Sacramento Tree Injury Lawyer
California has a beautiful variety of trees. Some of the most popular are the Valley Oak, Coastal Redwood and the Giant Sequoia. Poets, such as John Muir, have written about these majestic beauties and photographers have captured inspiring images.
Sacramento is known as the City of Trees. We love the trees because summertime is hot in Sacramento. Our trees do a great job of providing shelter and well-needed shade.
Risk Factors for Falling Trees in California
Californians have been subjected to water restrictions due to drought in our state. We have had to limit and sometimes stop watering our lovely Sacramento trees or face fines.
With some unexpected rain and wind, we find ourselves with an excessively high number of fallen tree accidents and injuries. We see and hear about this happening up and down the state of California.
Property damage, bodily injury and deaths resulting from fallen trees or branches are some of the worst accidents we see. With more than 33 years of practicing personal injury law exclusively, we know what to do when tragedy strikes and you or your loved one is hurt by a fallen tree or heavy tree branch.
California Premises Liability and Fallen Tree Law
When a giant tree falls or a heavy limb comes down, the sheer weight can cause more force than a home, motor vehicle or human body can handle.
Under State Law in California, the property owner has a duty to inspect all trees on his or her property. The property owner should determine how healthy or hazardous they are. If a property owner determines a tree is hazardous he should remove limbs or the entire tree if necessary to ensure the safety of others.
If a property owner "should have" known or already was aware that a certain tree posed a hazard and did nothing about it, he may be found liable for injuries and damage.
If a property owner knew nothing about a hazardous tree, the question becomes whether a reasonable property owner of a similar tree, should have known this type of tree posed a hazard.
Whether the owner of the property should have foreseen the potential hazards, depends on the type of property involved. If the land includes a remote and large area of heavily wooded land, then it's a question of fact if the property owner could have reasonably been able to maintain the trees on the land and remove dead branches from them all. But, when the land involves a residential lot, injury to others becomes clearly foreseeable. This increases the property owner's duty to maintain the trees.
California Civil Code 833 & 834
Under the California Civil Code, trees and trunks standing on the property of one owner belong to that owner exclusively. This is true even if the roots or branches grow into the property belonging to your neighbor. This indicates that you have a duty to make sure your trees are properly maintained and trimmed. This is done in order to reduce the risk of property damage, bodily injury or death to others resulting from your trees. In addition, for trees whose trunks sit partly on the property of two or more owners, each party owns the tree equally and is equally liable for any injury or damage.
Property Owners Have a Duty to Inspect Their Trees
If you are hurt due to a fallen tree or limb, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries and property damage whether the incident occurred on private or public property. Trees should be properly maintained and trimmed. Never assume you have no recourse if you have been injured by someone's fallen tree or heavy limb. Even heavy shrubs can injure folks and cause property and other damages.
Let me explain. Let's say my neighbor knew his gigantic oak tree was diseased and the base was rotting out. Suppose he did nothing about it. Later, that same tree came crashing through my house causing me severe bodily injury, lost wages and major property damage. My neighbor will likely be held responsible. After all, it's not my fault his tree came crashing down. I have the right to be fully compensated for my injuries and damages under his homeowner's insurance policy.
Injuries and property damage caused by a fallen tree are oftentimes preventable. The key is to properly maintain and care for the tree. Generally, the owner or occupier of a piece of land is responsible for maintaining the property. This includes the trees, limbs and shrubs. These folks have a duty to warn others of potential dangers. And, have a duty to take steps to prevent injuries from happening to others on an adjacent property or to innocent people passing by.
How do I Know if my Tree is Dangerous?
If you have trees on your land, I recommend having a California Licensed Arborist out for an inspection.
An arborist, by definition, is a trained professional who is certified in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining trees. Arborists are experienced in the proper care and needs of trees. They are trained and equipped to provide proper and appropriate care for your trees. Hiring and consulting with an arborist is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly.
Proper tree planting, care and maintenance is an investment that can lead to big returns. Well-cared-for trees are beautiful and may add great value to your property. However, poorly planted, cared for and maintained trees can be a huge liability. Removing, or pruning trees, especially big trees, can be risky work. Tree assignments should be performed only by those qualified, trained and equipped to work safely in trees.
You may want to have the arborist ensure your trees are not vulnerable to heavy winds and rain. As soon as you discover you have an unsafe or hazardous tree, have it trimmed or cut down immediately. Some trees are protected by law so be sure you communicate with your city or county as well. Your inspector may even notice that your neighbor's tree is hazardous. If that is the case, contact your neighbor immediately and request that they have an inspector come out and remedy the situation at once. This can be tricky and cause some tension between next door neighbors. You have a right to protect your family from dangers that exist. You should insist that your neighbor properly inspect, trim and maintain their trees.
Neglecting Property After a Serious Storm
Insurance companies may try to claim "Acts of God" to protect themselves from having to pay out falling tree claims. The occurrence of storms, however, is foreseeable, and sometimes the end result can be catastrophic injuries and death. Don't assume that you have no recourse when this happens. Neglecting to properly secure damaged property (such as a tree) can have serious criminal, civil and financial consequences. If you've been injured by a falling tree or other object contact an experienced attorney at once.
People Hurt Every Year by Falling Trees
Californians are injured due to falling trees every year. Did you know that a 75-foot pine tree violently gave way and fell near a group of children in Pasadena on July 28, 2015? Some children were seriously injured. Others were scared half to death. In another tragic case, a large oak tree came crashing down on a car killing the driver on Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights in 2014. And, in March of 2012, a tree weakened by heavy rains in the Oakland Hills fell. It caused a car accident that killed a freshman from UC Berkeley. If you need help pursuing a claim due to injuries or death from a fallen tree or tree branch, I would be happy to review your case and represent you and your family.
John Muir once said . . . "God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches and a thousand tempests and floods. But He cannot save them from fools."
There may be liability when a property owner fails to properly maintain his or her trees. Such as when a tree falls down after a storm and seriously injures an innocent person.
Sacramento Falling Tree Personal Injury Lawyer
I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento Tree Injury Lawyer. I've handled many injury claims due to falling trees and I understand the complexities involved in these types of cases. Neglectful owners of property should be held legally responsible for injuries caused to others by failing to properly maintain their trees. Whether you were hurt on private or public land, owners are required by California Tree Law to ensure that trees under their control are secure and safe. If a fallen tree is under the control of a government entity, you have only six months or 180 days from the date of an accident to file a claim. There are many other unique aspects to these types of cases so it is very important to call an attorney soon after your accident. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side is crucial to protecting your rights and receiving fair compensation.
If you've been seriously injured by a fallen tree or other object, please call me promptly at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. If you are calling outside the greater Sacramento region, please dial toll-free (800) 404-5400. I have more than 33 years experience and know how to deal with insurance companies. I am not afraid to vigorously work on your behalf and take your case to a jury when necessary.
I am a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. We are a national organization of successful trial lawyers. Members of the forum have won multiple million dollar case verdicts and settlements.
See my Past Verdicts and Settlements.
Image Attribution: Photograph Courtesy of Steve Hedin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons