CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

Modesto Tree Accident Lawyer

treesOur Northern California law office has helped many people who were injured when they were hit by falling trees and branches.  Personal injury cases that involve tree accidents are complex and present many challenges.  Our firm has the expertise and experience needed to successfully navigate those complexities.  Property owners who fail to inspect and maintain their trees should be held accountable if their negligence results in injuries to others. 

Whether you were injured on private or public land, our firm can help you receive monetary compensation for your injuries and damages.  Be aware that if your injury occurred on public or government property, the time period in which you must act to preserve your rights is extremely short.  Because there are so many twists involved in tree accident lawsuits, it is crucial that you seek legal counsel soon after any tree-related injuries suffered by you or someone you love.

Modesto Trees Can Bring Danger Along with Majestic Beauty

Modesto trees, not unlike trees in other hot, dry areas of the country, can fall or drop branches with no warning - especially during the arid summers in our region.  These spontaneous limb drops can cause property damage, injuries, and sometimes tragic deaths.  

Modesto is home to an extensive urban forest.  The area is also prone to drought.  Even when it is not a drought year, the summers are long, hot, and dry.  This type of climate presents a heightened risk of falling trees, since dry conditions, coupled with summer winds, make trees prone to breakage.  

Since 1982, our law firm has expertly handled complex personal injury matters, including numerous serious injury cases caused by tree accidents.  We have extensive knowledge regarding what steps to take to best present your case if you are injured by a falling tree or branch.

Falling Trees:  Common Types of Injuries

Unfortunately, many of the tree accident cases that our office has managed have involved catastrophic and disabling injuries. This is not surprising considering the great weight of trees and their branches, the speed at which they can fall, and the force of impact.  Human bodies are not built to withstand such forces.  Some common injuries caused by tree falling accidents are:

  • Serious Back and Neck Injuries
  • Skull Fractures
  • Broken Clavicle (Collarbone)
  • Fractured Ribs
  • Other Bone Breaks
  • Paralysis
  • Internal Injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Death

Falling trees and tree limbs will often strike an unsuspecting passerby in the head.  Any such significant blow to the head can result in traumatic brain injury (TBI). The severity of TBI falls on a spectrum.  A sufferer of a mild TBI may recover successfully within a few months, but a severe brain injury often results in permanent disabilities and a significant decrease in quality and enjoyment of life.

Compensation for Personal Injuries Caused by Modesto Trees

If you or anyone you love has been injured due to a tree falling or dropping branches, contact us for a free case evaluation.  You could be entitled to monetary damages as a result of those injuries.   

Categories of monetary damages that could be available to you if you have suffered tree accident-related injuries include:

  • Economic: Includes medical bills and any future expected medical expenses.  Any wage loss or potential future loss of earnings would also be included in this category. 
  • General (or Noneconomic) Damages: This category includes reimbursement for the pain and suffering that resulted from your injuries.  It also includes the loss of enjoyment of your life.
  • Loss of Consortium: Legal spouses of an injured person may be able to recover compensation for the negatively altered marital relationship.
Determining The Owner of a Modesto Tree

The California Civil Code determines the owner of a tree that exists on private property, and it is determined by where the tree trunk is located.  Branches, leaves, and limbs are irrelevant in determining a tree owner.  If the tree trunk stands fully within one land owner’s property lines, it is his or her tree.  However, if a trunk spans adjacent plots, the owners of each plot jointly own the tree.  

The Duties of a Tree Owner

An owner of private property is responsible for the maintenance of the trees located on his or her property.  If the owner knew or should have known that a tree presents a dangerous condition and did nothing to remedy that dangerous condition, the owner is responsible for damages if the dangerous tree ends up causing injury to another person.  

As a homeowner, you may not want to pay for a certified arborist to inspect your trees but think of it as a sound investment.  Well maintained trees are less likely to cause injuries or property damage, so regular inspection and maintenance can protect your assets.  

Proving That a Tree Owner Knew of the Dangerous Condition

There are two legal concepts under which a property owner can be found negligent for their tree, causing injury.  The first is called Actual Knowledge, and it is pretty self-explanatory.  If a property owner admits to knowing about a precariously dangling tree branch, for example, and did not have the branch removed, they will be negligent because they had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition.  Actual knowledge can also apply when the dangerous condition was clearly obvious, even if the owner will not admit awareness.  

Under the concept called Constructive Knowledge, a tree owner may be found liable (responsible) for injuries caused by his tree if evidence shows a “reasonably prudent person” should have been aware of the tree’s dangerous condition.  A personal injury attorney with experience in tree accident cases will have the necessary expertise to present a compelling argument that a property owner should have known about the dangerous tree condition.

Who Must Pay for Damages Caused by Modesto Tree Accidents?

