Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

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GR8FUL-D
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Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by GR8FUL-D » Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:34 pm

My elderly father owns a rather large piece of property in Florida & wants to have quite a few large trees removed and the branches of lots of trees trimmed &/or removed. He's had several licensed & insured companies out to the property to give him quotes to do the work, which ranged from $2,000 to $3,500. However, a local "good ol' boy" & his two sons have offered to do the work for $800, but they are neither licensed nor insured. Not surprisingly (to me anyway) my father wants to hire them to do the work.

Since they don't carry any kind of insurance themselves, he (my father) has agreed to not have them do any work on trees near his house, thereby avoiding any possibility of them damaging the house. However, I'm still concerned that if they are injured on the property, he (my father) could somehow be held liable. However, since the majority of his assets are tied up in a) his homestead residence and b) in IRAs and 401K's, my father feels he is fairly judgement proof.

Three other possibly relevant issues:

1) My father is 100% self insured, i.e., he does not carry ANY kind of insurance (be it homeowner, property, or personal) other than auto insurance.
2) The guy told my father that he and his sons would sign something promising to NOT hold my father liable should they be injured on his property; I assume any kind of signed statement would be legally meaningless if they were hurt.
3) I've called references, and indeed the father & his sons are in the tree trimming business & have done a lot of work in this area over the years, so they're not just some "local yokels" w/out any experience.

Any suggestions / advice as to how I can convince my father he's being "penny smart / pound foolish" and potentially opening himself up to unnecessary legal liabilities?

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bottlecap
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by bottlecap » Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:42 pm

I'd doubts that promise #2 is enforceable, but it depends on your jurisdiction.

JT

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ResearchMed
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:50 pm

bottlecap wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:42 pm
I'd doubts that promise #2 is enforceable, but it depends on your jurisdiction.

JT
Right.

Have your (OP's) dad check with his attorney.
By the time checking all the local laws/regs and creating a reasonably forceful "hold harmless" is completed... he could have hired the licensed/bonded guys and already had it done.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

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dm200
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by dm200 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:00 pm

I would never hire such a worker.

We live in Virginia and needed a tree in our yard removed. It was close to our house and the next door neighbor. I checked with our County and they told me that such folks are not licensed in Virginia - so they advised that we only engage someone after verifying that they carried BOTH liability insurance AND worker compensation. In some states, these folks are required to be licensed.

I would wonder why - if in the business and experienced - why they do not carry such insurance.

Jim Beaux
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Jim Beaux » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:15 pm

Im not a lawyer but look into the possibility of your father paying an extra $25 for a notarized "Hold Harmless Agreement" signed by both parties.

LeftCoast
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by LeftCoast » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:21 pm

In my state, gardeners are not required to be licensed, but tree trimmers are required to be licensed. If you hire an unlicensed tree trimmer and they get hurt, the property owner is liable. A local attorney told me about a case where the unlicensed tree trimmer hired an unlicensed day laborer as a helper, and the helper fell out of a tree. The helper is suing the property owner for $750K. Use a licensed tree trimmer who has workers comp insurance.

Hypersion
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Hypersion » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:26 pm

Remind your dad that even though he may be judgment proof he will still have to hire a lawyer to help enforce those laws. Lawers are much more expensive than insurance.

Johio
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Johio » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:29 pm

Unfortunately in Florida, workers with no license or insurance is pretty common, and was made worse with the influx of trade folks after hurricane IRMA. I, and most of my neighbors, have opted to hire only folks who are licensed and insured - and current with both. In fact, it seems a growing number of home owner associations require some approval for major work - including tree removal - and also have the requirement that the company/person hired is licensed and insured in Florida. Whether that is all enforceable, who knows.

I would hire the licensed and insured guys.

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Nate79
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Nate79 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:48 pm

Hiring unlicensed workers in farm country is very very common. But having no insurance is foolish.

camden
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by camden » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:34 pm

Dissuade your father from doing this if at all possible. Having his property damaged by uninsured workers would be bad, but it pales in comparison to the risk of having a such a worker severely injured on the job, generating a lawsuit with him as defendant. He could literally lose every asset he has.

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Ged
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Ged » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:50 pm

GR8FUL-D wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:34 pm
My elderly father owns a rather large piece of property in Florida
There are acreage limitations to the homestead exemption. 160 outside a municipality, 1/2 within.

Furthermore that exemption ends with the occupancy of the house by the owner or if the owner should sell.

J295
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by J295 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:18 pm

Have dad call his insurance agent and see if injury to these contractors and any injury to his home is covered under his homeowners policy (and umbrella).

