When a person is injured by a falling tree branch, there are many different factors that can affect who will be held liable. This could include:
- On whose property the injury took place;
- Whether the tree was on public or private property;
- Who was responsible for maintaining the tree; and/or
- 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 generally fall under the legal category of premises liability.
Premises liability allows victims to hold property owners liable for injuries that occur on the property. This is possible due to the fact that property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. This is known as a duty of care, and is generally owed to another person in any situation in which a person may foreseeably be injured due to another’s actions, or inaction. A breach of this duty occurs when a person, such as the property owner, does not act as reasonably or prudent as another person would under the same circumstances.
Whether it is advisable to sue for such an injury depends on the legal guidance provided by a qualified attorney. Such lawsuits generally involve extensive legal work.
How Can I Hold Private Property Owners for My Falling Tree Branch Injury?
Part of a property owner’s duty to make their property reasonably safe for people who are lawfully on the property includes ensuring that trees are properly maintained. The scope of this duty depends partially on the type of property involved. An example of this would be how a large and remote tract of heavily wooded land would have a different standard than a residential lot. The owner could not reasonably be expected to maintain the trees on the large tract of property, and to remove dead branches from them. However, the owner could be reasonably expected to maintain the trees on a residential lot.
In order to hold the defendant accountable for the injuries caused by the tree on the defendant’s property, you must establish liability. Under a claim based on negligence, you must show that the:
- 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; and
- Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s failure to maintain a safe premises.
If the tree that caused the injury is on public property, the issue becomes 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, that they failed to correct or warn of a danger that the government knew, or should have known, existed on the property.
Whether or not you can sue the city or county will depend on whether that particular city or county has any sort of immunity in place. A local attorney would be best suited for determining who you could sue if the tree is located on public property.
Can I Sue if I’m Injured From a Bad Tree Cutting Accident?
Whether or not you can sue from a bad tree cutting accident depends on the facts surrounding the incident. For example, if you were a private citizen, and someone was negligent or made an error in cutting a tree or large tree branch which fell on you or your property, you may be able to sue both the person responsible and the company that they work for.
However, if you were a worker for a company that removes trees and suffered from a tree work accident, then you may not be able to recover for your injuries from the tree cutting company. Often an individual that works for a tree cutting business will sign a waiver or the company will have worker’s compensation. However, you may still recover from the individual responsible for your injuries if they were negligent in performing their job.
Can You Sue If a Tree Falls on Your Car?
As discussed above, if you suffer an injury, such as property damage, you may have the grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the person/entity responsible for maintaining the tree. Once again your suit against the owner of the property will be based on premises liability.
Thus, you must prove both that the person that owned the property where the tree rests, both failed to take reasonable care of the tree and were negligent in not doing so. If you are able to do so, you may be able to recover the amount of damages to your vehicle.
Are There Any Defenses to a Falling Tree Branch Lawsuit?
A lawsuit over an injury caused by a falling tree branch is a type of premise liability claim. Because of this, most defenses against a falling tree branch lawsuit will utilize the same points as a premise liability defense:
- Contributory or comparative negligence, meaning that the plaintiff contributed to their own injury, such as by climbing the tree;
- The defendant actually met the reasonable standard of care, meaning that the owner of the tree cannot be held responsible for negligence if a reasonable person would have been the same error; and/or
- The defendant is not actually responsible for the property in which the injury occurred, such as if the tree is right outside a store but the sidewalk on which the tree is located is owned by the city.
What Are My Recoverable Damages for Tree Accident Injuries?
If the property owner is found to be negligent or breached their duty of care to prevent an accident or injury from occurring on their property, the plaintiff may be awarded damages. These damages could include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Future and present medical bills;
- Lost income or loss of earning capacity; and/or
- Punitive or treble damages.
The property owner may also be ordered to repair or fix the dangerous condition that led to the injury. How these damages may be calculated will vary according to jurisdiction. Generally speaking, a court will consider actual, quantifiable damages more than damages that are relevant but not quite tangible.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Falling Tree Branch Injury?
If you have been injured by a falling tree branch, you consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney immediately. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you learn more about preserving your rights and remedies.
Additionally, an attorney can review the particular facts involving your injury and discuss which parties may be held accountable. Finally, an attorney can initiate a lawsuit on your behalf, and represent you in court as necessary.