According to recently published data every year thousands of individuals suffer severe injuries due to falling tree and falling branched in the United States. In many instances the cause falling trees or branched can be attributed to the negligent or wrongful actions of property owners and or government entities charged with the safety and upkeep of street, sidewalks and roads. Victims of such accidents are entitled to recovery for all damages suffered including all past and future medical costs, pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of income. Our law firm is proud to represent individuals who have suffered harm in premises liability and government entity accidents across the state of California including Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Orange County communities.
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Ownership of a Tree:
Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 833, “if the trunk of a tree stands wholly on the land of one landowner, that landowner owns the tree regardless of whether its roots, foliage, or branches have grown onto the land of another. However, if the trunk of a tree stands partly on the land of two adjoining landowner, then both landowners own the tree.” (Civil Code Section 834).
Who is liable for My Injuries and Damage if a Tree or Branch Fall On Me:
Liability hinges on a few different things. In California, landowners have a duty to inspect trees on their property to make sure it’s healthy and not a hazard to an adjacent landowner, or bystanders walking on the street. If a tree owner notices the hazardous condition of the tree (i.e. a falling branch or limb) and does nothing to correct it, which results in injury or harm to another, the owner of the land has been negligent in maintaining their tree, and is liable for your injuries.
On the other hand, landowners are not liable for “forces of nature”, or “acts of god.” Some examples include: Earthquakes, natural disasters, heavy storms, etc. So, if your neighbors tree is struck by lightning and falls on your house during the middle of the night then your neighbor will NOT be liable for your resulting damages.
Proving Your Case in The Court of Law – Negligence Bases Cause of Action
Negligence is used in determining liability and fault in personal injury actions. If you have been injured by a falling tree in California, you will need to prove the following:
- The tree owner had some duty to prevent the harm
- The tree owner breached that duty
- The breach resulted in your harm
Determining whether the tree owner breached his or her duty of care owed to you can be solved by asking yourself (or your attorney) the following question:
What were the tree owners responsibilities, and did he fail to adequately meet those responsibilities? If the answer to that question is yes, then you may have a claim for damages.
How does the court decide if the tree was hazardous or dangerous
The courts will determine if a tree is hazardous or dangerous by looking in to whether the landowner had Actual or Constructive knowledge of the danger or hazard presented by the tree.
Actual Knowledge: Deciding whether a landowner has actual knowledge of the dangerous condition presented by the tree hinges on whether the tree owner was actually aware of the defect or risk posed by the tree in question. If the landowner had actual knowledge of the condition of the tree then remedial action is required by the tree owner.
Constructive Knowledge: The determination of whether a landowner has constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition on their land hinges on whether a reasonably prudent person would, or should have been aware, although the actual person in question was not aware of that specific hazard.
Inverse Condemnation: Under California’s inverse condemnation laws, a public entity or city is liable for damages to private property caused by a “public improvement.” If there is a tree planted by the city on public property with the intention of “public improvement” then the city will be liable if that tree has caused you any injury or harm. The rationale behind this rule is that, if the city is attempting to improve the public by planting a tree, and the tree actually caused someone harm or injury, then the tree was not really improving the public, but further injuring it.
Common causes: Trees and tree branches can cause serious injury or death if they fall on you. Some common causes of falling trees are;
- Improper Maintenance
- Failure to Maintain
- Rotted Tree
- Root Rot
- High Winds
- Bad Weather
- Tree Fungus
- Prolonged Drought
- Painting Chemicals
Injuries associated with a falling tree or branch are severe. Some trees have been around for over 100 years and may not be as solid as they seem. A falling tree can cause Death, Traumatic Brain Injury, Neck Injury, Back Injury, and paralysis. Recently in California a young boy was standing outside of his home under a giant palm tree. Suddenly, a large tree branch fell over, landing directly on the boy. The firefighters discovered the boy was killed by the palm tree after they got it lifted off his body. The weight of the branch was approximately 2,000 pounds, resulting in his instant death. Of course there are other injuries associated with falling trees and branches, but the risk of death is always extremely high when you are dealing with an object as large and heavy as a tree. Broken bones are another common injury that comes with falling trees. Additionally, if a tree or heavy section of the tree falls on someone’s head it can cause permanent brain damage. A traumatic brain injury can result in a huge loss in the quality of the injured individuals life. Additionally, the family of the brain injured victim will suffer as well.
Statute of Limitations – for Filing a Lawsuit in the Court of Law
California has a two-year (2) statute of limitations on personal injury actions. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed by a falling tree, you will need an attorney to help you file a claim for damages. A statute of limitations is essentially the time-frame you have to file a claim and receive compensation for your injuries before it is too late. If it has been more than two years since you were injured by a falling tree or branch then you may be unable to pursue a claim and receive damages.
Keeping the statute open: Only a personal injury attorney can help preserve the statute of limitations on your claim. The remedy used to preserve your claim is usually by filing a law suit against the at-fault party. If you were injured by a falling tree and require extensive medical care and treatment, your personal injury attorney will make sure to preserve the statute on your claim by filing a lawsuit in a timely fashion. Once a lawsuit has been filed, the statue will remain open as long as the case is in litigation.
Statute of limitations- Minors: There is a special rule that applies to minors that are injured as a result of another’s negligence. The statute of limitations for minors in personal injury actions remains open until two-years (2) after the minor’s 18th birthday. Hypothetically speaking, if your child was injured when he was 10 years old, the 2 year statute of limitations doesn’t began to run until the day after his or her 18th birthday.
Compensation for Your Victim
Our law firm takes great pride in every case that we handle. Our goal is to make sure that you are happy and satisfied with our results. If you have been injured by a falling tree, or tree branch, then you are entitled to substantial compensation that our offices will allow you to recover. Specifically, compensation for a personal injury claim includes both General and Special damages. General damages consist of pain, suffering, loss of use, loss in quality of life, or inability to perform specific tasks. The most difficult element of a claim can be General damages. General damages are usually intangible, how do you put a price on someone’s suffering? The courts allow general damages to be awarded in every case, and the amount of compensation you receive depends upon the nature and extent of your injuries. Additionally, if your case goes to trial then the amount of General Damages you may receive depends solely upon what the jury feels is “fair and reasonable.”
On the other hand, Special Damages are also awarded in personal injury actions. Special damages A.K.A economic damages are all of those costs that can be determined by placing a dollar value on them. Costs that can be determined are any out-of-pocket expenses, lost earnings, lost wages, property damage, and future medical costs.
Attorney Consultation Available – Free of Charge: If you have any further questions regarding the filing of a lawsuit for your injuries please feel free to contact our law offices. All legal consultations are provided for by our attorneys 100% free of charge.