Who is Liable When a Subcontractor is Injured in Massachusetts?

Injuries on construction sites can be extremely serious, and workers often need extensive medical care. The relationship between injured workers, subcontractors, and general contractors can make for a very complicated case.

A general contractor might be liable for injuries to a subcontractor depending on how much control the general contractor had over the subcontractor’s work. The more control the general contractor retains, the more likely they can be held liable for injuries. Similarly, a homeowner might be liable for injuries to subcontractors and other workers based on how much control they exercise over the construction project. Depending on the property’s conditions, they might instead be liable under a theory of premises liability. Numerous parties might be liable for injuries to laborers, including general contractors, subcontractors, homeowners, and other third parties. Depending on who is liable, insurance might play a significant role.

If you were injured on a conduction site, our Boston construction accident attorneys can help you determine who is liable and how to get compensation. For a free case review, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407.

Is a General Contractor Liable for Injuries to a Subcontractor?

General contractors tend to oversee the entire project, while subcontractors are hired to perform more specific jobs, and workers usually work as instructed by the contractors who hired them. When a subcontractor is injured, the general contractor might be liable, depending on the situation.

General contractors might not tell subcontractors what to do or how to work, and much of the job is left up to the subcontractors themselves. Even so, Massachusetts case law has held that general contractors might owe a duty of care toward subcontractors and their employees if the general contractor has retained the right to control the subcontractor’s work, according to Corsetti v. StoneCo.

This begs the question, how much control did the general contractor, in your case, have over your job? Did the general contractor retain the right to oversee the safety of the entire construction site? If so, they might be liable for accidents and injuries. Our Woburn construction accident attorneys can help you understand the situation and hopefully get compensation for your injuries.

When is the Homeowner Liable for Injuries to Contractors?

Since the homeowner is the legal owner of the property where a contractor might be injured, the homeowner, in theory, could be liable for injuries related to unsafe conditions or hazards that should have been repaired or removed. Determining liability comes down to the specific circumstances of the case. Our Wilmington construction accident attorneys can help you figure out liability and how to get compensation.

Homeowners should warn workers of potential hazards or unsafe conditions when the construction project begins. For example, if contractors are performing work in the basement, but the basement steps are unsafe from wood rot, the homeowner must at least warn the contractors of the hazard.

Generally, homeowners step out of the way once contractors begin work, but a homeowner might open themselves up to liability if they exercise control over the job. For example, suppose a homeowner demands that contractors perform the job in a specific way or using tools provided by the homeowner. In that case, the homeowner might be liable for accidents or injuries.

Who is Responsible for Injuries to Laborers?

Determining who is liable for injuries to laborers on construction projects is often a challenging task. There might be numerous parties above the laborer, including subcontractors, general contractors, and the homeowner. Our Saugus construction accident lawyers can assist you in figuring out liability for your injuries.

General Contractors

General contractors often oversee the entire project and are in charge of hiring subcontractors and various laborers. Depending on how much control the general contractor exercises over the job, they might be liable for injuries to laborers.


Similarly, subcontractors oversee more specific aspects of the construction project and direct their workers. If a subcontractor exerts control over an element of the construction project, even if that element is not part of the job they were hired to do or does not involve their laborers, they might be liable for injuries.


As mentioned earlier, the homeowner might be liable for injuries to laborers if the homeowner exerts control over how the laborers do their jobs. This is less typical, as many homeowners prefer to step back and let contractors do their jobs without interference. However, they might also be liable if unsafe hazards or conditions on their property caused the injuries.

Third Parties

Third parties not directly involved in the accident might also be liable. Commonly, manufacturers of faulty tools, equipment, machinery, or safety gear are held liable for injuries to laborers. An injured laborer can sue the manufacturer because their products were poorly designed or defective.

How Insurance Affects Liability for Subcontractor Injuries

Generally, if the homeowner is liable for the accident, their homeowner’s insurance may be used to cover expenses related to the accident. It is a good idea for homeowners to check on their insurance status before construction begins. Even if the homeowner does not plan on taking an active role in the project, having sufficient insurance is a smart idea.

If the liable party is a general or subcontractor who hired you, Workers’ Compensation insurance might be a significant issue in the case. Remember, only employees are covered by Workers’ Compensation. While there is no single statute or governing rule regarding who is and is not an employee, there is a three-prong test under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 149 § 148(b):

  • The worker is controlled or directed by someone else under the terms of the contract for their services,
  • The worker performs their duties outside their usual course of business, or
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established profession of the same nature as the services contracted for.

If these factors do not apply to you, you might be an employee and should be covered by Workers’ Compensation. While this can help you get compensation for your injuries, it prevents you from suing your employer and holding them liable. However, Workers’ Compensation does not prevent an injured subcontractor from suing other liable third parties.

If one of the above factors describes your working situation, you might be a contractor exempt from Workers’ Compensation, and our Somerville construction accident lawyers can help you file a lawsuit.

Call Our Massachusetts Construction Accident Attorneys for Help

After an accident on a construction job, getting compensation might be challenging if you are unsure whom to hold liable. Our Milton construction accident lawyers can help you. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free case review.