Liam Friend
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Liam Friend » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:20 pm

Even if the contractor has workers’ comp/insurance in place, that coverage may just protect the contractor and not extend to the property owner. In some states (not sure about FL), the property owner’s potential liability is not eliminated simply because the contractor has workers’ comp coverage. That coverage usually protects the employer, i.e. the contractor, from being sued by its injured employee. That has nothing to do with the injured person separately suing the property owner for some sort of negligence. Bottom line, if people are working on your father’s property, the safe approach would be to have his own insurance.

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gasdoc
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by gasdoc » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:59 pm

Would people here worry about licensure, etc, for a handyman doing jobs less dangerous? For example, we have a “yard guy” who mows and does light pruning. Do people check on licensure, etc, for landscaping companies? Is homeowners insurance and umbrella insurance enough?

Gasdoc
Last edited by gasdoc on Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

michaeljc70
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:06 pm

Self insured for homeowners insurance? Without insurance on either side I would definitely not hire them. The bigger question is how is he self insuring? If someone on his property gets hurt does he have millions? You say he is pretty judgement proof. Is he a lawyer? Will he self-defend himself?

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Nate79
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Nate79 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:33 pm

J295 wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:18 pm
Have dad call his insurance agent and see if injury to these contractors and any injury to his home is covered under his homeowners policy (and umbrella).
He doesn't have homeowners policy or umbrella.....

bb
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by bb » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:36 pm

Wouldn't the owner of the home have to somehow be negligent of something to win a judgement against? If I go to my neighbors house, clime a tree and fall out are you saying no jury would argue I was responsible for my actions? Not at all?

Not a Penguin
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Not a Penguin » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:47 pm

Something to consider: even if one is “judgement proof” there will still be many many hours that a defense attorney would have to spend on your case, all the while you’d be sitting and waiting for a judge to rule, or more likely, for a jury of your “peers” to decide that you, the wealthy homeowner, is not liable in anyway for the accident that befell this poor, hardworking father of three young girls and a wife who is wheelchair bound that this man also took care of.

I think it’s much cheaper to avoid even having to test if you’re “judgement proof” or not. If you have $$’s to your name, a plaintiff’s attorney will spend lots of your time, and therefore money forcing you to defend yourself.

Just hire the licensed and insured person.

Nutmeg
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by Nutmeg » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:47 pm

GR8FUL-D wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:34 pm
My elderly father owns a rather large piece of property in Florida & wants to have quite a few large trees removed and the branches of lots of trees trimmed &/or removed. He's had several licensed & insured companies out to the property to give him quotes to do the work, which ranged from $2,000 to $3,500. However, a local "good ol' boy" & his two sons have offered to do the work for $800, but they are neither licensed nor insured. Not surprisingly (to me anyway) my father wants to hire them to do the work.

Since they don't carry any kind of insurance themselves, he (my father) has agreed to not have them do any work on trees near his house, thereby avoiding any possibility of them damaging the house. However, I'm still concerned that if they are injured on the property, he (my father) could somehow be held liable. However, since the majority of his assets are tied up in a) his homestead residence and b) in IRAs and 401K's, my father feels he is fairly judgement proof.

Three other possibly relevant issues:

1) My father is 100% self insured, i.e., he does not carry ANY kind of insurance (be it homeowner, property, or personal) other than auto insurance.
2) The guy told my father that he and his sons would sign something promising to NOT hold my father liable should they be injured on his property; I assume any kind of signed statement would be legally meaningless if they were hurt.
3) I've called references, and indeed the father & his sons are in the tree trimming business & have done a lot of work in this area over the years, so they're not just some "local yokels" w/out any experience.

Any suggestions / advice as to how I can convince my father he's being "penny smart / pound foolish" and potentially opening himself up to unnecessary legal liabilities?
It appears to me that your father is not self-insured, but rather is just plain not insured. He is apparently not in a situation in which he is setting aside money for future liability claims instead of paying an insurance agent for coverage. I agree that he is being foolish but I am not sure how you can convince him of that.

drawpoker
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by drawpoker » Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:48 pm

Am very sorry that DanMahowny pulled his hilarious post about Porko, the yard care guy. (Discovered it had been yanked when I tried to reply with quote)

It was an excellent way to use humor to illustrate the absolute folly, reckless and foolish decision-making, of hiring unlicensed and uninsured people to do any kind of work involving your residence. Or, any property you own, for that matter.

Really, really leaving yourself open. Hope the OP can convince his father to re=think this whole thing

aristotelian
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by aristotelian » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:26 pm

We had a roofer fall off our two story house. Fortunately he did not sue but now I make sure to ask anyone working on the house if they are insured. You are certainly doing the right thing but ultimately your dad is an adult and will have to accept the consequences of his decision.

mancich
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by mancich » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:54 am

I wouldn't hire such a worker. I'd make sure they have the proper license and insurance. This is not an area in which to be penny-wise, pound-foolish.

