Homeowners know that labor is typically a big part of the cost of home improvement projects. For many it’s enough that doing the work themselves is the better choice. Although doing your own construction work can be rewarding, it can also create potential legal liability.
Liability for hazards
In Nevada a homeowner has a general duty to take reasonable care to maintain the home in a condition that is safe for guests. If the homeowner is aware of a potentially dangerous condition, such as a broken bannister, the law requires that the homeowner notify guests of the hazard. For a project with clearly understood dangers notifying guests about them may be straightforward. For example, a homeowner who digs a big trench in the front yard can place warning signs around it to caution passersby about the hole.
But doing major work on a home can create hazards that aren’t known to the homeowner until they become serious problems. Fixtures that aren’t properly installed can fall and injure guests. Unsafe electrical practices could lead to fire. Removing structural components could make the entire home unsafe. If someone is hurt by conditions like these, they will have good cause for suing the homeowner.
Insurance may not pay for DIY mistakes
A homeowner’s liability insurance will often cover risks for routine things like trip-and-fall accidents caused by the upturned edge of a rug. Where insurance might refuse to pay is if the homeowner has undertaken a do-it-yourself project that was not compliant with local rules, such as permitting requirements. Failing to use a licensed contractor for certain types of projects can also give an insurance company an excuse to not pay. This extends to significant parts of a home, including gas lines, plumbing, and electrical
If a homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover injuries caused by the homeowner’s negligence the homeowner may be faced with significant unmitigated costs. In practice this means that a homeowner needs to be cautious about taking on projects that involve high degrees of risk. It may be significantly cheaper to hire a professional than to attempt doing dangerous work yourself. Key questions the homeowner should ask before tackling a project are:
- Does the work involve anything that could cause a fire?
- Does the work involve tearing down structural components that may have a nonobvious role in the home’s engineering?
- Can the project be finished in a reasonable period of time so that hazards don’t pose a risk for longer than necessary?
- Does the homeowner anticipate vulnerable guests, like small children or people with health problems, being present during construction?
GGRM is a Las Vegas injury law firm
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured in a home or if you have questions about how home projects may affect your liability, please contact is today for a free attorney consultation. Call 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website