A common question we get from our customers is about liability when workers are on your property. Let me tell you, this can definitely be a real problem if you aren’t careful. We are experts in tree care, bee keeping, and landscaping, but we are not attorneys. So, here is a link to some input from attorneys on the subject. We suggest that you look up ANY company you are thinking about hiring on the Proof of Coverage database, a service provided by the state of Florida. Just for reference, yes, we are fully covered and here is a link to our entry.
Let’s consider a short story…
Bob and Susan have just been married and they buy a house. Not being rich themselves, the house is a bit of a fixer-upper and Bob spends some time each night doing much of the work himself. But, replacing the roof is a big job, so he decides to contract a roofing company to do the work for him. Bob solicits bids from three companies. The first two are approximately the same price and both seem like good choices, but the third is quite a bit less.
Bob talks with James, the owner of the third company. “I’ve been in the business now for fifteen years and I know my way around a roof!” boasts James. And, he has photos of numerous jobs he has worked on to prove it. “I worked with Consolidated Roofing for all those years and I have finally decided to break out on my own and start a new company,” he continues. “Now, I am trying to do a few jobs at a rock-bottom pricing to get my name out there and build up some word-of-mouth to grow my customer base and my business. You could benefit from that, Bob. In six months my prices won’t be this low any more.”
Bob is convinced that James has his heart in the right place and that he will do everything he can to deliver a great service. And it turns out to be true. James and his crew show up on time and they get right to work. The foreman, George is quick, quiet, and polite, and by lunch time he and the crew almost have the old roof removed. James backed a rented dumpster up to the side of the house so George could throw the old roofing materials into the dumpster as the rest of the crew removed it.
Just before lunch is when everything changes. George slips on a bit of loose tar paper and falls from the roof, hitting the side of the dumpster before reaching the ground. Work for the day is stopped and George is rushed to the hospital. The mounting medical bills and lawsuits filed by George quickly put James out of business, because he does not have Worker’s Compensation to protect him, his business, or his employees.
George is unable to work to repay his medical bills. James has had to file bankruptcy. The hospital and mortgage company are starting to send notices of non-payment. To help, his attorney suggests that George can sue Bob against his homeowner’s insurance policy. Bob’s insurance company reassures him that he is covered for negligence. Bob’s insurance company defends Bob (after he pays his deductible), by proving that Bob was not negligent. Bob is greatly relieved.
A few months later, Bob is served by the U.S. Department of Labor for all of George’s medical bills and 2/3 of his lost salary since the date of the injury. After consulting their homeowner’s insurance and their attorney, Bob discovers that had he been negligent his homeowner’s insurance would have covered George’s claim. Since he was not negligent, a new worker’s compensation claim was filed against Bob.
At this point Bob has no choice but to pay the claim. In order to raise that kind of money, he has to sell his house and he and Susan are forced to move in with Susan’s sister.
Although a fictional story, this clearly illustrates what can happen when you hire an uninsured or under-insured contractor. Homeowner’s insurance policies exclude “liabilities arising out of bodily injury to any person eligible to receive any benefits required to be provided by the insured under any workers’ compensation law.”