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Fall Season Hazards: The Dangers of Pennsylvania's Fall Activities

Town Law Publishing Aug. 21, 2023

Pennsylvania's fall season is a kaleidoscope of colors, festivities, and traditional activities that beckon both locals and tourists to soak in the autumnal ambiance. However, the very activities that make the fall season so appealing also carry their share of risks and hazards. From apple picking and haunted houses to hiking in leaf-strewn parks, this comprehensive guide will illuminate the darker side of Pennsylvania's fall favorites. We will delve into the dangers and the legal aspects surrounding them to equip you with essential safety knowledge.

Chapters of Pennsylvania's Fall Story

Pennsylvania's fall season is packed with a variety of activities. Let's take a look at some crowd-favorites:

  1. Apple Picking: A leisurely stroll through apple orchards, plucking ripe fruits from the trees.

  2. Haunted Houses: Thrill-seekers brave these carefully crafted horror environments for a dose of adrenaline.

  3. Leaf-Peeping and Hiking: Nature trails and parks offer an eye-catching array of fall colors.

  4. Tailgating and Sporting Events: Fall is football season, and Pennsylvanians love a good tailgate party.

  5. Hunting: A longstanding tradition, fall marks the opening of various hunting seasons.

Sour Apples: The Hidden Dangers of Apple Picking

Though seemingly idyllic, apple picking has its hazards:

  • Falls from Heights: Climbing trees or ladders to reach those perfect apples can result in falls.

  • Insect Bites: Orchards are home to various insects, including ticks and bees.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some orchards use pesticides that could trigger allergies.

Legal Angles:

If an accident happens, the orchard owner might be liable under Pennsylvania's premises liability laws, particularly if they failed to provide safety measures like stable ladders or warning signs.

Haunted Houses: Frights and Flights

Haunted houses are designed to scare, but sometimes the fright can turn into a real-life hazard:

  • Slips and Trips: Poor lighting and uneven flooring can cause falls.

  • Strobe Light Effects: These can induce seizures in those with photosensitive epilepsy.

  • Psychological Trauma: The intense fear factor can cause psychological harm to some individuals.

Legal Angles:

The liability here often hinges on whether the visitor was aware of and consented to the risks, which is why waivers are common. However, extreme negligence on the part of the operators could still result in a personal injury claim.

Leaf-Peeping and Hiking: A Natural Trap

Nature's autumn palette is breathtaking but not without its pitfalls:

  • Uneven Terrain: Loose leaves can obscure uneven ground or holes, leading to falls.

  • Wildlife Encounters: Fall is a season of animal activity; encounters with wildlife can be dangerous.

  • Weather Changes: Fall weather is unpredictable and can turn treacherous quickly.

Legal Angles:

In public parks, the state might enjoy "sovereign immunity," limiting its liability. However, if you are on private property and an injury occurs due to the owner's negligence, they could be held accountable.

Tailgating and Sporting Events: A Game of Risk

Sports events bring people together, but also come with dangers:

  • Food Poisoning: Improperly cooked or stored food can make you ill.

  • Alcohol-Related Incidents: Excessive drinking can lead to accidents and altercations.

  • Vehicle Accidents: Parking lots are a hotspot for fender benders and more serious accidents.

Legal Angles:

Event organizers and stadium owners have a responsibility to ensure the safety of attendees. If negligence can be proved, they may be liable for injuries.

Hunting Hazards: Not Just a Game

Hunting poses obvious risks, but some are often overlooked:

  • Firearm Accidents: Incorrectly handling firearms can have dire consequences.

  • Exposure: As temperatures drop, exposure to the elements can result in hypothermia.

Legal Angles:

In hunting, the "assumption of risk" often applies. However, if your injury was caused by another hunter's recklessness or a faulty product, you may have legal recourse.

Pennsylvania's fall activities offer a blend of beauty, tradition, and excitement. But it's essential to approach them with a sense of caution and awareness of the risks involved. Understanding the legal aspects can empower you to take action if an unfortunate incident does occur, ensuring that your autumn remains as enjoyable and safe as possible.