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California is a state known for its beautiful native trees. The last thing anyone expects is an injury from a falling tree or tree branch, but falling trees and limbs have the potential to cause great harm, including property damage, injury, and death. But did you know you might be entitled to compensation for a tree-related injury?
The majority of falling tree or tree branch cases in the Los Angeles area fall under California’s premises liability law — the same law stating that property owners are liable in slip and fall accidents occurring on their property, also applies to injuries caused by trees located on both private and public properties.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries related to a falling tree or branch you may be entitled to compensation. The personal injury attorneys here at Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP are Tier-1 rated attorneys for personal injury cases in the Los Angeles area. Let us help you navigate through a difficult situation for the best possible outcome in your case.
Understanding Legal Liability for Personal Injury Caused by Trees
According to OSHA, falling trees kill over 100 people annually in the US. California is one of the top five states for tree-related injuries each year. Drought conditions in California are causing tens of millions of trees to weaken and die, resulting in trees that are more likely to drop branches or topple over completely, rarely, but tragically causing injuries and fatalities.
Proving that a property owner is responsible for a tree-related injury requires showing that the owner didn’t maintain the property in a way that would have prevented injuries and that the negligence was responsible for the injury. Plaintiffs must show the following factors in these types of liability cases:
- Owner negligence in that the property owner negligently used or did not properly maintain the property to keep it in a reasonably safe condition. The law requires property owners to use reasonable care to discover, repair, replace, or correct any unsafe conditions or to provide adequate warning of a condition that could harm others. This rule examines what an owner knew or should have known about the condition of the property. Property owners must make periodic reviews of their property to inspect for possible dangers and remedy them in a reasonable amount of time.
- That control of the property was the responsibility of the defendant who owned, leased, or controlled the property during the time of the accident
- That the plaintiff sustained harm or injury
- That negligence was the main cause of the harm
An example of property owner liability would be a store owner who knew that a tree in the parking area was dead or had dead limbs and didn’t remove the danger in a timely manner. If the tree or a branch fell on a customer walking in the parking lot and caused injury or death, the store owner would be held accountable.
Causes of falling trees and branches include dead or dying trees, improperly planted trees, failing to trim branches, and failing to treat trees for disease.
Determining owner liability is sometimes difficult. In a case of tree-related injury, the attorneys at Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP know how to best represent you and your case when a property owner either knew or should have known that a tree was hazardous and failed to act, making them liable for injuries or financial damages caused by a falling branch or toppling tree.
Injuries Caused by Falling Trees or Falling Tree Branches
Injuries caused by trees include direct contact with a falling limb or entire tree, a tree or limb falling on a moving vehicle or into a road and causing an accident, tree roots presenting a tripping hazard, electrocution caused by a tree branch hitting a power line, and untrimmed branches and foliage causing poor visibility for drivers or pedestrians.
Recently, a Bronx woman died and another woman sustained serious injury when a tree fell into an apartment complex pool where they were swimming. Also recently, a 7-year-old girl died from injuries sustained by a falling tree in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The tree fell onto the tent where the family slept. This was the eleventh known death from falling trees in the Smokey Mountains.
Tree-related deaths and injuries also occur right in the Los Angeles area, including the death of a 60-year-old man last year in Encino when a large tree fell on a home on Odessa Avenue. Last winter, a massive tree fell in the parking lot of LA’s Greek Theater, damaging 30 cars and injuring a 35-year-old woman.
The Duty of Property Owners
According to California Civil Code 833, if the trunk of a tree stands wholly on the land of a property owner — regardless of whether or not the tree’s roots extend onto an adjoining property — then that property owner has the responsibility of maintaining the tree in a way to best prevent injury. Property owners must be mindful of tree maintenance on their property. Owners or property managers have the duty to ensure that trees are properly planted during landscaping, that trees receive routine inspections, that proper maintenance including trimming away dead branches occurs regularly, and that trees receive care for diseases.
If a property owner or inspecting arborist spots a potential hazard, the property owner must take precautions, including trimming branches, responding appropriately to tree disease, and removing the tree if necessary to eliminate any danger.
The most responsible way for property managers to reduce these hazard risks includes yearly inspections by a certified arborist and prompt action to address concerns, including factors that would only be a hazard in inclement weather situations.
How Our Attorneys Can Help
The experienced attorneys here at Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP have won more favorable judgments and settlements awarding clients over $10,000,000 than any other California law firm in history. Our attorneys have the necessary experience, resources, and dedication to pursue justice and compensation for victims injured by improperly maintained trees on privately owned properties, company properties, and properties owned or monitored by government authorities.
If you or a loved one in the Los Angeles area sustained injuries in a tree-related accident, call the personal injury attorneys at Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP to help you secure the financial compensation you need to recover losses from medical treatments, damages, income loss, and pain and suffering. Our team of professionals focuses only on the rights of injury victims and can skillfully navigate the legal system as the advocates you need in your tree-related personal injury claim.