HIinvestor
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by HIinvestor » Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:03 am

We only work with bonded, insured, licensed workers for tree trimming and painting multi-story buildings. We like sleeping well at night. Too many bad things could happen—very expensive to defend lawsuits—-I’m sn attorney but wouldn’t want to defend myself.

gd
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by gd » Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:04 am

Not being sarcastic, sounds like a good match- guy without any insurance hires guy without any insurance. If your father isn't inviting your intervention into his affairs, I'd step away. BTW, my understanding is that (in my state at least) IRAs are vulnerable, 401(k)s are not. I wouldn't pay much attention to opinions about legalities here unless the poster makes clear they know FL law.

fishmonger
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by fishmonger » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:07 am

Seems foolish to potentially save $1200-1500

pshonore
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by pshonore » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:18 am

Lets say the guys drop a tree on someone walking by. Guess who gets sued? EVERYBODY! Father will have to hire his own lawyer to defend him. That won't be cheap. (If he had Homeowners insurance, the insurance company would probably defend him)

TheNightsToCome
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by TheNightsToCome » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:27 am

gasdoc wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:59 pm
Would people here worry about licensure, etc, for a handyman doing jobs less dangerous? For example, we have a “yard guy” who mows and does light pruning. Do people check on licensure, etc, for landscaping companies? Is homeowners insurance and umbrella insurance enough?

Gasdoc
I have an umbrella policy through State Farm and my understanding is that it does not cover injuries to contractors working on my property. If anyone knows of an umbrella policy that definitely does cover such events I would be very interested in purchasing it.

drawpoker
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by drawpoker » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:46 am

pshonore wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:18 am
Lets say the guys drop a tree on someone walking by. Guess who gets sued? EVERYBODY! Father will have to hire his own lawyer to defend him. That won't be cheap. (If he had Homeowners insurance, the insurance company would probably defend him)
Only after all other possible sources are exhausted. Its the same principle as with dog walkers or kitty sitters.

Gentle, docile dog who is not aggressive or vicious is startled when small toddler runs up to hug him. Bites kid on face, plastic surgeon fees are $30,000. Or $40,000 Sitter warms milk on stove for kitty, forgets to turn burner off, house burns down.

Any worker who performs any kind of paid work for you in your home is expected to carry standard business liability insurance with appropriate limits. Homeowners insurance is not intended to cover these type situations, and if they ultimately have to make a large payout due to your own negligence, they may cancel you later.

JBTX
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by JBTX » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:40 pm

I'm not sure he is judgement proof. It may be true that his retirement and homestead assets are shielded from judgment forfeiture, but in theory he could still have a substantial unpaid judgment over his head, which he either has to pay with future cash flows (RMDs??) or file for bankruptcy.

BarbK
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by BarbK » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:29 pm

Since your dad does not have home insurance, he needs to buy Liability Only insurance for his homestead. It should cost about $300 per year.

I've hired tree trimming people that basically went knocking door to door. It is doubtful that they had insurance; sometimes their cards say they are licensed and insured but who knows.

About 10 years ago, I was getting quotes on having my mothers pool enclosure re-screened and asked one of the people if I could see his proof of license/insurance. He started screaming and cursing at me. Obviously he did not get the job.

drawpoker
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by drawpoker » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:39 pm

BarbK wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:29 pm
Since your dad does not have home insurance, he needs to buy Liability Only insurance for his homestead. It should cost about $300 per year.
Is this "Liability Only" something unique to Florida?

Liability only coverage suggests to me a business type policy.

Please clarify (?)

BarbK
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by BarbK » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:19 pm

drawpoker wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:39 pm

Is this "Liability Only" something unique to Florida?

Liability only coverage suggests to me a business type policy.

Please clarify (?)
I don't know if it is unique to Florida but it has been around for a long time. I know you can't have a mortgage to get it. But when you buy it, you can get an umbrella policy on top. You can't get an umbrella policy without having homeowner or a liability only policy.

Many of my neighbors go 'bare' on their home insurance rather than pay the outrageous premiums. But they do buy a LO policy. I've looked into it and have settled for regular insurance with a 10% wind damage deductible (minimum is 2%) and now have dropped all interior content coverage to save some $.

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celia
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by celia » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:11 am

Nolo.com says:
What Does it Mean to be Judgment Proof?

When a creditor sues you and gets a money judgment against you, it has a variety of methods it can use to collect on that money judgment. A creditor can garnish your wages, place a levy on your bank account, and/or place a lien against any real estate that you own.

