Contractor Negligence Under Nebraska Law
A contractor is bound by Nebraska law to complete every project and turn it over to its tenant or owner in a “workmanlike manner” and also to maintain the construction site (while work is ongoing) in a “reasonably safe” condition. Contractors must adhere by Nebraska law to all building codes, and any violation of building codes is considered evidence of negligence.
Workers on the site are covered for injuries by the contractor’s obligation to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which is meant to be the exclusive recourse for employees. Courts have ruled that the “Nebraska Workmen's Compensation Act provides the sole remedy by the employee against the employer for any injury arising out of and in the course of the employment.”
However, others who are not workers and are rightfully on the construction site (i.e., not trespassing) are not bound by this provision and can seek claims for injuries through legal action. Also, people who are injured after the work is completed can seek damages but are limited by what is known as the “accepted work doctrine.” This doctrine holds that the contractor is not liable for negligence when, after completion of the project, injuries or damages occur to those who had no contractual relationship with the contractor.
Another doctrine, known as “degree of control,” holds that whoever holds ultimate control over the work being done is responsible for any claims of negligence. This would in most cases be the general contractor, but if the owner of the site exerts “sufficient” control over construction, then they are liable.
Nebraska Laws Governing Negligence
Nebraska is a comparative negligence state. This means that, should you seek a claim against a contractor for an injury you sustained, you will be liable for any portion of fault you shared in the incident. If you’re deemed to be 20% at fault and a jury awards you $20,000, the award will be reduced by 20% to $16,000. If you are 50% or more at fault, you collect nothing.
The concept of joint and several liability holds that, for the recovery of economic damages, all parties involved in the lawsuit are liable. In other words, they hold joint and several liability. For the recovery of noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, the award shall be divided according to each negligent party’s percentage of fault. This means there is several liability only. Potential defendants in a negligence case may include:
- Construction site owners
- Contractors and subcontractors
- Equipment manufacturers
Nebraska law also holds that it is “against public policy and wholly unenforceable” if a construction agreement or contract contains a clause to indemnify (hold harmless) “another person from such person’s own negligence.”