Workers compensation insurance is rarely a category that a property owner considers because he/she is not employing any workers in the legal sense that the words employing and workers are used in the law.
Unfortunately, case law is filled with litigated cases where a property owner hired a roofing contractor (or other type of contractor) who had an employee fall off of the property owners roof (or other injury type) and end up in a wheel-chair for the remainder of his life. In these cases, the contractor did not have any type of insurance coverage and the employee sued the property owner on the recommendation of the state and his attorney — and won the case. The property owners usually lost their property because the judgment lien went against all property held in their names as shown in the local record.
What You Need To Know
The law views you as the responsible party for the injury because you are the property owner of record. It was on your real property that the injury occurred and the injured party was working there for your benefit, and not his. He was laboring to improve the condition of your property — no matter how small the improvement might be. This is the view that the law takes!
The fact that the injured worker was receiving a wage or salary in exchange for his/her labor never factors into the equation if an injury occurs because a wage or salary is not a benefit. It is compensation. And the law never considers that the possibility of an injury is covered by the wage or salary received by the injured worker.
These concepts may seem strange, but case law is replete with examples of how these cases have been determined against the property owner of record when no insurance coverage was provided by the employer (contractor) in the event that one of his employees was injured on the job of a customer holding title to real property.
How To Protect Yourself and Your Property
Never allow a contractor to begin construction work of any type on your garage until such time as you have possession of his certificate of insurance stating his coverage in the name you are contracting with and the expiration date of his policy.
Make sure the expiration date is beyond the anticipated length of your project. If it is two weeks from the date you receive the certificate then delay the start of the work until the contractor provides you with a fresh certificate of insurance.
Never accept the certificate of workers compensation insurance directly from the contractor. Make him have his agent (third-party) supply the certificate by way of mail and keep the envelope it came in with the cancelled postage affixed and staple the envelope to the back of the certificate of insurance. Keep this with your project records for at least five years.
Contractors have been known to provide bogus certificates of insurance from old policies they have had, and some will even photoshop new expiration dates onto them. Some won't even bother with fraudulent date changes, knowing it is a rare-bird that will actually read the insurance certificate in its entirety.
The reason it is important to get the insurance certificate from the agent is that his act of providing it to you binds his principal (the insurance company) for the insurance coverage and your evidence in hand of the certificate, and the envelope it arrived in, will defeat any claim against you or your property, should one arise.
Keep in mind that it is state law that the contractor carry workers compensation insurance on his employees. Any scheme they come up with to defeat it, such as claiming their workers are independent subcontractors, will always come back against the property owner of record if there is a serious insurance claim involved. Don't get involved with scheming in collusion with the contractor in order to save a few dollars up front. This could be viewed by the authorities as a criminal conspiracy to defeat state law — should a claim arise. Protect yourself and your property!
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