Summer storms can do damage to trees, leaving broken branches and even causing trees to topple. Property owners and property managers need to be watchful for signs a tree has become a problem. When a tree turns into a "hazard tree," it should be removed or pruned to correct the risk the tree presents. If a homeowner, commercial property owner or property manager allows dangerous trees to remain untended, those trees could cause serious injury. An experienced premises liability lawyer could provide assistance to victims damaged by a falling tree or broken tree limbs to seek compensation for injury losses.
Falling Trees Create Risks of Injury and Landowner Liability
Friends of Tree City USA warns: "When damage, injury, or death occurs because of a defective tree, the law usually holds the tree's owner responsible." Even hazard trees in public parts can result in a legal claim for damages, this time against the managers of the trees.
Because it is the responsibility of property owners to exercise judgment and determine when a tree needs care, the first necessary step in preventing an accident is to recognize a hazard tree. A hazard tree is one with a structural defect likely to result in any part of the tree falling on someone or falling on something valuable like a house. Targets a tree could fall on, like people or houses, must be within the possible path of the tree if it tumbles down. A defective tree in the woods, for example, is not necessarily a hazard tree and should not be removed in all cases.
Each tree should be inspected systematically to see if there are structural defects. There are different species of trees which have varying degrees of brittleness, and trees like willows, silver maples, and box elders could be more likely than other varieties to come down. If you have these types of trees on your property where people and buildings are in a target area, they need to be watched closely.
Homeowners should look carefully for dead branches, which can fall whenever a slight breeze occurs or when the tree is hit or touched. Dead limbs can even fall when the weather is calm, and should be carefully and immediately removed to reduce risks.
Tree branches which cross or rub can be a risk factor for tree limb accidents, because these areas can create weak spots on trees. As soon as you identify crossing limbs, consider pruning the tree to avoid issues developing later.
Forked trunks in a tree are also a red flag of possible weaknesses, especially if one side of the fork in the tree starts to grow out instead of growing upward. Forks with a narrow angle may also be prone to infection, which can lead to tree death and possible collapse.
Finally, if a tree suddenly begins leaning, this can indicate support roots are weakening and the tree could potentially break. This necessitates immediate action to avoid a falling tree and the significant damage which could result.