When homeowners, business owners, or landscaping companies trim weeds, hedges, or bushes near the roadway, they will often just leave the grass or other plant material where it fell – it seems harmless, and it’ll get washed away by the rain eventually, right?
Except it is not harmless – motorcyclists and bicycle riders could crash because of grass left in the road, resulting in severe injury or even death.
So, what stops property owners from leaving their trimmings in the road? Is there a law against it in SC?
Below we will discuss the basics of premises liability law in SC when it comes to grass clippings or other dangerous conditions in the roadway, including:
- Whether it is illegal to leave grass clippings in the road in SC,
- Why grass clippings, gravel, and other material left on the road is dangerous for motorcyclists,
- How you can keep motorcycles safe when you are working in your yard, and
- When a property owner is liable for damages for creating an unsafe roadway condition that causes a motorcycle crash.
Is it Illegal to Blow Grass Clippings into the Road in SC?
There is no SC state criminal law that prohibits blowing grass clippings into the roadway, although some local municipalities prohibit the practice and require homeowners to dispose of yard waste safely.
That doesn’t mean it is okay to leave your grass clippings in the road – if it’s not enough that your negligence may kill a passing motorcyclist, you can also be held liable for their death or any injuries caused by the hazard you created.
Why are Grass Clippings in the Roadway Dangerous for Motorcycles?
What’s wrong with leaving grass or plant material in the road? Eventually, it will dry up and wash away, right?
The problem is that, in the meantime, it could cause a passing motorcyclist or bicyclist to lose traction, lose control, and wreck.
Motorcyclists who have wrecked after hitting grass in the road say it is like hitting a patch of black ice. Your wheels lose traction, and then you “go where the grass wants you to go”- into a ditch, into a tree, into an oncoming car, or sliding down the highway if the bike falls.
Grass clippings and other plant materials are nearly 85% water. When it is crushed beneath the tires of a motorcycle, the water plus the slippery plant material can feel like you hit an oil slick – the bike could fall over, you could lose control, or you could have difficulty braking which can cause a crash with another vehicle, fixture, ditch, or tree.
Although most four-wheeled vehicles are fine when they drive over grass clippings, two-wheeled vehicles are in danger, including:
- Pedal- bicycles,
- Dirt bikes, and
What Can You Do to Keep Motorcycles Safe?
What can you do to ensure you are not leaving piles of slippery grass in the road?
- Whether you are using a lawnmower or a weed eater, try to blow the grass away from the road,
- If grass gets on the roadway, use a broom or blower to sweep it back into your yard and out of the street,
- Collect the grass clippings and dispose of them in a trash receptacle,
- Collect the grass clippings and use them as mulch for garden beds,
- Collect the grass clippings and use them as compost, or
- Leave the grass clippings in your yard – the natural decomposition of grass clippings is healthy for your lawn.
Is the Homeowner or Business Owner Liable for Accidents Caused by Grass Clippings in the Road?
The SC Supreme Court has held that, although there is no criminal law prohibiting it, a property owner can be held liable for grass clippings, loose gravel, visual obstructions, smoke, or other “artificial conditions:”
…”South Carolina common law only imposes a duty for highway conditions where an individual or business has undertaken an activity that creates an artificial condition on the highway which is dangerous to travelers.” Skinner v. South Carolina Dept. of Transp., 681 S.E.2d 871, 383 S.C. 520 (S.C. 2009).
A homeowner is not liable, however, if the hazardous condition is “normal and natural, and not the result of artificial conditions” – for a homeowner or business owner to be liable, it must be an artificial condition that was created by the homeowner or business owner.
Some examples where a property owner or contractor may be liable for hazardous road conditions include:
- Grass clippings left in the roadway,
- Visual obstructions created by the property owner,
- Causing a traffic jam,
- Smoke flowing from a person’s property into the roadway,
- Gravel spilling from a private drive into the roadway, or
- Any non-natural hazardous condition that is caused by a property owner.
Who Do You Sue if a Roadway Obstruction Causes a Motorcycle Crash?
If a motorcycle crash is caused by grass clippings, gravel, or another hazardous condition that was artificially created, who do you sue?
Depending on the facts of your case, there could be one defendant or there could be multiple defendants. Any individual or business can be liable if they 1) owe a duty to the public not to create a hazardous condition and 2) negligently create a hazardous condition that results in injury to someone.
This could include:
- Business owners,
- Truck drivers who spill cargo onto the roadway,
- Trucking companies,
- Landscaping companies,
- Grading or paving companies, or
- Municipalities that are responsible for maintaining the roadway.
For example, in Dorrell v. South Carolina Dep’t of Trans., 361 S.C. 312, 605 S.E.2d 12 (2004), the SC Supreme Court held that a contractor who had repaved a highway in a manner that elevated the roadway approximately one foot above the shoulder breached its common law duty of care to the traveling public.
The Court found that the contractor was liable to the plaintiff who was injured when her car veered onto the shoulder and, because of the one-foot drop, lost control of the car, rolled several times, and was thrown from her car into a ditch 25-30 feet away.
The Myrtle Beach motorcycle crash lawyers at Axelrod and Associates help motorcycle crash victims and their families to recover full and fair compensation from careless property owners who injure or kill motorcyclists on SC’s highways.