Damages Liability: Can an independent contractor be held liable for damages?

Whether you’re a general contractor, subcontractor, or an independent contractor, you know that the risks involved in your everyday work are many and varied. You probably also know that liability insurance protects both contractors and clients from potential hazards and unforeseen damages. But do all contractors - including independent contractors - need to carry liability insurance? Well, it really depends on whether they will be held responsible, or liable, for any damages that occur. 

 

Who Is Liable?

 

While vicarious liability can be a legitimate concern, it really only applies in a select few cases: 1) if a general contractor or business owner is somehow negligent in choosing the right independent contractor; 2) if the tasks assigned to the independent contractor cannot be delegated; and 3) if the work performed qualifies as very hazardous. In these sorts of situations, it is possible that someone other than the independent contractor could carry a weight of liability. But these cases are far and few.

 

The everyday, real world situation is that liability for property damage, physical injury, advertising or reputational injury and other legal issues generally falls squarely in an independent contractor’s lap. Without insurance, that could mean expensive, out-of-pocket legal costs, a hit to your business, and a damaged reputation.

 

Insurance for Independent Contractors

 

We’ve established that liability is a real threat to contractors of all kinds. It’s also true that insurance is a top way to mitigate that risk and confidently carry on business, no matter the size. But there are more than these two important reasons to look into liability insurance.

 

One key reason to carry protection against liability is that it’s what your clients want. Oftentimes before a client will sign your contract, they need to be sure that they’re protected should something go wrong. They want to know that liability won’t fall back on them for potential accidents or negligence. And that’s totally understandable, especially in today’s litigious world. Everyone just wants to cover their possible exposures to risk, your client included. 

 

The lesson? Operating without liability insurance could cost you a contract. Liability insurance could also open you up to bigger deals, since it often helps contractors to qualify for leases and contracts that are up for bid. And it might even be required by law, depending on the industry or trade you’re in.

 

In the end, general liability insurance for independent contractors is a must-have, not just a nice-to-have. This is true whether you’re a landscape contractor who loses control of a tree limb or a concrete contractor who damages property during a delivery. Yes, there are always on-the-job safeguards in place, but random accidents happen every day. 

 

Electricians, plumbers, carpenters and roofers–you all handle vital parts of a building’s structure and system functions. If something goes awry during or after your work, that’s more than a minor inconvenience–it’s a serious risk, and your clients need recourse. This principle of protection applies to all independent contractors, from heavy equipment operators to septic companies. It’s the best way to do business and a top way to appeal to potential clients.

 

As is true with any type of insurance, costs will vary. In general, pricing for liability insurance will depend on level of risk exposure, location, your professional experience, and policy details, like coverage limit and deductible level. 

 

Beyond Liability Insurance

 

To be fully protected from every angle, independent contractors need to look beyond the worksite. Additional coverage options that could be major safeguards for your business:

 

  • Commercial auto insurance
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Errors and omissions insurance/professional liability insurance
  • Business income insurance
  • Commercial property insurance

 

Working with an experienced agency is the best way to be sure that you’re getting comprehensive coverage at a fair price. Contractors By Zinc is fueled by the team at Zinc Insurance and is part of the Zinc family of brands. We know what risks you face, and we know how important proof of insurance is to your clients. That’s why we offer competitive products and deliver fast, reliable service, including ready access to professional certificates and surety bonding.


Get in touch today to learn more and request your personalized quote!

This blog post does not provide insurance advice and is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional insurance advice from a licensed representative. Never ignore professional insurance advice because of something you have read in this blog post. Contact your licensed representative if you have any questions about your insurance policy.

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  • Josh Freet

    ZINC's Contractor Insurance Expert

    Josh Freet, ZINC's contractor insurance expert

      440-671-3001

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