However, if you don’t have any income or property that the creditor can legally go after, then you are what is often referred to as judgment proof. The term is a bit of a misnomer, because the creditor can sue you and get a judgment -- it just cannot collect on the judgment.
Once someone gets a judgement and places a lien on the house, even after the owner dies, the lien (and interest???) would need to be paid before the house can be sold.

genefl
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by genefl » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:30 am

I used to have a tree guy who drove around in a truck with a crew in the back. He charged about 1/2 of what the licensed and insured businesses charge and did a great job.

I stopped using him b/c I had him trim a fruit tree and his crew dropped a big branch onto the fence, breaking it and crushing the neighbor's expensive hedge. ALL of the cumulative savings over many years from using him went to fix the fence and replace the neighbor's hedge. Fortunately nobody was hurt. It was an expensive lesson to always use licensed and insured tree trimmers!

SpideyIndexer
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by SpideyIndexer » Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:59 pm

I am wrestling with this. Regarding a worker hurting oneself, they can only collect if a court finds you negligent, i.e. at fault. It's hard to understand one would be at fault for a roofer falling off one's roof for example.

For the case of a tree trimmer damaging a fence or a neighbor's house or car, that makes sense that the hiring party can be found responsible.

In the case of a worker not operating his tools correctly and injuring a coworker, it becomes murky. I guess if the injured party finds a good lawyer he could possibly get a settlement against the hiring party.
Last edited by SpideyIndexer on Mon Apr 29, 2019 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dm200
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by dm200 » Mon Apr 29, 2019 2:17 pm

genefl wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:30 am
I used to have a tree guy who drove around in a truck with a crew in the back. He charged about 1/2 of what the licensed and insured businesses charge and did a great job.

I stopped using him b/c I had him trim a fruit tree and his crew dropped a big branch onto the fence, breaking it and crushing the neighbor's expensive hedge. ALL of the cumulative savings over many years from using him went to fix the fence and replace the neighbor's hedge. Fortunately nobody was hurt. It was an expensive lesson to always use licensed and insured tree trimmers!
Yes - my understanding as well.

Details depend on your jurisdiction. In ours (Virginia) - the county told me Virginia does not license tree folks, so I needed to verify BOTH liability insurance (if the tree damages my house, neighbor's house, etc.) and workers compensation.

if your jurisdiction licenses tree folks, make sure they are licensed.

In addition to technically "liability" issues, there may be neighbor "issues" - if they do something that makes the neighbors unhappy. That is big concern of ours, since our house (and former trees) is very close to one neighbor.

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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by michaeljc70 » Mon Apr 29, 2019 2:50 pm

SpideyIndexer wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:59 pm
I am wrestling with this. Regarding a worker hurting oneself, they can only collect if a court finds you negligent, i.e. at fault. It's hard to understand one would be at fault for a roofer falling off one's roof for example.

For the case of a tree trimmer damaging a fence or a neighbor's house or car, that makes sense that the hiring party can be found responsible.

In the case of a worker not operating his tools correctly and injuring a coworker, it becomes murky. I guess if the injured party finds a good lawyer he could possibly get a settlement again the hiring party.
I'll paste something I posted on an umbrella thread. This happened to a close friend.

An elderly neighbor walking down the street stopped, bent over to say hi to his dog through the fence. The little dog reacted "aggressively" (aka barked) and she fell (needed surgery) and sued for $500k. My friend was distraught for months on end. Eventually he was lucky as they settled for the policy value and he didn't lose his home.

Your "fault" can be many things that you would never think of. If a guy falls and becomes a paraplegic on your property try telling the jury it wasn't your fault and see how it goes. There are countless stories like these. McDonalds+hot coffee was a well publicized one.

pshonore
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by pshonore » Mon Apr 29, 2019 7:18 pm

HIinvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:03 am
We only work with bonded, insured, licensed workers for tree trimming and painting multi-story buildings. We like sleeping well at night. Too many bad things could happen—very expensive to defend lawsuits—-I’m sn attorney but wouldn’t want to defend myself.
"Bonded" workers do not exist for the most part (unless its a contractor working on a public job) but their insurance will certainly pay if they're negligent and cause injury or property damage. Of course there are Fidelity bonds that will cover dishonesty like theft. And in most states, failure to provide Workers Comp for your employees (including household employees) will get you in serious trouble but there are people who still try to do it.

SpideyIndexer
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Re: Personal liability issues as a result of hiring uninsured & unlicensed handyman

Post by SpideyIndexer » Mon Apr 29, 2019 7:32 pm

Not trying to criticize anyone, including myself, but boy is the entire subject of liability a can of worms. There seems to be a long tail of possibility of being held liable for damages so I am finding it difficult to determine what is reasonable in terms of hiring workers or even how much insurance is reasonable to purchase.

I think though that telling a jury that I am not at fault is not just something I would do myself. If I have a large amount of liability coverage, my insurance company would be helping to defend me in court.

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