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Who is liable when a neighborhood kid is cutting grass?

Who is liable when a neighborhood kid is cutting grass?

I hear there are still some teens out there willing to put down their phones, grab a lawnmower and make some money.  Good for you kid.  Even if you just want to save up for a better phone.

But who is liable while they’re cutting the grass (or raking leaves, mulching, planting flowers.. you get the idea)?

Well, that depends on what happens.  Did the worker get injured? Or did the neighbor cause damage to your property.  We’ll address each situation separately.

Scenario 1) Neighborhood kid is injured while cutting my grass

Any time a person is on your property, there is the potential for liability.  But just because they’re on your property, that doesn’t necessarily make you liable for their injuries.  To be liable, you have to contribute to the damage in some way.

When you are liable:

So for instance, let’s say you were planting a tree.  You started digging the hole and then stopped.  Gary from down the street offers to cut your grass and you say okay.  Gary can’t see the hole you started because of the tall grass, trips and tears a ligament in his leg.

In this case, you contributed by having a tripping hazard on  your property.  In that case, you would look to your homeowners policy to pay the liability claim for Gary’s medical payments.

When you are not liable:

What if Gary injures himself while clearing debris from his mower?  You didn’t have anything to do with his injuries, and so you will not be liable for his injuries.  That being said, I’m not an attorney and ultimately the courts always get the final say.  Just sayin..

Scenario 2) Neighborhood kid causes damage while mowing my lawn

First, I’m assuming if you hired a professional lawn service you’d check their insurance.  For more on certificates of insurance click here.  I think we can also assume the local kid hanging flyers on the telephone pole didn’t bother to get business insurance.  And that’s okay.

Homeowners insurance policies have limited coverage for kids in business.  Generally speaking, for kids under 18 there will be liability coverage if they are:

  • Self-employed
  • Do not have employees
  • Part time or occasional

That means if their lawnmower throws a rock at your neighbor’s car window (or worse, your neighbor) causing damage, then the kid’s (parent’s) home insurance should pay the claim.

In this case, you didn’t contribute to the damage, so you should not be liable for the claim.

Some things to watch out for:

Just remember these exceptions will void coverage.

If a young entrepreneur wants to expand his or her business by hiring other kids, then we have a problem.  Now we have employees in the mix. The employees’ parents’ home insurance won’t pay and neither will the boss’ parent’s policy.  The parents of the boss should also be concerned about injuries to the employees.  It’s doubtful homeowners insurance would pay for their injuries.

Lastly, if the kid is really ambitious, they may make lawn care a full time gig in the summer between high school and college.  Since it’s not part time or occasional, they need a business insurance policy.

Should I hire a neighborhood kid  or let my kid cut grass?

I say yes.  Hire that kid.  Or let your kid make some money.

Talk to your insurance agent about the implications first, but we need to encourage young entrepreneurial spirits.  There’s no way to totally eliminate the possibility of being sued.  But that’s true even if you hire a crew of adults.