Autumn leaves can be gorgeous - and wet and slippery. While people are fairly conscious of the dangers of ice underfoot, they often forget that all those beautiful fall leaves on the ground can be damp and slippery after a rain. Even dry leaves can be hiding slick, wet grass. If you own a home or a business, what can you do to minimize your responsibility for this seasonal danger?
1.) While you can't eliminate every possibility of a slip and fall on the leaves that are on your property, you should take steps to identify and fix any obvious hazards. If someone falls on your property and alleges that you "should have known" the situation was dangerous it's hard to defend yourself if you haven't taken any action at all to keep pathways clear of leaves and other hazards.
- Give your walkway, sidewalk, steps, porch, deck, or entranceway a daily inspection once leaves start to fall. Don't allow them to accumulate where people usually walk!
- Remember that it is getting dark earlier now, and leaves can be especially dangerous underfoot in the dark. Make sure that if you have evening business hours at work or are expecting guests at home after dark that you provide adequate lighting around doors, stairs, and pathways.
- Invest in a good mat that will trap wet leaves and keep people from tracking them inside. This is particularly important if you run a business and have a tile floor. Just about the only thing slicker than a wet leaf is a wet leaf on a smooth floor!
- Pay attention to driveways and parking lots. Invest in a leaf blower so that you can help visitors avoid a broken ankle while getting out of their cars.
- If you run a business, keep a log of when the leaves are swept up and the entrance ways cleared so that you have a record that proves that you were being attentive to the issue.
2. Keep leaf piles out of the way and off the beaten path. If possible, bag up leaves as soon as you rake or blow them together. If you can't bag them up and it's legal to blow them into the street for the city to collect, do that rather than create a leaf pile on your own property. If you have to create a leaf pile, try to cover it with a heavy tarp until you can get rid of the leaves.
The reason that you don't want a big pile of leaves sitting around is that children (and some adults) find them irresistible. Kids love to run and jump in a big pile of leaves -- and that running and jumping can easily turn into slipping, falling, and a trip to the emergency room for a broken bone or concussion. Under the attractive nuisance doctrine, you can be held responsible for a child's injuries if you create something on your property that is likely to attract children. (Fortunately, you can't be held responsible for adults who also like jumping in leaf piles. They're expected to know that their behavior is risky.)
Slip and fall injuries are serious concerns -- they're the second largest cause of all accidental deaths. Don't just hope that you'll be lucky enough to avoid a problem. Be proactive and take steps to minimize the risk to yourself and others this season. For further assistance, contact a local slip and fall lawyer, such as one from The Law Offices of Gregg Durlofsky.