Falling Trees: Who Is Responsible and What are Your Rights?
From the great live oaks of Savannah to the city within a forest that is Atlanta, trees have played an important role in Georgia’s history. Unfortunately, the old adage of “what goes up must come down” applies to trees throughout Georgia. Most Georgia property owners are unaware of the liability risks that are growing on their property. Additionally, an important distinction must be drawn based on the location of the tree: there are different standards for trees in rural areas vs. urban areas.
When do Trees Fall?
Some of the most common falling tree accidents include the following:
- A neighbor’s tree falls on your car.
- A tree on your property falls on a neighbor’s car.
- A public tree falls on your vehicle.
- A city tree falls on a parked car in a public area. In these situations, the city is not responsible for fixing your vehicle. One example of this type of event occurred in 2018. A woman and a man were asleep in a vehicle when a tree fell on it. While the man was able to exit the vehicle, the woman was trapped inside the car. Another example of this type of accident occurred in 2018 in Douglas County when a motor vehicle driver was killed after a tree crashed onto his vehicle while he was traveling along a local interstate. While the Georgia Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining trees, the tree in this situation was determined to not be dead or dying.
- A tree falls on your house.
- A neighbor’s tree falls on your house.
Trees In Rural Areas
If you live in a rural area and/or have a large plot of land, Georgia Courts do not require you to inspect your property to make sure that each and every tree is safe. However, if a rural landowner has actual notice that a particular tree poses a danger to a neighbor or to the public, the landowner must take some affirmative steps to remedy the dangerous tree.
Trees In Urban Areas
If you live in an urban area, Georgia Courts require you to regularly inspect trees on your property that could:
- Fall over the property line or
- Injure people or property that come on to your property.
The inspection is limited to trees that are so visibly decaying that it would be obvious that high winds would pose a significant threat of damage or injury.
However, for either a landowner in a rural or urban area, if the owner is put on notice of a potentially dangerous tree and fails to take reasonable steps to remedy the dangerous tree, then the owner would be responsible for all harms caused by the falling tree.
What to do if a Tree Falls on Yourself, a Friend, or Loved One?
When a tree falls causing damage to property or injury to a person, you must be careful with what you do next. Consider the following steps:
- Call 911 if there is an emergency medical situation
- Take photographs and videos of the tree, area and property owner
- Get statements from neighbors and witnesses about the tree before and after the fall
- Ask the property owner to not remove the tree
- Contact an experienced injury attorney
Speak with an Experienced Accident Lawyer
Trees often fall randomly and can cause a substantial amount of property damage or injury. If you are injured by a falling tree and another party is responsible, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced lawyer. Contact Georgia Trial Attorneys today to schedule an initial free case evaluation.