If a Roofer Falls Off My Roof, Am I Liable?

If a Roofer Falls Off My Roof, Am I Liable?

Steven Schwartzapfel -Founding Partner Nov 2, 2022

For more than 35 years, Steven Schwartzapfel, the founding member of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., has been one of New York’s most prominent personal injury attorneys. Steve represents clients in all types of personal injury cases. His experience, skill, and dedication have enabled Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

As most homeowners will tell you, you should typically hire a contractor to take care of a leaky roof, ice build-up, broken gutters, and other roof problems. This is because it’s rarely a good idea to climb up yourself and risk your physical safety.

But what if a roofer falls off your roof? If a roofing contractor falls from your home and is injured or killed, are you liable for damages? In this detailed guide, we’ll answer this question and more in an effort to shed light on roofing accident liability. Alternatively, you can contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200 for a free consultation, case evaluation, and more.

Contractor Liability

Contractors are generally liable for their own accidents and associated damages. That’s why contracting companies must carry workers’ compensation insurance, as this insurance covers employees who are injured in the course of their regular duties.

Hypothetically, if a roofing contractor falls from a client’s roof and breaks their leg, their workers’ compensation insurance should cover the cost of their medical bills and other accident-related expenses. The liability is likely not on the shoulders of the homeowner, thanks to New York Labor Law 240.

New York Labor Law 240 states that workers are allowed to bring lawsuits against building owners if a worker  falls and is injured as a result, provided they are engaged in repair or cleaning work. Repair or cleaning work includes but is not limited to: clearing ice and snow off of a roof, fixing leaks, and similar activities.

This, however, doesn’t mean that you, as a homeowner, are necessarily liable for damages any time a workplace injury occurs at your home. New York Labor Law 240 has an exception that states you aren’t liable if you did not directly control or interfere with the work. Now, what constitutes “directly controlling” or “interfering” is up to judicial interpretation, but you should not assume that you are liable for contractor injuries if they fall from your roof.

When Are Homeowners Safe from Liability?

Homeowners are safe from contractor injury liability in a majority of cases. Make sure you perform each of these steps before allowing a contractor to ascend to your roof and begin their work:

  • Investigate the contracting company to make sure they are fully certified and licensed to do this kind of work.
  • Keep all of your paperwork organized so you can reference it in a future legal action or for other purposes.
  • Ensure that the contractor(s) has the necessary tools to perform the work properly. If this isn’t the case, do not offer or supply the contractor(s) with any of your tools.
  • Ensure that there is no way you can interfere, intentionally or otherwise, with the contractor’s work.

If you follow these instructions, you will likely be protected from injury liability even if a roofing contractor falls from your home’s roof and is injured as a result.

For more on this and related topics, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers and speak with one of our experienced construction attorneys today. Simply dial 1-516-342-2200 and allow us the honor and privilege of assisting you in your legal endeavors.

When Could You Be Liable for Roofing Accidents?

While most homeowners aren’t liable for roofing accident injuries or damages, liability may be a concern in certain limited circumstances. Generally, you are liable for roofing accidents and associated damages if your behavior influences or causes the accident in some way.

You Direct the Work

If you direct the work of a roofer or other contractor, you may be liable for accidents that occur due to them following your instructions. Unfortunately, “directing the work” includes any directions or recommendations you provide to the contractor.

Say that you invite a contractor to go up to your home’s roof to inspect it for a leak. If you tell the contractor to go to one area of the roof, then they slip and fall by traversing to that area, you are technically liable for their injuries (because they did not choose to go to that spot themselves).

To protect yourself from this liability, you shouldn’t engage with the roofing contractor any more than is necessary. Additionally, you should tell them where you think the problem is before they climb onto your roof. Once they are on the roof, they are in control and you should not give them any further directions.

You Interfere With the Work

Similarly, if you interfere with a contractor’s work in any way, you’ll likely be held liable for injuries and damages if they fall or are injured as a result of that interference.

Distracting the contractor (e.g., talking to them while they are concentrating; shouting at them as they work) constitutes interference. To keep yourself legally protected, let your roofing contractor work and only communicate with them once they are back on solid ground.

You Fail to Vet the Contractor

You may also be found liable for accident injuries if you fail to properly vet (i.e., research and/or background check) your contractor before work commences. If your contractor isn’t adequately certified and/or  insured for the work you have hired them to perform, you could be on the hook for accident-related damages.

As such, you should thoroughly investigate any roofing contractor company you plan to hire. Make sure they are properly certified and insured, and double-check that the company has excellent reviews and recommendations from your friends and/or neighbors.

