What is my liability as a homeowner if a worker was injured on my property?

A few months ago, I hired a licensed and insured HVAC company to install new systems in my home. The home is 2 stories and the air handler/equipment for the upstairs unit is located in my home’s attic. To access the attic, there is a pull down hide-away ladder. However, after moving into the home about 7 years ago, I attempted to use the ladder but did not trust it. It felt very rickety and I assumed that it was original to the house which was built 33 years ago. So, from that point forward, I always used a step ladder to access the attic. When one of the owners of the HVAC company came for his initial inspection, I alerted him to the fact that I did not trust the attic ladder and always used a step ladder. I suggested that he use a step ladder and he did. The following week or so, when the systems were being installed and it was time access the attic, I alerted the workers of the my distrust of the attic ladder and the fact that I always used a step ladder and suggested that they do the same. However, upon inspection and a slight modification, the workers decided to use the attic ladder. Unfortunately later that afternoon while I had stepped out to run a quick errand, the ladder fell from the ceiling injuring one of the workers. The gentleman’s injuries turned out to be pretty serious and he later required emergency surgery. Fortunately, he is expected to make a full recovery. Initially, I was relieved that the company I hired was insured until I received a letter from a personal injury lawyer asking for my homeowner’s insurance limits/info recently. I’ve read a little about these types of injury claims and wondered if someone might offer some advice to someone who isn’t the injured party. I did warn the the gentleman about the ladder because I myself was not willing to use it to access the attic. I’m hoping that the verbal warning I made to the owner and worker is enough to limit my liability in this situation.

Asked on April 4, 2017 under Personal Injury, Georgia

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

As the owner of the property, you are liable for the injuries the worker sustained while on your property.  Your liability will include the medical bills, pain and suffering (an amount in addition to the medical bills based on the medical reports) and wage loss.
Your verbal warning will not relieve you of liability; however, if the case is NOT settled, and a lawsuit is filed against you, using the ladder despite your verbal warning would provide you with a defense of assumption of the risk.  Assumption of the risk means that the worker understood and  recognized the danger the ladder posed and voluntarily chose to encounter it. 
Most likely, the case will be settled with your homeowner's insurance carrier without a lawsuit being filed.
However, in the event the case is not settled and a lawsuit is filed against you based on premises liabililty, your homeowner's insurance carrier will provide you with an attorney at no cost to you.


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