According to OHS Canada, more than 40,000 workers are injured each year from fall accidents across the country. Roofers, in particular, are the most susceptible, with 75% of fatalities in the roofing industry due to falls.
So you may wonder, “Can a roofer sue me if he falls off my roof?” In case a roofing accident happens, you may have roofer liability, depending on the circumstances.
Who Is Liable for An Injury or Death Due To A Roofing Accident?
Although you can’t control their actions (and there are some cases where they may be at fault), the property owner or the person who hired the roofing contractor can be liable for neglect, interference, and/or lack of proper documentation.
Legally, roofer liability may vary on a case-to-case basis. But here are some of the most common scenarios where homeowners may be held legally liable for roofing accidents.
- The roofing contractor was not properly vetted and was hired even with no license or proof of adequate training.
- The property owner did not disclose any known dangers related to the property, leading to a roofing accident.
- The property owner agreed to let the roofer borrow their tools or equipment, and a tool malfunction resulted in a roofing accident.
- The property owner interfered with the roofer’s work, whether physically or verbally, resulting in an accident.
- The hiring party lacks proper documentation or contract that releases them from roofer liability in case of any untoward incidents.
What Property Owners Can Do to Avoid Roofer Liability
1. Make Sure Your Roofing Contractor Has License and Training
The first crucial step is to vet prospective roofing contractors thoroughly before you hire them.Before signing or agreeing to anything, ask for documents to prove that the roofing contractor is trained and licensed. It is recommended that you get copies for yourself and verify if they are valid by contacting the licensing body in your region.
Since April of 2017, Ontario requires skilled workers, like roofing contractors, to complete a working at heights training. Ask your contractor for proof that they have taken this training and verify accordingly.
Another step you can take is to look into honest reviews from third-party sites about the roofing contractor you intend to hire. Read about what their previous clients have to say about their work ethics and experience with them.
2. Inspect the Safety of the Workspace and Give Adequate Warnings
Is there a loose fixture on your roof (e.g. satellite dishes, skylights, windows, etc.)? Are there holes or failing parts on your roof that can collapse if a person steps on them?
Some of the above problems can undergo repairs beforehand or can be addressed by the roofers. Either way, you must inform the roofer of any known construction site hazards to avoid any potential roofing accident and protect yourself from any legal liability.
3. Ask If They Have the Necessary Contractor Insurance
The final practice that will protect you from liability due to negligence is ensuring that the roofer has worker’s compensation insurance or personal coverage. This will cover their medical bills, reimburse their lost income, or in some cases, provide death benefits in the event of a roofing accident.
To shoot two birds with one stone, you can also check if they have an active roofer’s liability insurance, which will offer protection if a roofing accident happens and harms you or your loved ones or damages your property. Once you have proof of the above must-have insurance policies, call the insurer to confirm that they are still valid and active.
4. Do NOT Lend Any Tools or Equipment
Letting your contractor borrow tools or equipment makes you legally liable if a malfunction results in a roofing accident. This is why it’s advisable to let the roofer know that you won’t be lending anything. Professional and reputable roofing contractors should secure the necessary tools and equipment they need to get the job done.
5. Do Not Physically or Verbally Interfere While They Work
Physical or verbal interferences that lead to a roofing accident can lead to a roofing liability on your part. On-the-fly instructions and modifications should be avoided. It is best to cover the scope and plan of the project while the roofer is safe on the ground and before any of the work even begins.
6. Secure a Release of Liability
A release of liability, also known as a liability waiver, is a written agreement wherein the roofer waives their right to make legal claims against you in case a roofing accident happens. Secure and established roofers, who are also well-insured, are typically willing to include this in your contract, so make sure to ask.
7. Have Everything in Writing—NO Verbal-Only Agreements
It is recommended that all your correspondence should be in writing. These include:
- Give warnings about potential hazards on your roof
- Establish that you won’t lend tools or equipment
- You will not do anything that may cause interference with roofing work
Though these can be initially verbally communicated, make sure to have written counterparts, whether as emails or part of the contract.
8. Get a Copy of The Contract
Request a copy of the contract. The contract should include the scope of the project, costs, liability waiver, and other pertinent elements discussed above.
Your Reliable Resource For All Things Insurance
The above roofer liability precautions will help all parties know what to expect, reducing potential stress should roofing accidents happen.
Whether you are looking for a more comprehensive commercial property insurance, or a roofing company searching for more customized roofing insurance, we’re here to help.
KASE Insurance offers an award-winning service that makes commercial insurance easy for everyone.