. Loaning contractor equipment like scaffolding, ladders, heat guns, or other tools may contribute to the level of “control” needed for a court to assign liability. Excessively intrusive supervision can also rise to the level of necessary control. If you retain a professional to perform services, it’s best to allow them to do their jobs without significant interference.
Your Duty to Warn Workers of Known Hazards
If you are engaging anyone to work on your property, you have a “duty to eliminate or warn of potential operational hazards which are not or may not be obvious or visible to the invitee.” Use caution and do your best to make yourself aware of any hazards on your property, like holes, wells, lakes, or obstacles, and alert anyone you bring onto the premises to their location and details. You may also be liable for injuries to workers you retain to engage in work the courts consider “inherently dangerous,” but this is typically limited to activities that are significantly outside of the ordinary (e.g., using dynamite to remove tree stumps).
If you are worried about liability issues for contractors on your property, the Mark Law Firm can help you protect yourself. If you have been injured while working on someone else’s property, the Mark Law Firm can help you evaluate whether you may be able to bring a personal injury, premises liability, employment law, or workers’ compensation claim to protect your rights and recover damages for your loss. To schedule an appointment at the Basking Ridge, or Jersey City, or Newark, NJ, law offices of the Mark Law Firm, contact us today.
 Majestic Realty Associates v. Toti Contracting Co., 30 N.J. 425 (1959); Muhammed v. New Jersey Transit, 176 N.J. 185 (2003).
 Izhaky v. Jamesway Corp., 195 N.J. Super. 103 (App. Div. 1984).
 Majestic Realty Associates v. Toti Contracting Co., 30 N.J. 425 (1959)