Did you know that Tradies have among the highest serious injury and disease compensation claims in Australia, according to Safe Work Australia data?
Labourers, machinery operators and drivers, community and personal services, and technicians and trade workers are the top four occupations respectively when it comes to the number of serious injury claims made.
So have you ever considered who may be liable if a tradesperson sustains an injury on your property while performing their service?
This is probably something that not many of us have given much thought to, but it is something that homeowners need to cautious of. We examine when a homeowner may be liable for an injury sustained on their property and whether their homeowners insurance will cover the injured party.
While none of us like to think about the idea of a visitor sustaining an injury while on our property the reality of such is that accidents can occur at any time. If a third party injures themselves while on your property, they may potentially be able to bring a claim against you for their injury.
The owner/occupier of the residence has the obligation to keep everyone safe while on their property. They need to take reasonable steps to ensure their property is free from hazards and provide a safe environment. If they fail in this duty and a visitor is injured, then they may be held liable for that injury.
Luckily however, if you have taken out homeowners insurance then the good news is that the standard policy of insurance covers a visitor if they have an accident and sustain an injury while on your property. This will mean any claim against you will be dealt with and paid by your insurer.
Trades and Servicemen
But what about persons performing a service for a fee who injure themselves on your property? Will they be covered by your homeowners insurance?
Many of us engage the regular services of cleaners, gardeners, pool maintenance, child minders/nannies, electricians, carpenters and builders etc. to perform work at our home.
While homeowners insurance covers for liability for injuries sustained by third parties on your property, the bad news is that most policies of insurance will not cover those third parties who are classified as workers on your property.
Are workers covered?
Most homeowner insurance will not cover a domestic workers compensation event. A cleaner, gardener, pool maintenance person, nanny etc. may be classed as a worker under workers compensation legalisation if they provide the labour only and you provide them with the materials necessary for the job. You could therefore be held liable for not providing a safe working environment if a worker injured themselves on your property. In this situation you may need to also have WorkCover insurance should an accident occur.
What about contractors?
If however, the person provides the equipment and materials to do the job (among other things) then they are likely to be classified as a contractor and not a worker. These people are likely to be electricians, carpenters, builders etc. If they sustain an injury they are likely to hold their own insurance, or be covered under their employer’s workers compensation insurance, under which they can claim.
Your responsibilities as a home owner
With this being said though, it is important to note that a homeowner owes a duty of care to tradespersons coming onto their property to take reasonable steps to avoid exposing them to a risk of injury. A homeowner may be held liable for a tradesperson’s injury if:
- they fail to identify potential hazards that are likely to cause injury,
- fail to warn the tradesperson of these potential hazards, and
- there is a hazard likely to cause injury that they should have been aware of.
Such hazards could include a loose step, unstable balcony, aggressive dog etc. Homeowners must therefore familiarise themselves with their property in order to ascertain any significant hazards likely to cause injury to persons coming onto the property.
Who is at fault?
Whether or not you could be held liable for an injury sustained by a contractor will depend upon how the accident occurred. For example, if the accident occurred due to the lack of proper equipment to complete the job, or lack of training of the contractor etc, then the contractor themselves, or their employer could be held liable. But if the accident occurred because of a failure on the part of the homeowner then the homeowner may be held liable for the injury.
No one likes to contemplate an accident causing injury occurring on their property. But when such an occurrence does happen it is important to be aware when you, as a homeowner, may be held liable and whether or not your insurance will cover you.
Will your insurance cover worker injuries on your property?
While most homeowners insurance covers for injuries to visitors on your property, what’s not usually covered is an injury sustained by a person under a workers compensation event. Those people who are likely to be deemed a worker under the workers compensation law are those who provide the labour only and you provide them with the materials necessary for the job e.g. babysitters, gardeners, cleaners etc.
For those who are not regarded as a worker, but rather a contractor, the individual circumstances leading to the accident and injury will need to be examined to determine who may be liable. A contractor themselves, or their employer, may be held liable for the injury if the accident was caused by their negligence, or a homeowner may be held liable if it was their negligence that caused the accident. In any event it is important to have the correct insurance coverage.
The best way to protect yourself is to check to see what your homeowners’ policy of insurance covers, and in particular whether it covers workers/employees at your property. If it doesn’t you may need to take out WorkCover insurance.
You should also ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable, that your property is free from hazards likely to cause injury when inviting anyone onto your property.