Another Good Reason to Have Worker’s Compensation Coverage- Death on the Job?

Another Good Reason to Have Worker’s Compensation Coverage- Death on the Job?

Hope I don’t get a reputation for pushing unnecessary insurance, but you do deserve to know  what goes on in my brain on the questions surrounding what decisions Boards have to make about insurance.I’m here to raise awareness, and perhaps help you sleep at night.

Here is a scenario I feel is critical in the scheme of helping board members understand the importance of having worker’s compensation insurance. Several years ago at a national law conference we were told about a case in another state where a board member went out to change a light bulb in the common area, placed his ladder in a small puddle of water, and was electrocuted. His family sued the HOA. The HOA did not have any coverage for this. Since that time, I, and other colleagues of mine, have I strongly encouraged boards of directors to get Worker’s Compensation insurance, even just the minimum policy available, along with the rider or endorsement that covers directors. Here’s the newest scenario I have heard about:

One of the HOA directors volunteered to provide the landscaping service of the common areas for a small amount of money. Well, I did not write that. I would not have put volunteered and for a small amount of money in the same sentence. They are completely incongruent and the differences are not small.

Anyway, the director apparently while performing the landscaping work collapsed and subsequently died. The person had a pre-existing heart condition and had not told the Board anything about it. I wonder if it would have made a difference. Imagine it –  a director on the one hand agreeing to performing the landscaping on the cheap vs. having to pay a legitimate landscaper who carries workers comp for the employees a lot more. What would you do? Maybe something different after reading this.

Aside from choosing right by hiring a reputable contractor, can’t you imagine this happening on just one occasion when a director goes out to tidy up the lawn before the annual meeting picnic? What if he ran over his own foot with the mower? What about a director being hit by a car when on the way to the bank with checks from owners for assessments to deposit?  Or worse, being shot in a bank robbery while on premises conducting HOA business? These are only a few possible scenarios where the failure to have workers compensation protection is a bad idea. (See other recent email on the can of worms that is opened when a director receives a stipend or small amount of pay for doing some task association-related.)

Frankly, I am not sure it makes a difference whether the board member is being paid or not if they are hurt performing work for the association. There might be a claim either way for injuries or death for a director performing association business. I also don’t know what happens when there is an undisclosed pre-existing condition. That is a better question for  a workers comp lawyer. But imagine that a director does not tell the board he or she has vertigo  and climbs up on the roof to check out a cracked tile and falls off the ladder. OOppppps. What happens then? Hope you are covered in any event.

I am open to feedback on this. If you know a case, send it along. I will share.




I have been a condo-homeowners association attorney for more than 24 years. I like helping people get their arms around their homeowner association problems and find a solution. A balanced attitude can go further to resolve issues than just about anything else.

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