When a person is injured by a falling tree branch, many different factors affect who will be held liable. It depends largely on whose property the injury took place, whether the tree was on public or private property, who was responsible for maintaining the tree, and whether or not the injured person was acting carelessly. If you are hurt in a tree accident, you may be able to sue the property owner or other entity that maintains and controls the property.
Tree accident injuries usually fall under the legal category of premises liability. Premises liability allows victims to hold property owners liable for injuries that occur on the property since property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition.
Property owners generally have a duty to make their property reasonably safe for people who are on the property lawfully. This would include ensuring that trees are properly maintained. The scope of this duty would depend partly on the type of property involved. A large and remote tract of heavily wooded land is different from a residential lot. The owner could not reasonably be expected to maintain the trees on the property, and to remove dead branches from them.
In order to hold the defendant accountable for the injuries caused by the tree on defendant’s property, you need to be able to establish liability. Under a claim based on negligence, you must show:
- Defendant had a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition
- Defendant breached this duty by failing to correct or warn of the dangerous condition
- Defendant knew or should have known of the dangerous condition
- Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s failure to maintain a safe premises
If the tree is on public property, the issue is slightly more complicated. If you were injured on a public property, such as a park, you must prove that the government or local entity failed to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition or failed to correct or warn of a danger that the government knew or should have known existed on the property.
As mentioned previously, a lawsuit over an injury caused by a falling tree branch is a type of premise liability. As such, most arguments against a falling tree branch lawsuit will utilize the same points as a premise liability defense:
- Plaintiff (party bringing suit) contributed to his or her own injury, such as by climbing the tree.
- Defendant met the reasonable standard of care. In other words, the owner of the tree cannot be held responsible for negligence if a reasonable person would have been the same error. No reasonable person can be expected to take down an old tree ten minutes after a severe storm.
- Defendant is not responsible for the property in which the injury occurred. Although the tree is right outside the store, the sidewalk on which the tree is located is owned by the city.
If you are successful in establishing liability and the defendant is held accountable for your injuries, you may recover damages. Your recoverable damages may include:
- past and future medical bills
- lost wages and income
- damages for pain and suffering
If you or a loved one has been injured by a falling tree branch, you should speak to a personal injury attorney immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. A experienced and knowledgeable attorney can review the particular facts involving the injury and discuss the parties that can be held accountable.