It is more commonly thought that a property owner is liable for injuries that occur on their property, rather than being held liable for injuries that occur off of their property. In reality, a property owner may be held responsible for injuries that occur both on and off their property.
Though not as common as injury liability while on a landowner’s property, there are common instances of property owners being held liable for injuries that occurred off of their property. For example, fallen tree branches that strike a passerby could be the property owner’s fault.
Another example would be a landowner’s tree roots raising a sidewalk, and causing pedestrians to slip and fall. Many instances of liability could have been avoided with the proper care and maintenance of property.
When Can a Landowner Be Held Responsible?
A landowner can be held responsible for injuries that occurred off of their property, if the injury resulted from something that the landowner did or did not do to the land. It may sound confusing, but it is quite simple. For instance, consider a landowner’s property that butts up against a road.
If he cleared and cultivated the land, but didn’t consider that the property was on higher ground and all of the runoff water and mud spilled onto the highway, he may be held liable for drivers who cannot stop due to those man-made conditions.
Trees are another problem for landowners. Many states now hold property owners liable for fallen branches that could have easily been prevented through proper pruning and maintenance. Property owners should also seek professional assistance to ensure trees are structurally sound.
Another example of potential liability for a property owner is not trimming grass, weeds, or bushes. If overgrowth lessens the visibility of a blind corner, or of highway or street signs, any injury that may result from a driver’s inability to see, could be the fault of the landowner.
Essentially, property owners must not only ensure that the conditions on their land do not pose a threat to others, but they must also ensure that the conditions do not reach out and threaten people who are off their land. Frequent upkeep and maintenance, especially nearing property lines is essential.
How Do You Know If the Trees, Grass, or Bushes are Your Responsibility?
Ultimately, responsibility is based on where the tree or bush is growing. If its roots are based on your property, then it belongs to you and is your responsibility.
In many cities, trees and plants on the sidewalk belong to the city and therefore will be the city’s responsibility to maintain it. However, you must check your property line to make sure where you responsibility begins and ends. Your property doesn’t end at the fence, and you might discover that you own more land than you assumed.
Property owners are expected to know the limits of their property, and often any excuse that they weren’t aware of their property limits will not free them from liability.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If someone has been injured as a result of some condition on your property, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Personal injury lawsuits are serious, and can be quite costly. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, provide guidance on your case, and assist you with the best possible defense for your interests.