The Risks of Outside Help for DIY Projects

As costs to renovate continue to escalate, homeowners are increasingly opting towards DIY (Do-It-Yourself) solutions. This approach is sound when tackling minor projects, like putting up a shelf or installing a drop-in closet. However, homeowners need to be aware of liability risks, if they are considering hiring outside help. The hiring homeowner may be legally responsible for any injuries (real or lawyer-inspired), if the hired help decides to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Claims Against Your Homeowner’s Policy

Though frugality and caution may be common traits of many homeowners, sometimes you just need someone to provide some extra hands and brawn, briefly, to complete your project. Let’s consider the scenario of your hiring someone from the parking lot of that big box hardware store as a day laborer. If that worker happens to injure himself in any way, the homeowner, who hired him, will be liable for that injury. This will likely result in a claim against your homeowner’s policy, assuming you have one.

Judgements May Be More Favorable Towards Workers

Take this scenario: there was no injury, nothing happened. No falls, nothing dropped on your worker’s foot, nothing! You may think you will be able to dispute and win the case by going to trial. You might, but you’ll also have to keep in mind that certain states have judges that tend to skew in favor of injured workers rather than employers.

Pre-Existing Injuries

Now let’s imagine that the claimant moved some lumber for you, retained an attorney, and then filed a claim against you for that one day of work. The worker may have several pre-existing injuries. In California, as long as 1% of the claimant’s current condition can be attributed to your job, you will be responsible for the claimant’s medical treatment. And you can expect that the claimant will be sent by his attorney to a doctor, who will confirm an injury related to that odd job for which you paid him.

Workers May Know the Law Better than You Do

Be aware of your risks. Some of these laborers may not have a strong command of English, but they can be incredibly savvy in terms of their rights pertaining to workers’ compensation. Your best bet is to hire a fully licensed, insured and bonded contractor with a legitimate business. This way, if someone does file a claim, credible or not, then the company would be liable, not the homeowner.

Uninsured Employer’s Benefit Trust Fund as a Last Resort

This approach is not 100% foolproof, as there is the possibility that the contractor may be illegally uninsured. But at least in this scenario, you would have the benefit of the Uninsured Employer’s Benefit Trust Fund to step in and administer benefits for any claims. The fund may try to push liability to the homeowner or someone else, but that is a matter that would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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