Property Owner Liability
Just as with ice and snow in the winter, property owners have a responsibility to clear walking paths of these leaves in order to ensure the safety of those who walk there. They are expected to take reasonable care during these circumstances and to remedy any potential dangerous within a reasonable amount of time.
The definition of reasonable care is subjective, but is loosely defined as “the degree of caution and concern for the safety of himself/herself and others an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the circumstances.” If a homeowner were to allow accumulations of leaves to go unattended for weeks at a time, and a neighbor later slipped and got injured as a result, that homeowner would likely be found negligent for a failure to exercise reasonable care.
In some cases, the victim may be partially at fault if they could have taken a reasonable measure to avoid the accident. Pennsylvania abides by the modified comparative fault rule, which quantifies the victim’s degree of responsibility into a percentage. This percentage is later taken into account if a verdict is awarded. For example, if a victim was deemed 30% responsible and a $100,000 verdict is awarded, that number will be reduced to $70,000 in order to account for comparative fault.
What Are Some Common Injuries?
Slips and falls on wet leaves may lead to serious injuries which could significantly restrict your daily life, either temporarily or permanently. When slipping on a slick surface, you may become airborne before colliding with the hard ground - think of the cartoons where a character slips on a banana peel. This impact can lead to several types of injuries:
If you land on a hard surface, such as concrete or asphalt, there is a high likelihood of breaking a bone. A direct impact between one or more bones and the ground greatly increases this risk. The angle at which you fall may influence which bone breaks. If you attempt to grab an object or use your hands to break your fall, you’re more likely to break your wrist or arm. Falling sideways or straight down puts you at risk of a hip fracture. The elderly are especially vulnerable to hip fractures from slips and falls.
The impact of a slip or fall can cause serious and chronic back problems. Victims may experience nerve damage, ruptured discs, compression fractures, and even hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body).
Spinal Cord Injuries
Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries, after motor vehicle accidents. They account for more than 25% of these injuries, and are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in adults 65 and over. Spinal cord injuries may lead to partial or full paralysis, the loss of sensation and movement, and difficulty breathing.
Many fall victims may suffer serious shoulder problems, especially if the shoulder made a direct impact with the ground. Dislocations and rotator cuff injuries are both common results. According to The Mayo Clinic, your nerves may be stretched or torn during a fall if the impact forces your shoulder downward while your head is pushed up and into the opposite direction.
What Type Of Damages Can I Pursue?
If you’ve been seriously injured in a fall which resulted from a property owner’s negligence, you may be facing a difficult and expensive recovery. However, as long as there is sufficient evidence to prove that the property owner failed to act with reasonable care, civil courts can provide relief for victims. Potential damages which may be awarded include:
Serious injuries inevitably lead to excessive medical bills. A favorable verdict or settlement will help ensure that victims are able to recover without the stress of massive medical debts, and that the at-fault party is held responsible for their negligence.
A serious injury doesn’t only cause physical pain. It can disrupt the victim’s entire lifestyle. If you’ve been forced to miss work or even lost your job because of injuries incurred during a slip and fall, the defendant could be court ordered to compensate you for lost wages, salaries, bonuses, and benefits.
Pain And Suffering
While economic burdens are one of the worst parts of a serious injury, compensation may also be awarded for the noneconomic pain and suffering a victim may struggle with during recovery.
Loss Of Quality Of Life
Compensation awarded for permanent injuries or an inability to engage in certain activities (both recreational and professional) which the victim previously enjoyed prior to the injury.