San Francisco Tree Accident Lawyer

treeFinding an Experienced San Francisco Tree Accident Lawyer

With surprising frequency, San Francisco trees crash to the ground without any warning.  The force with which trees or heavy tree branches fall often results in significant property damage to houses, other buildings, and vehicles.  Sometimes though, a falling tree will strike a person, and the results are usually tragic - disabling injuries or even death.   When that happens, the injured person or the decedent's family should retain an attorney who understands the complexities of such unique cases.  Our Northern California-based law firm has handled numerous personal injury cases that involved tree accidents.   Our attorneys are experienced in navigating the pitfalls associated with tree claims.  We can communicate with difficult insurance companies on your behalf, and if it becomes necessary to involve the court, we have extensive trial experience.  Our firm believes that property owners should be held responsible if their neglect or carelessness results in a dangerous condition that causes injuries or death.

If you or a loved one were injured by a tree accident that occurred on private or public/government property, we can assist.  It is crucial that you act quickly if you were injured on public land since the time limits to preserve your rights are very short.  

San Francisco Trees Can Be Dangerous

San Francisco generally has a coastal Mediterranean climate, with neighborhoods made up of numerous mini-climates.  The summers are warm and dry.  Certain areas are prone to strong winds.  Such weather conditions can cause trees and tree limbs to crash to the ground.  

Our office has worked on behalf of injured Bay Area residents for over 38 years.  A number of our cases have involved clients with severe injuries caused by falling trees.  Tree accident cases can be complex and challenging, making the choice of experienced counsel incredibly important.

San Francisco Trees and the Injuries They May Cause

The most common street tree in San Francisco is the London planetree, with over 8,500 located throughout the city.  These types of trees can reach heights of 66 - 98 feet and have a trunk circumference of up to ten feet.  When any such large tree crashes to the ground, it can cause severe injuries or death.  Even a limb from such a tree, given the velocity of the drop, can inflict massive injuries on a human being. Some of the most common injuries caused by falling trees are:

  • Broken Back
  • Broken Collarbone
  • Broken Ribs
  • Other Neck and/or Back Trauma
  • Skull Fractures
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Whiplash
  • Concussion and Post Concussion Syndrome
  • Paralysis
  • Internal Injuries
  • Death
Seeking Monetary Recovery for Injuries Caused by San Francisco Trees

If you or anyone you loved has sustained injuries that were caused by a falling tree, our firm would be happy to provide a no-cost case evaluation.  We may be able to help you receive monetary compensation for your damages.  Potential avenues of recovery include:

  • Past medical bills 
  • Estimated costs for physician-recommended future medical treatment
  • Income loss, including future wage loss or earning capacity loss
  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • The injured party's spouse may have a claim due to the negatively affected marital relationship
San Francisco Tree Owners

The tree trunk determines who owns a private tree, under the State of California's Civil Code.  If the trunk stands completely within one plot of land, the owner of that plot owns the tree.  However, if the tree trunk is partially located on adjacent plots of land, each landowner jointly owns the tree.  

Responsibilities of a San Francisco Tree Owner

The owner of a private tree is responsible for the tree's maintenance.  If the owner knew of or should have known of a dangerous condition on his or her property, and the owner did not remedy that condition, the owner is responsible if that dangerous condition causes injury.  Regular inspection and maintenance of trees are therefore essential.  We recommend that all homeowners have their trees maintained by a certified arborist.  The cost of such a service is well worth it, considering the expensive damages that a tree accident can cause.

Dangerous Trees and Owner Awareness

Tree owner negligence can be established by proving that the owner had actual knowledge of the hazardous condition on the property but did nothing to address it.  Sometimes an owner may outright admit that he or she knew of the dangerous tree condition - a rotting, dangling branch, for example.  But even if the owner does not admit to actual knowledge, the fact that a rotting, dangling tree branch was in plain sight of the homeowner every day is often sufficient to prove that the owner had actual knowledge of the condition.  

