Not talking about job workshops, but
working with friends on projects at home shop.
Looking for some advise or experiences.
My tools and shop and buddy or neighbor gets
hurt doing something. What do you do to keep
from possible legal problems associated with
an accident. How do you protect yourself
without first making a lawyer drawn up contract
with them? Or is that what you have to do. I'm aware of
making sure they know how to use tools safely
but what else.
The sad but easy answer is to refrain from having people work at your
shop or on your premises.
It is easy for an attorney to sue you, even if the incident was an
accident. Simple questions will be asked:
- WHO was it that decided this person was qualified to use the tools
- Did you know the risks before you let him use the XXXX saw? Did you
make him aware he could lose an eye/finger? Did he UNDERSTAND
completely the risks involved?
- Since you were the one with the tools, the one that checked him out
to work with your tools, did you supervise him? Who watched him while
you went to the bathroom/got a cold drink/checked on dinner/talked to
your kids, etc.?
- And BTW - who died and made you the King of all power tools and
their use? Did you specifically tell and demonstrate him the correct
approach to using the tool that cut off his finger?
It goes on and on and on. There is NO way for you to dodge liability,
even it was an accident. You or your insurance will be liable, and
YOU possibly face the evils of subrogation. Even in the face of it
being an actual accident, if it is an expensive injury your insurance
company will make all efforts to recoup their medical, legal,
processing and case monitoring costs.
I have been coached well in this by my insurance agent. Further by my
sister that is an underwriting trainer and claims supervisor for a
My answer to my neighbors is sorry, can't do it.
And remember this; the larger the accident, the more likely they will
be to sue, just from the sheer economics of the cost of medical
treatment, deductibles, time off work, etc.
A legal contract simply will not protect you. Worse, if they can
prove simple negligence on your part (cords not grounded correctly, no
safety glasses, no gloves, no ground faults, no dust collections or
masks, adequate workspace, etc. ) you could be open to civil
liability as well.
Thanks for all the responses everyone, Seems as if the
now set up so a couple guys cannot get together to build
for the pleasure of doing it without having to worry about
if are you going to
loose everything you have for a hobby or a pleasant evening.
Also shows what
can happen if an accident happens to someone other than
the insurance companies and lawyers take it over and out of
Leaves a lot to think about if that comes up. Not what I was
but I wanted to know the reality of what could result.
Well, it's just as true if you invite the neighbors over for a wienie
roast and somebody were to step off the stoop so don't get _too_ uptight
despite the "what if's" and "could be's".
The upshot is in my estimation to live your life but _do_ be sensible.
Make sure you do have sufficient coverage for liability and ensure that
the coverage includes shop tools.
If one were to try to be totally risk-averse there would be nothing one
I think it has to do with the individuals involved too. If I
were over at a friends
shop working on a project with them, and something happened
to me, I wouldn't
be looking to sue them or anyone else for that matter. As
far as equipment goes,
I wouldn't try to use a power tool that I didn't know
anything about until shown
or read the manual on how to use it. But some people have
different ideas of
how to live and interact with others. There are some that I
know that I'd not want
over to a weenie roast or anything else for that matter. :)
It'd be my fault if they
choked on a hotdog. Those types, you want at a distance
All the above is true and I've no disagreement at all.
The only other comment I would make is that even someone you've known
long time can become very different person in the event of serious
accident and injury.
I don't do other than you're outlining above, but I am pretty stiff in
the "who" doesn't stay at a distance.
I have the potential issues of employees, of course, but as farm rather
than industrial there's a fair amount of leeway as opposed to some of
the guys here who are actually running commercial shops.
For the lawyers to take over, they usually have to have a living plaintiff
(nudge-nudge, hint-hint). Failing that, the deceased's estate gets involved
(nudge-nudge, know-what-I-mean? know-what-I-mean?). Eventually, the search
for heirs will peter out.
Do you have good homeowner's insurance and will it cover friends using your
tools in your shop? Do your friends have good medical insurance? Do you
have a good lawyer, and plenty of savings to pay that lawyer if something
goes wrong? If the answer to all these questions is "yes" then maybe you'll
be okay even if someone gets hurt. But if somebody is injured on your
property and decides to sue you, or if an insurance company hit with a claim
decides to sue you, then your retirement fund is going to be depleted first
by your legal bills and then perhaps by a judgment against you.
It might be worth a couple of hundred bucks to talk to a lawyer about this.
But I have a couple of friends who are lawyers and I bet I know what they
would have to say about the idea--don't do it unless you enjoy the feeling
of rolling the dice.
Lots and lots and lots of liability insurance. Or have it be generally
known that you're so poor that even if they sued you and won and you sold
everything you had they wouldn't get back legal fees and court costs.
It's been interesting reading the comments to this. I'm up in Canada so
maybe things are different here, but I haven't heard of anyone suing a
friend because they were injured in a friend's shop. It's probably
happened, but I haven't heard of it.
