Now that it is officially fall, it is important for homeowners and property owners to think about evaluating the safety of their property. A property can undergo a lot of wear and tear throughout the year, and it’s a good idea to consider the safety of your property frequently. During the fall-time, there is an increased number of potential foot traffic on a person’s property. Students may be walking past to go to school, political canvassers may go door to door during the election season, and on Halloween many kids may walk on your property to get a treat.
Every homeowner and property owner actually has an obligation to maintain a level of safety on their property. In the unfortunate event where someone gets injured on your property, it is now up to the court to decide whether or not reasonable steps were given to ensure the safety of pedestrians. When determining if a property owner’s effort to maintain safety were reasonable, the court has to consider how long the unsafe condition that contributed to the slip and fall was present and whether the owner had time to discover and ultimately fix the problem. Carelessness of the victim is also taken into account, which means a property owner is given some leniency in what is considered reasonably safe. Here are some things to look for in your property to ensure safety for passersby.
A pedestrian should be able to walk from the street to a person’s front door without any tripping hazards. Housekeeping equipment, landscape tools or other instruments left lying about may create a tripping hazard. Such items should be stored promptly after use. Trash and other debris create a hazard, too, and should be cleaned up without delay. Additionally, falling autumn leaves count as debris that can impede a pathway. Even worse is if the leaves are wet, making it even easier for someone to slip and hurt themselves. Again, these hazards should be picked up in a reasonable amount of time to prevent liability. If for example there is a storm while you were away at work and someone slipped on wet leaves that day, you are not liable because you didn’t have the time to clear the walkway. On the other hand, if there were leaves blocking a path for weeks, this is a hazard you had reasonable time to take care of.
In addition to making sure a walkway is clear from debris, the walkway itself has to maintain a level of safety. Cracks in pavement, missing paving stones and broken stairs are huge tripping hazards. Additionally, loose handrails or broken stair treads create a hazard that can lead to catastrophic fall injuries. People with mobility issues rely on these for support, so you would want to make sure they are solid and stable. All of these things in particular are hard to prove that the owner didn’t have enough time to repair the damages. Therefore, it’s important to look out for these damaged paths and repair them as soon as possible.
Especially important for trick-or-treaters, a property owner is also obligated to provide sufficient lighting for a walkway at night. Poorly lit walkways, corridors, stairways, parking lots and other areas can cause slip and fall accidents. Additionally, dark areas can also invite crime. If a crime happens on a person’s property, if there wasn’t reasonable lighting on the walkway, stairway or parking lot, the property owner is partially responsible. Again, this doesn’t mean that your whole backyard needs to be lit, but a walkway to your front door should have adequate lighting for pedestrians.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.