As we welcome fall, we also welcome leaves and rain. There are distinct risks associated with pedestrians as compared to property owners. As a property owner, leaves on your property could be problematic for you. Stay in the know on how to protect yourself and others as the season’s change.
Am I Liable if Someone is Injured on My Property?
As fall weather makes its introduction, it is important to keep your property safe if you are a property owner or a lessee who is in charge of maintenance of the property. The fall and winter months are when the majority of slip and fall accidents occur. Slippery surfaces are common in regions throughout Pennsylvania. Be on the lookout for black ice overtop or around areas of leaves. Fallen leaves make their presence known in piles on cars, sidewalks, and outside businesses, on pathways, and in front of entryways. Like snow pileup, leaves should always be cleared from the pathway, sidewalks, and anywhere you are responsible for cleanup. Should you miss a spot, and someone slips and falls on your property, you could be liable for damages. Both homeowners and business owners alike are responsible to keep walkways safe in inclement weather, and that includes surfaces where there is leaf buildup. The Restatement of Torts 2d Section 343, adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, holds that a property owner is liable to a pedestrian where the pedestrian is hurt on the owner’s property where the property owner knew of a dangerous condition, or though the exercise of reasonable inspections would have learned of the dangerous condition. It is certainly not a stretch to see how slippery leaves would fall into the category of being a dangerous condition.
How Can I Ensure That My Property is Completely Clear of Hazard?
In addition to fallen leaves and black ice, this time of year brings fallen branches, intense storms, hail damage, and potentially damage to your property. Be aware of your responsibility as a property owner to check on everything that could cause a problem in the fall foliage. It is especially important to know who is in charge of clean-up efforts year-round.
Property managers who clear the fallen leaf buildup early on in the season are nevertheless still responsible to regularly inspect the premises when additional, sticks, and branches fall, all of which can be traps for pedestrians. Maintenance and cleanup are just as important as the initial removal and should be kept up with regularly.
Keep warning signs around when necessary and prominently display them to alert anyone who walks past your home or business where there is uneven or slippery ground. As soon as you see something concerning, clean it up immediately instead of putting it off. This includes leaves that may be covering other defects on the property that can be traps for the unwary pedestrian.
Here are some tips any property owner should keep in mind to keep their property safe this season:
- Check the weather forecast to be able to prepare your property ahead of time.
- Rake leaves early and often and maintains cleaning throughout the season. Find out where to take leaves or who picks them up once they are raked together.
- Fill all cracks, holes, and divots so that leaves cannot pile up and mask the ground below.
- Salt the ground when you see freezing temperatures in the weather report or you are expecting snow or ice in the upcoming weather.
- Utilize warning signs in order to notify passersby of the dangerous walking space.
If I Am Injured in a Slip and Fall Caused by Slippery Leaves, What Are My Rights?
October, November, and December bring chills and crisp leaves. Whether you are at home, taking the kids to a local pumpkin patch, or walking through your neighborhood, before you crunch down on leaves underfoot, check where you are walking. During inclement weather, wear shoes with rubber soles and good traction. Pay attention to where you are walking and what you are walking on. Pennsylvania law states that pedestrians can be “comparatively negligent” in a slip and fall case. What that means is that the pedestrian has a duty to look where he or she is walking and to use reasonable care when walking. Leaves often cover up cracks, potholes, divots in the sidewalk, areas with puddles from heavy rainfall, and even snow or ice. The pedestrian must pay attention to these hazards, even though walking on someone else’s property. Just because a fall down occurs it does not mean the pedestrian is free of some responsibility for his or her own accident and injury.
Having said that, if you are injured due to a slip and fall, we at Carpey Law can help. Typically, most of the responsibility in a slip and fall accident rests on the property owner, not the pedestrian who has fallen and gotten hurt. Carpey Law slip and fall lawyers have over 30 years of experience in the Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Chester, Berks, and Bucks County area.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.