Responsibility for Injured Workmen

December 7, 2012 Posted in Articles Tagged in Personal Injury

Advice from an Bethlehem Personal Injury Lawyer

When workmen come into your home, it is important to understand who is liable if a worker is injured. In Pennsylvania, it is well-settled law that a party who hires a general contractor is not liable for physical harm sustained by the contractor’s employees. The homeowner does not owe a duty to the contractor’s employees if the defective conditions of the land are the products of the contractor’s work. Further, a homeowner has no duty to warn the contractor or his employees of a condition that is at least as obvious to the contractor and his employees as it is to the landowner.

When is a Danger “Obvious” To the Contractor?

A danger is deemed to be obvious to the contractor and his employees when both the condition and the risk are apparent and would be recognized by a reasonable man in the position of the visitor, exercising normal perception, intelligence, and judgment.

For a danger to be known, it must not only be known to exist, but it must also be recognized as dangerous and the probability and gravity of the threatened harm must be appreciated. The inquiry is a subjective one, considered from the perspective of a reasonable person. Examples of obvious dangers include:

  • Visible patches of ice
  • The possibility of being hit by a wayward baseball while at a baseball game;
  • Being hit by an elevator by tilting one’s head into an elevator shaft
  • Being hit by flying objects while working on a roof in a severe thunderstorm.

Exceptions to the General Rule:

While homeowners are not generally responsible for injuries to contractors caused by known dangers, there are two relevant exceptions to the general rule, and either of these exceptions will impose vicarious liability on the employer/landowner:

  1. The “retained control” exception; and
  2. The “peculiar risk” exception.

Retained Control Exception

The “retained control’ exception applies if the hiring party retains control over the methods and means of the contractor’s work. For the exception to apply, the employer must have retained at least some degree of control over the manner in which the work is done. It is not enough that he has merely a general right to order the work stopped or resumed, to prescribe alterations or deviations, to inspect its progress or to receive reports, or to make suggestions or recommendations that need not necessarily be followed. Such a general right is usually reserved to employers, but it does not mean that the contractor is controlled as to his methods of work, nor that the contractor is controlled as to operative detail. There must be such retention of right of supervision that the contractor is not entirely free to do the work in his own way.

Determining whether the retained control exception applies is not always cut and dry. A Bethlehem personal injury lawyer can evaluate your situation and explain if the nuances of this exception.

Peculiar Risk Exception

The “peculiar risk” exception is the other exception to the general rule on homeowner liability for contractors. It applies if the work to be performed by the contractor involves a special danger or peculiar risk. A special danger or peculiar risk exists where both prongs of the following test are met:

  1. The risk is foreseeable to the owner at the time the contract is executed; and
  2. The risk is different from the usual and ordinary risk associated with the general type of work done.

“Peculiar risk” is defined as a risk different from the common risks to which persons in general are commonly subjected by the ordinary forms of negligence which are usual in the community. It must involve some special hazard resulting from the work to be done which calls for special precautions.

Getting Help from a Bethlehem Personal Injury Lawyer

Understanding liability for a contractor injury can be complicated, especially in cases where one of the possible exceptions applies. If you are concerned that you may be responsible for the injuries of a contractor or if you are a contractor or subcontractor who has been injured, consult with an experienced Bethlehem personal injury attorney at our firm today.

Contact Our Bethlehem Lawyers Today

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