Good Lord! How did we do this to ourselves?
I spent 2 months in southern California during the late 1980's and
couldn't understand how the locals could let gangs take over the LA
area. A few years later they were doing the same thing in Wichita,
But sometimes I think we have let lawyers do as much damage as gangs.
Can you even buy home woners insurance with out coverage for some one
getting hurt on your property? If you don't have home owners insurance you
are asking for trouble.
For that matter, a guest could slip on a spill in your kitchen, or fall in
the the bath tub, or trip over a garden hose, or cut himself on a broken
glass, the list goes on. It would be wise to consult you insurance agent.
If one has a mortgage, that's undoubtedly a requirement.
The problem generally isn't that there is a policy; it's that the limits
are too low (by far)...
I don't know if the shop would qualify as the "attractive nuisance"
hazard since it isn't outside tempting the neighbor kids as the pool but
certainly the possibility of a potentially serious (read "expensive")
accident is raised w/ power tools.
The facts are that "friends" and/or even more likely w/ "just neighbors"
is that the friendship or acquaintanceship will disappear if there is an
accident of any consequence and the insurance companies get involved.
At that point it becomes a case of what the actual legal liabilities
are, friendship or no.
That said, I'd not say unequivocally "no", but I would surely recommend
the blanket umbrella policy of at _least_ $1M and make clear from the
underwriter it covers such activity.
It isn't an attractive nuisance. It is considered something far
worse, which thankfully, the name escapes me. But it has to do with
you holding meetings/get togethers or what ever you want to call them
in unsafe or unsupervised conditions. I will personally guarantee
that sight unseen I could go into anyone's shop, mine included and
find a half dozen OSHA violations in just minutes, rendering them
unsafe. And if you know they exist (loose rung on a ladder, poor dust
ventilation, ungrounded plug, etc.) then you could be found negligent.
All an attorney has to do in open court is to get you to admit that
you knew you had a frayed wire, a plane with a worn out frog that lets
the blade slip, a saw with a guard doesn't return to cover the blade
in a crisp manner, and you are toast. If you admit to one thing, it
is the same as admitting you knew all along there were unsafe
conditions in your shop, thus making it a >>unnecessarily<< dangerous
You will be questioned as well as to who trained you (and their
qualifications) if someone gets hurt while using tools under your
tutelage. Believe me, the "I learned it from an old fella that had
been doing it for 30 years" won't count. You won't believe what a
dumbass you will feel like when they ask you, "how did you learn to
use this tool?" and make you state you had no "formal" training.
Knowing you didn't take a class to use a circular saw, the (attorneys)
will ask you, "then how do you know you are using it the correct way,
the safest way? And what in the world qualified you to be a teacher?"
As important, the question will be asked concerning your "plan" for
first aid. What was it? Did you know people can get hurt using edged
or powered tools? You knew that, right? OK.... then what were you
prepared to do about it? Do you even have the proper sized first aid
kit for 3-4 people in the shop?
And the worst sin possible? To sell anything that you make in the
shop/not shop. That defines it as a commercial enterprise. I think
you actually have to sell a dollar amount, but it's pretty low.
Can anyone here tell I have been sued more than once?
Absolutely true. And the insurance companies don't care who was
friends or not. They will take all responsibility, common sense, and
well meaning efforts out of the equation.
The key here is to understand that the insurance companies will take
control of who pays what, who sues who, and how it all comes together
completely away from the homeowner. They will do what they need to do
to protect their own interests, with or without your participation or
input. In some high ticket settlements, they will sue each other just
to mitigate the losses they face. You will have absolutely no control
whatsoever in their actions.
For example, my insurance my and I were talking about this situation,
and he went to a class to renew his license a few years ago. An
example they studied was where the insureds were doing exactly as CC
described. But in his case study, the example folks had a rule of
putting in $5 a week for refreshments and to contribute a couple of
bucks for the use of the facility (aka - the garage).
Since they ragged each other to make sure they collected so they would
have money in the kitty for cold drinks, a possible lunch, and maybe a
cold beer at the end of a hot summer day, they were considered dues.
Dues were defined >very< simply as a set amount, collected at a
specified time, by a certain person that kept record of who paid and
Further, they called themselves something stupid thanks to a wife that
thought the nearly weekly assembly was "cute". They were "The
Termites", "Nahmies" something like that.
Now we have a club. 1) It was an organized meeting ("we try to meet
around 6:30 or so in the evening, either Tuesday or Thursday during
the week") with 2) dues to be paid, and 3) it even had a name. I am
sure they would have sealed their own fate if someone got them tee
A "club" meeting in the house violated his homeowner insurance
description of coverage, so the injury that brought these conditions
to light was denied by his own insurance. No coverage.
Everyone sued everyone in an attempt to hold each other responsible
and to collect, and in the end only the attorneys were made whole.
So... if anyone wants to play that game, go ahead. It's like running
through the house with a kitchen knife in your hand; no big deal
unless you trip.
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