Autumn Leaves Can Be Pretty, Pretty Dangerous

The trees in Philadelphia blossom with color when the autumn leaves arrive. The colors are bright and festive, and the leaves eventually wind up falling to the ground and creating a slip and fall hazard. As the autumn rains pick up when the calendar gets closer to winter, the wet leaves become more of a problem. The problem with wet autumn leaves is more than just the occasional injured pedestrian who slips and falls. The potential for a personal injury lawsuit being filed after a fall puts property owners on edge. 

The Weather And The Leaves

One of the big problems with autumn leaves is that they do not always fall straight to the ground. Those cold, autumn winds can carry the leaves to places where people are not expecting them. When the leaves first fall to the ground, they are light and can be picked up easily by the wind and moved to just about any building in the immediate area.

Concrete residential structures with no trees close to them could find their concrete exterior stairwells covered in leaves because of the winds. When the rain and early snows come in, those leaves become significant slipping hazards on the concrete steps.

Unexpected Leaf Hazards

Autumn leaves blowing around in the Philadelphia streets are more than just possible slip and fall situations for pedestrians. When those leaves get into the streets and get wet, they become serious hazards for drivers too. Every vehicle from small cars to large trucks can find themselves sliding out of control thanks to leaves in the streets.

Blowing leaves can also clog up the storm drains and, when they get wet, they create flooding hazards for the streets. When the weather turns very cold, that water turns to ice and the situation gets even worse. Leaves can also clog the downspouts on homes and businesses and do a tremendous amount of water damage to the building.

On top of all of this, when the leaves dry and remain dry in the cold winds leading up to winter, they become fire hazards. The exhaust or catalytic converter that has been running can be exceptionally hot, and they could ignite any of the dry leaves that the vehicle comes into contact with. In general, autumn leaves are a problem and property owners are often responsible for the damage done.

The Laws Regarding Autumn Leaves

In order for a property owner to be negligent for someone else’s injuries in a slip and fall accident, the property owner must have the opportunity to be alerted that there is a potential problem. For example, a property owner who has a tree on their premises should be realistically expected to know that they need to clear their leaves for safety’s sake. But a property owner with no trees in their immediate area cannot be expected to know when a random group of leaves suddenly appears on their stairway.

In a 2003 case involving a building owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), a plaintiff sued the PHA because they slipped on wet leaves in one of the PHA’s concrete stairwells. While the judgment absolved the PHA on the grounds of sovereign immunity, the court did note that the PHA could not be held accountable for those leaves because there is no indication that the leaves came from the immediate area. Once again, the property owner must be given reasonable notice, or must reasonably expect there to be a slip and fall hazard, before they can be held negligent.

When you are walking around Philadelphia in the autumn, you should take some time to enjoy the beautiful autumn leaves. But as the weather gets wet, you need to be sure to watch your footing and make sure that you drive safely when there are wet leaves on the ground. You cannot always be assured that you will get the compensation you need to recover from your injuries when you file a personal injury lawsuit against a property owner. There is always a chance that the courts will not find the owner negligent for the random activities of those beautiful autumn leaves.