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Fallen Tree Lawsuits in California

tree top falling branchesTrees can be a beautiful but at times dangerous part of the California scenery. When tragedy strikes in the form of a fallen tree injury or related death, Ellis Law personal injury lawyers are there to help.

With over 20 years of experience, we help injury victims in fallen tree lawsuits find justice when it is the result of negligence.

Fallen tree risks in CA

When trees and limbs fall, the force can create more impact than the human body can withstand. The bigger the tree, the greater the mass and the greater the force with which it falls. So larger trees can cause greater injuries, and California is home to the biggest trees in the world. The tallest tree stands 369 feet tall – twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

Trees can cause major destruction when they are not properly maintained or cared for. In the summer of 2013, a camp counselor was killed and two others hospitalized when a tree fell at a summer camp near Yosemite National Park. In the same month, 15 people were injured when a eucalyptus tree fell at a Marine depot in San Diego. In 2011, a woman was killed in Costa Mesa when a 50-foot-tall eucalyptus tree fell on her car. Recently, a Los Angeles resident was killed when the top of a palm tree fell and crushed him.

Who must keep trees safe?

A personal injury caused by a fallen tree is often preventable if only the tree had been properly maintained. Generally, an owner or an occupier of land is responsible for maintaining the property, including its trees. They have to duty to prevent injury to innocent passersby and to warn others if they know of a dangerous condition.

Sometimes a responsible land owner will delegate a tree’s maintenance to a professional such as a tree trimmer or arborist. But if the professional does his or her job carelessly, someone can still be injured or killed. The tree’s failure, and the victim’s resulting injuries, can also be caused by someone disturbing the land nearby, such as by excavating.

The potential at-fault parties are numerous and depend entirely on the facts in each situation. A fallen tree lawyer can help walk through the case and determine who caused the injuries.

Common injuries from falling trees

When large trees or their branches fall on people, it can cause serious personal injuries including:

  • Death
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Broken bones
  • Back injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Paralysis, including paraplegia and quadriplegia

Recovering compensation in a fallen tree lawsuit

A fallen tree lawsuit can be filed by a victim who is injured when another person’s negligence caused the tree or branch to fall. The type of claim that can be filed depends on the type of injuries and the potential causes of the tree failure.

In a non-fatal accident, the person who was struck by the tree can seek recovery for his or her injuries. Compensation may be available for the medical bills already incurred due to the tree-related injury plus the anticipated future medical expenses. It can also include lost wages and pain and suffering.

If the case is a wrongful death, the case can be filed by the victim’s loved ones for their loss of care, companionship, and support. If the victim was not killed instantly but instead survived any amount of time, even only a few minutes, then his or her estate can also bring a survivorship claim – the claim that survives death for pain and suffering experienced in those final minutes.

Someone who files a personal injury lawsuit must prove that the property owner or someone else responsible for maintenance was negligent.

Some examples include:

  • Neglect to care for the tree
  • Improper maintenance
  • Failure to cut down dead or decaying branches
  • Failure to warn that the tree is unstable or otherwise unsafe

The legal concept of strict liability usually doesn’t apply to property owners whose trees injure pedestrians. But in some unusual instances, like if a defendant made the ground unstable by using explosives nearby, there may be even be a strict liability case. Each case involves unique facts and legal issues that will be closely examined by a lawyer.

How a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can help

In a fallen tree case, Ellis Law personal injury attorneys help the victim by gathering strong evidence of the contributing factors to the accident. In many cases, the strength of the evidence will convince the party at fault or their insurance carrier to make a settlement offer. In other cases, the evidence will be presented to a jury.

Ellis Law attorneys do these things by:

  • Working with experts such as doctors, engineers, and arborists to prove how the accident happened
  • Looking at the facts of the case to determine the potential parties who may be at fault
  • Knowing the relevant California laws and local ordinances

Recent news reports LA man killed by palm tree

It was recently reported that an LA family is grieving the loss of a 49-year-old man who was killed when the 2,000-lb. top of a palm tree fell on him.  He was standing on the curb when he was crushed by the tree top. His family waiting nearby heard him scream after the crash but the father of a 7-year-old was pronounced dead when firefighters lifted the tree off of him with a crane. The victim’s death may have been preventable but the elderly neighbor who owned the palm could not afford to have it trimmed.

Southern California fallen tree attorneys

The personal injury team at Ellis Law has more than two decades of experience helping injured residents of Los Angeles and the surrounding metro area. Our lawyers advocate tirelessly and are backed by a top-notch team of medical and legal experts. If you or a loved one has been injured by a fallen tree or branch, call today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

  1. U-T San Diego, Fallen tree at Marine depot injures 15, http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jul/11/tree-fall-marine-recruit-depot/
  2. NBC Bay Area, Death, Injuries After Tree Falls at Camp Tawonga Near Yosemite, http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Tree-Falls-at-Camp-Tawonga-Near-Yosemite-214170591.html
  3. ABC7, Huge Tree Falls on Car in Costa Mesa, 1 Dead, http://abc7.com/archive/8356082/