Throughout Victoria, pedestrians and motorists alike face significant danger from falling branches and uprooted trees. Last month an elderly man and woman in Melbourne were hospitalised after a tree fell on them. While they were trapped, a swarm of bees living in the felled tree attacked them.
This is just the latest tree injury incident in recent memory. Multiple people have suffered serious injuries and died after trees fell on them. Cars have also been crushed by falling trees and by large, heavy branches falling onto them, sometimes with occupants inside.
When a tree falls or sheds its branches, this may seem like a natural event that is outside anyone’s control. Those unfortunate enough to be in the path of a falling tree or dropping branch may assume they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, you may be surprised to learn that human error could have contributed significantly to the accident.
Understanding the Danger of Falling Trees and Branches
A number of trees native to Australia can grow to prodigious heights. The bigger these trees get, the larger and heavier the branches can become. When a large branch falls from a height of 10 metres to 60 metres or more, there is a major risk of head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, and other trauma to those beneath the tree.
Some of the most dangerous trees for falling branches and other hazards include:
- Eucalyptus trees, including the mountain ash, the red river gum, stringybark, and others
- The bunya pine
- Elm trees
- Banksia and other flowering trees
- Paperbarks and other melaleucas
Injuries and deaths from falling trees and tree parts are not exclusive to camp sites and other heavily wooded areas. Many accidents involving deadly trees occur in urban areas, including along roadways and walking paths.
Who Is Liable for Falling Branches and Trees?
Trees are a fixture of many private and public spaces. As a result, the owner of the space is responsible for ensuring that those within the vicinity of the trees are safe. Ensuring the health and safety of trees on the property falls upon those who are responsible for the property.
Parties that may be at fault for trees that injure or kill people on public and private spaces include homeowners and other individual property owners, such as companies and corporations, and the State or Local Council for public areas.
Some of the duties these parties have to safeguard trees include:
- Safely selecting which trees to plant at the outset, depending on traffic use and climate challenges that may be presented to the trees
- Performing regular inspections of the tree bark, roots, and other structures for weathering or damage that may compromise stability
- Posting and maintaining adequate signage if falling branches and other hazards are a known issue
- Mitigating insect infestation, fungal infection, and other threats to the health of trees
- Mitigating drought conditions that might make trees more likely to fall
- Assessing damage after heavy winds, rainfall, and other weather events
- Trimming trees to avoid overgrowth of branches
- Trimming trees to remove dead branches
- Removing trees that pose a danger
Liability in public injury claims can be complicated. In addition to the party or parties that own and control the space, maintenance and construction workers also have a responsibility to warn and protect those in public spaces when their activities create hazardous conditions (including falling trees and branches).
Liability for the injuries caused by falling branches and trees is an evolving area of the law, where the future is likely to have our community more and more impacted by trees. It is evident that many Local Councils are starting to give trees a lot more attention, and hopefully the attention will avert more injuries.
However, many councils and private homeowners are not so concerned or have simply implemented faulty systems of tree maintenance. When a serious injury does occur, it is essential to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after you have been injured. Prompt investigation is key to the success of your claim.
How Henry Carus + Associates Can Help with Fallen Tree or Branch Claims
The law firm of Henry Carus + Associates has more than 40 years of experience in injury and accident claims in public spaces. Our lawyers have tried cases involving complex liability not only in Melbourne and the State of Victoria but throughout Australia and even internationally.
Our Henry Carus once acted on behalf of the State of Victoria and Local Councils dealing with tree liability claims, as well as commercial insurers having to address such claims. Henry’s knowledge of this area of the law is quite extensive.
We combine that knowledge with our understanding of how insurance companies operate in these cases so as to prepare for arguments that may be raised and be ready to have them put all to one side, so that the injured person can succeed.
In addition to knowledge and experience, we provide hands-on service that starts the moment you contact us. Our team listens to your account of the accident so we know all the details. We visit the scene of the accident as soon as possible to take photos, interview witnesses, and gather other evidence.
We also refer you to medical practitioners who can assess the severity of your injuries to determine whether you qualify for compensation in a common law personal injury claim. If your injuries are certified as causing more than 5 percent permanent impairment (or, in the event of an injury to the spine, 5 percent or greater permanent impairment), Henry Carus + Associates will take action on your behalf against the negligent party or parties. We strive to recover the maximum amount of compensation for your losses.
In the event that your loved one was killed by a falling tree or tree branch, our lawyers can pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of your family.
Contact Henry Carus + Associates Today
Public spaces should be safe for our community, be it by walking or driving through the space. Equally, you should be safe when you visit the private property of anyone who has trees on their property.
If you or a family member has been injured or you have sadly lost a family member in an accident involving a dangerous tree, Henry Carus + Associates can help.
Our law firm serves clients in Melbourne and throughout the State of Victoria. Please call 03 9001 1318 or contact us online today for a free case review.