A little trickier to prove is the legal concept of ""constructive knowledge,"" which means that the owner should have known about the hazard because a reasonable person would have been aware. 

The only way by which a private property owner will be held liable (responsible) for your damages if you are injured by a tree on his or her property is if owner negligence can be established.  An experienced tree accident lawyer will understand this and be able to make convincing arguments to help you receive compensation.

Who Pays for Damages Caused by Dangerous Trees?

On private lands, such as that on which a home sits, the property owner is responsible for maintaining the property and fixing dangerous conditions.  If owner negligence is found through actual or constructive knowledge, as discussed above, the owner will be liable for the damages that dangerous condition caused.

Insurance companies will often try to rely on an exception for accidents caused by an act of God, or force of nature.  This is yet another reason why an experienced attorney is so crucial to the success of these types of cases.  While there may be circumstances under which the accident was truly unavoidable and solely caused by a force of nature, those instances are very rare.  Even in the case of a severe storm, which may play a part in causing a tree or tree limb to fall, there can often be proven to be some foreseeability as well as a contributing factor of neglected maintenance.  

Time Limits for San Francisco Tree Accident Claims

In California, a personal injury claim must be settled, or a lawsuit must be on file with the court before the two year anniversary of the subject incident.  If the injured person is a child, the two-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child reaches his or her 18th birthday.  

If the tree-related injury occurred on public or governmental property, however, the time in which the injured person must act is significantly shorter, usually only a matter of months.  Again, retaining an experienced lawyer will help you to avoid the pitfalls that could result in the loss of all rights to pursue such an injury claim.  

San Francisco Trees

San Francisco boasts an impressive urban forest.  In 2015-16, the San Francisco Planning Department conducted a census of all of the street trees owned by the city.  The census took more than a year, and the results were published in January 2017.  The results revealed that there were more than 500 species and 124,795 trees in all.  This did not even include all of the trees in green spaces or city parks - only city street trees.

The most common San Francisco tree is the London planetree, or Platanus acerifolia, accounting for more than 8,500 trees within the census.  

San Francisco's Urban Forestry Council puts out a recommended tree list for the city.  Some of the species featured on the 2019 recommended tree list are: 

  • Lemon bottlebrush 
  • Magnolia grandiflora
  • Washington hawthorn
  • Peppermint willow
  • Guadalupe palm
  • Fruitless olive
  • Water gum primrose tree
  • Fern pine
  • ''Columbia'' London plane
  • California lilac tree
  • Saratoga bay laurel
  • Evergreen pear
  • Jacaranda
  • Chinese pistache
  • Chinese flame tree
  • Vine maple
  • Silverleaf oak
  • Emerald sunshine elm
San Francisco Tree Maintenance 

In November 2016, Proposition E passed with nearly 80% support.  The proposition amended the City Charter by transferring the care of San Francisco's city trees from property owners to the Public Works department.  The measure went into effect in July 2017.  The department that now maintains the city's trees is called StreetTreeSF.  The department is triaging trees most in need of maintenance.  Once the tree pruning schedule becomes regular, the maintenance will occur on a 3-5 year pruning cycle.

The news clip below tells the story of a man trapped by a fallen tree in San Francisco's McLaren Park.

San Francisco Tree Accident Lawyer

I'm Ed Smith, a tree accident lawyer in San Francisco, California. Each year, tree accidents cause severe injuries or deaths.  If you or a loved one suffered major injuries as a result of a tree accident, please talk with us to receive free and friendly advice: (415) 805-7284 or (800) 404-5400. Our office has helped injured San Francisco residents for almost four decades.

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

Many of our past clients have left us glowing reviews, and for that, we are grateful.  You can read some of them here: YelpGoogle, and AVVO. Please also take a glance at our verdicts and settlements page, which illustrates some of our successful case results.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 5.12.20]

Photo by Juhasz Imre from Pexels

mm: cha [cs: 1624]

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