Injury on Private Property:  A private property owner (this includes homeowners) is required to prevent harm from occurring on his or her property.  If the owner knew or should have known of a dangerous tree on the property, as discussed in more detail in the section above, the owner will be found negligent, and therefore responsible for damages.  The private property owner has a duty to regularly inspect trees on the property and perform the maintenance necessary to keep the trees in a safe condition.  

There is an exception to private property owner negligence, and insurance companies often try to rely on that exception to get out of paying claims.  If an earthquake or lightning strike, for example, causes a tree or tree branch to crash to the ground, the insurance company will say that the owner was not negligent and that the accident was the result of a force of nature or “an act of God.”  This exception rarely applies - and in the case of an earthquake, it may be more difficult to argue against.  However, any weather-related circumstances that may have contributed to a tree or branch falling are usually foreseeable and likely not the only factor.  Owner negligence can often be proven by a skilled tree accident injury attorney. 

Injury on Public Property:  Inverse Condemnation is the legal concept that says a public entity is responsible for damages if an injury caused by a falling tree or branch occurs on its land, and the tree had been planted as a “public improvement.”  There is no requirement of negligence under Inverse Condemnation liability.

There are Strict Time Limits to File a Claim

The time in which a personal injury claim has to be settled or a lawsuit filed in the state of California is two years.  This is called the statute of limitations.  A lawsuit must be filed, or the claim must be settled before the second anniversary of the date of injury.

Injury on Public Property:   If the injury happened on public property, the time in which the claim must be settled or filed is far shorter than two years, and is usually only a matter of months.  It is critical that anyone injured as a result of a tree accident on public or government property promptly seek experienced legal counsel to protect their rights.

Injuries Suffered by a Minor: The statute of limitations for a minor in California begins to run at the age of majority - this means that the injured person must settle their claim or file a lawsuit within two years after he or she turns 18 years of age.

The Trees of Modesto

Modesto, California is home to an extensive urban forest.  It is a designated Tree City USA, which is a nationwide program that gives recognition to cities with excellent urban forestry programs.  

Common trees found in Modesto include:

  • Arizona Ash
  • Bradford Pear
  • Chinese Hackberry
  • Chinese Pistache
  • Elm
  • Honey Locust
  • Liquidambar
  • Modesto Ash
  • Pine, Japanese Black
  • Pistache, Pearl Street
  • Silver Maple
  • Sycamore, London Plane
  • Zelkova
Maintenance of Modesto Trees

The Forestry Division for the city of Modesto maintains the City trees, which include all trees located in parks and on streets, as well as those planted outside government buildings.  The city of Modesto employs one of the highest ratios in the state of Certified Arborists, many of whom have specialized certifications, such as Tree Risk Assessment.  

Modesto trees are maintained on a regular schedule, approximately every eleven years.  The Forestry Division sends crews throughout neighborhoods, block by block, to inspect and prune trees as necessary. There is also a city crew that is in charge of trimming branches away from sidewalks and buildings as well as around traffic signals and signs in order to maintain driver visibility.

Despite the work of maintenance crews, the city of Modesto has paid out a significant amount of money for tree damage claims in the past several years.  

The news clip below documents a Modesto man's near miss with falling trees.

Modesto Tree Accident Lawyer

I'm Ed Smith, a tree accident lawyer in Modesto, California. Each year, falling trees and tree branches result in serious injuries.  If you or anyone you love suffered injuries as a result of a falling tree, give us a call at (209) 227-1931 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. I have advocated on behalf of injured Modesto residents since 1982.

I am honored to be a member of both the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Please take some time to read what some of our former clients have said about our services here: YelpGoogle, and AVVO. Our verdicts and settlements page also will show you a snapshot of our successes.

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

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Client Reviews
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"Me and my wife; had a car accident. We were amazed how easy, professional, friendly attorney Ed Smith is along with his staff. Everybody is amazing. Thank you so much, we are very impressed!" Alex & Dinah M.
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"Ed Smith and his office team took on a difficult personal injury case on my behalf and for the passenger in my car. Ed is a top- notch attorney. His staff couldn't have been more helpful and kind. No need to look elsewhere. I give Ed Smith my highest recommendation." Beverly
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"Ed and Robert have been taking great care of my husband and I for the past 5+ years. They are always there when you have a problem and a quick resolution! Even when the issues have nothing to do with them. They are willing to help ease the pain off your shoulders. They are as good as it gets! Thank you again for everything." Annie T.
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"I would highly recommend Ed Smith to any friends or family in need of a personal injury attorney. Ed, and his staff, are very caring on top of being very experienced in this field. The staff always keeps you informed of the status of your case and they are always easy to reach by phone." Shannon D.
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