Am I liable if a tree limb falls and hurts or injures someone?
My fiancee told me if a tree limb falls out of my tree, then I would be liable if it hurts or kills someone and I should get it cut down. Every time it rains, wind blows hard, etc. small, but sometimes heavy limbs fall out of the tree. The other morning I woke up and a rather large limb fell across my yard and damaged my swing set. He cut it and removed the 15 ft. plus limb and told me he was concerned if it had fallen across the road and a car was driving by or person walking and hit and killed or injured someone, then I would be liable and could be sued. I own my home, have equity, insurance, and some savings but not a large amount. He says because I know of the limbs falling and neighbors see me / him picking them up, then I could be liable. Is he full of it or is he right?
This fact scenario gives rise to a potential premises liability case if someone is injured by the falling branches. Since you have actual knowledge of the dangers posed by the branches, you probably want to cure the dangerous condition to prevent serious injuries. Texas Governor Greg Abbott received a substantial settlement in a personal injury lawsuit under similar circumstances while jogging through a Houston neighborhood years ago.
Try analyzing it this way:
1. Is there a dangerous (or potentially dangerous) condition on your property?
2. Are you presently aware of that condition?
3. Have you taken reasonable action to make the dangerous condition safer?
4. Have you taken reasonable action to warn others of the potential danger?
If your answers are yes, yes, no and no then someone hurt by a limb falling from your tree could likely succeed in suing you on a premises liability claim. Those types of claims are largely about what the premises owner knew about a dangerous condition before an injury occurred.
Granted some laws have changed and it is now a different environment for tort claimants than when he was injured, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott is in a wheelchair because a tree limb fell on him while he was jogging in River Oaks in Houston. He hired an attorney and sued the homeowner and a tree service, and received a multi-million dollar settlement.
Research reputable tree trimming services online and HIRE ONE WHO HAS INSURANCE.
Disclaimer: answers posted by attorney Daragh Carter to questions posted on AVVO are NOT privileged or confidential and will not and should not be construed to create an attorney-client relationship between attorney Daragh Carter and you or anyone else.
He is correct. As others have said, this is an issue of negligence. You know that there are issues with the tree and are failing to address them. While a claim relating to this tree would likely be covered by your homeowners insurance policy (please confirm), your deductible may actually be more than the cost of pruning or removing the tree. Be a responsible homeowners and maintain your property. This includes pruning trees - and it may save you if your insurance policy has any exceptions for failure to maintain. Good luck!
He is right. You know or should know that the limbs are fragile and could fall and hurt someone. Not taking action is negligent in those circumstances. While you probably are covered under your homeowners coverage why not prune the tree and save yourself and passersby headaches and more.
The question is one of negligence. If you have tree limbs that you perceive to be out of control, you have an obligation to take care of that situation. Tree cases are always very tricky because the question becomes who should have done what, if anything. You ought to contact your homeowner's policy carrier to see what they say about this sort of potential loss. They may have particular rules in lace about trees and you really need to be careful if they do not cover such losses. Good luck!
In no way am I offering you legal advice, and in no way has my comment created an attorney-client relationship. You are not to rely upon my note above in any way, but insted need to sit down with counsel and share all relevant facts before receiving fully-informed legal advice. If you want to be completely sure of your rights, you must sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney to be fully aware of your rights.