As a side benefit, vetting your roofing contractor will also ensure that they do a great job, so you won’t have to worry about hiring another contractor in the near future!

To learn more about effective vetting practices over the phone, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200. Your consultation will be free and the advice provided to you may save you miles of headache, heartache, and financial strain down the road.

You Didn’t Disclose Known Hazards

If your roof has any known hazards, like a fragile skylight cover or slippery shingles, you need to tell the contractor about them before they go up to your roof. If you fail to do this, you could be represented as consciously putting the contractor in danger.

If a roofing contractor is injured due to slipping or falling on a hazard you knew about beforehand, you may be liable for their injuries. If you don’t know about any hazards, you won’t be liable. Consider what you know about your roofing situation up top and tell the roofing contractor everything you know before they ascend to be safe.

You Let the Roofer Borrow Malfunctioning Equipment

A quality roofing contractor will have all the tools and supplies needed to get the job done. They should not need to ask you for any supplies, least of all those that are known to be especially dangerous (e.g., power tools, ladders, etc.).

If they ask you for supplies, refuse to give them anything, even if it means you have to reschedule the appointment or hire someone else. Your refusal here is absolutely critical, as the moment you give a roofing contractor equipment, that equipment could make you liable for injuries if it malfunctions or the roofer uses it improperly.

For instance, say that a roofing contractor forgets his ladder and needs to get up to your roof. They ask you for a ladder, and you get one from your garage. But the ladder is in poor condition, so it collapses as the roofer climbs up to your home’s roof.

Since the ladder belongs to you, you are responsible for its functionality. If the roofer is injured from the fall, you’ll likely be on the hook for accident-related injuries and other damages.

You Don’t Have Key Paperwork

Lastly, you may encounter liability problems if you don’t keep track of important paperwork throughout the duration of your contracting appointment. At a minimum, you should have paperwork concerning:

  • The name and contact information of your contracting company
  • The information of the person at your home
  • What the contracting job is meant to do
  • How much you paid and how on invoices, receipts, and related documents
  • How the job went and the overall outcome of the contracting agreement

Get and keep all of this paperwork close at hand. It may be important evidence for an upcoming lawsuit or accusation of fault. If you don’t have this paperwork, it’ll just be your word against the contractor’s.

Even in the best of circumstances, your word may not be enough to convince a judge or jury of your innocence or the fact that you aren’t liable for injuries. Documents provide the concrete proof necessary to prove innocence and protect you from being found liable for damages.

When To Contact Roofing Accident Attorneys

As you can see, there are times when you may be partially or fully liable for roofing accident injuries. But there are also times when you may be clear of all liability and still have to protect yourself from accusations of negligence from the contractor and/or their employing company.

If you are accused of fault or liability, you need to hire experienced roofing accident attorneys. Roofing accident attorneys can help you in many ways, such as:

  • Gathering and organizing evidence to show that you did not interfere in the contractor’s work. Such evidence can include: eyewitness accounts, paperwork documentation, home security camera footage, etc.
  • Effectively presenting that evidence to the governing authority (e.g., a judge or jury in court, a tribunal or mediator in an arbitration meeting or mediation, etc.).
  • Negotiating with the contracting company on your behalf.
  • And more!

When choosing a roofing accident attorney, you should look for a personal injury firm with the experience necessary to protect you in and outside of court. For more than 150 years, Schwartzapfel Lawyers has successfully handled countless personal injury, workers’ compensation, and other cases involving physical, mental, and/or financial loss. This is because we know the laws surrounding these cases in-depth, so we can provide you with the legal expertise and counsel needed to save your finances and protect your future.

So, please, if you are at risk of facing a roofing-related lawsuit, or if a contractor threatens to sue you, don’t wait! Instead, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers online or at 1-516-342-2200.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

In the event you or a loved one is sued by a contracting company, the right lawyers can protect you from accusations of fault by mounting a winning defensive case. Additionally, as with Schwartzapfel Lawyers, you won’t ever have to pay them a penny unless they first get you the financial compensation you are entitled to.

Accidents happen all the time and your financial future is too important to leave to chance. So, how can you protect yourself and the ones you love? By acting now and dialing 1-516-342-2200 or visiting Schwartzapfel Lawyers online to schedule a free consultation, case evaluation, and more!

Sources:

Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You

Legislation | NY State Senate

Workers’ Compensation Coverage Requirements | NY.gov

Liability Definition | Investopedia

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