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Liability of a General Contractor

An important part of most construction accidents that happen in Birmingham and throughout Alabama is determining the liability of the general contractor. Our Birmingham, Alabama construction injury attorneys at Cross & Smith have extensive experience in handling cases involving general contractor liability.

On many construction jobs, the owner requires the general contractor to be responsible for work place safety. General contractor’s then often delegate much of the work to subcontractors. The contract between the general contractor and the subcontractor often contains a provision that delegates the duty for safe performance of the work to the subcontractor as well. However, if the general contractor reserves the right to control the work of the subcontractor, the general contractor cannot delegate the duty to provide work place safety and may be held liable for construction site injures.

While the contract between the general contractor and subcontractor often contains boilerplate language delegating work place safety, the contract may also contain language that provides a basis to conclude that control over the work site has been retained by the general contractor. Our construction accident lawyers at Cross & Smith understand that the test for control is not the actual interference with the work of the subcontractor but the right to exercise such control. We also understand that how the parties characterize the relationship in the contact is of no consequence; it is the facts of the relationship that matter.

In determining whether a general contractor has reserved the right to control the work of a subcontractor, there are no hard and fast rules which can be used. No one feature of the relationship is determinative, but all must be considered together. The primary factors to considered are as follows: (1) contractual language; (2) direct evidence of right or exercise of control; (3) method of payment; (4) furnishing of equipment; (5) and the right to fire. White v. Henshaw, 363 So. 2d 986 (Ala. Civ. App. 1978). Our construction accident attorneys at Cross & Smith have substantial experience in applying these factors and relevant evidence to Birmingham construction accident cases involving general contractor liability.

If the general contractor undertakes to provide safety inspections, the general contractor may be found liable for failing to properly inspect the construction site. Under Alabama law, once a general contractor voluntarily undertakes to perform safety inspections, the general contractor is under a duty to use due care in this undertaking.

A general contractor cannot delegate the duty to safely perform work that is ultra-hazardous or inherently dangerous. Stated differently, a general contractor who employs a subcontractor to carry on an inherently dangerous activity cannot insulate himself from liability. The Alabama Supreme Court has held that the use of highly caustic paint remover is an inherently dangerous activity and has also recognized the use of pesticides and insecticides as an inherently dangerous activity. Generally speaking, courts will find work to be inherently dangerous if the work is fraught with danger, no matter how skillfully or carefully it is performed. Fike v. Peace, 964 So. 2d 651 (Ala. 2/?p=1007). The following are examples of work that has been found to be inherently dangerous: blasting operations, walking on bare structural beams high above the ground, cleaning tanks that contain highly explosive chemicals, PCB disposal, transportation of toxic chemicals, drilling for natural gas and sandblasting.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a construction accident, please contact the experienced Birmingham, Alabama construction accident attorneys at Cross & Smith. The attorneys at Cross & Smith have represented numerous individuals in construction accidents in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. You may contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consulation.

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