Who Is Responsible When You Are Hurt Because Of A Worker’s Mistake?

Employees at the Walmart on Adair Street in Cornelius gave customers an unintentional pre-Halloween scare when their pumpkin display caught fire. Fire crews had to be called to put out the fire caused by employees who were laying hay over hot in-ground spotlights. Fortunately, the only injuries reported were some burnt pumpkins.

When repairs are being made or a building is under construction in an area open to the public, contractors and sub-contractors rely on their workers to carry out their duties in a professional and safe manner. When a worker makes a mistake, it can often result in serious injuries to pedestrians, innocent bystanders or other employees.

The doctrine of respondent-superior

The owner and contractor at a work site are responsible to keep the area as reasonably safe as possible. They may be found liable if a person is injured as a result of a dangerous condition that they are aware or should have been aware of and did not take action to safeguard or correct. When a worker at a construction site causes an accident by their carelessness, their employer will be held accountable if the accident was foreseeable and the employee was acting within the scope of their employment. This is called the doctrine of respondent-superior liability. However, not only will the subcontractor that employs the worker be responsible, but the owner of the premises, general contractor or other contractor who controlled the specific work being performed may also be liable to the injured party for their:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost earnings
  • Diminished future earning capacity

Indemnification and insurance

Owners and contractors may seek to protect themselves from costly lawsuits by having an indemnification clause in the subcontract whereby the subcontractor agrees to assume responsibility for accidents caused by their employees and insists on being named an additional insured on each subcontractor’s liability policy. It is important to have competent legal representation in preparing these agreements, so they are not later deemed to violate public policy.  

The skilled Oregon and Vancouver construction law attorneys at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. have represented owners and contractors as well as those injured in construction accidents, allowing us to give our clients a unique and broad perspective in protecting their legal rights and interests.

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