Home / Blog / Who is Liable for Injuries Caused by Falling Trees?

When you visit another person’s home, a business, or government-owned property, you expect to be safe while there. Property owners and managers have a legal duty to provide a safe environment for guests, which extends to caring for trees on the property that may be in danger of falling on visitors.

Falling trees and branches can cause property damage and physical injuries. In April 2022, a falling tree killed two children who were riding in a golf cart at an Indiana campground. Property owners can usually prevent these accidents through proper maintenance of the trees on their property.

The Indiana personal injury lawyers at Wagner Reese understand the nuances of premises liability law and the responsibility that property owners have to visitors. If you or someone you love has been injured through someone else’s negligence, let us shoulder the burden of pursuing compensation on your behalf so you can focus on recovery.

Premises Liability Law

Premises liability is the legal field that deals with property damage, personal injury, or wrongful death caused by hazardous conditions on publicly or privately owned property, to someone other than the property owner.

Indiana’s premises liability law spells out the duty of care property owners owe to visitors. They must maintain their properties to prevent dangerous conditions. If the property owner can’t remove a hazard immediately, they must warn visitors of the dangerous conditions and make every reasonable effort to keep those visitors safe. Property owners might use caution tape or other barriers to keep people away from a hazard or place a noticeable sign that warns of the threat.

For example, property owners should learn to properly care for their trees or hire a company to do it for them. This maintenance includes appropriate pruning of tree limbs, caring for diseased trees, and removing dead trees.

They should inspect trees yearly for damage, disease, and weakness that may make them more likely to fall. Owners should also check trees following storms with significant wind or ice.

How to Prove Liability When a Tree Damages Your Personal Property

Falling branches and trees can cause significant property damage. They can crush fences and cars, crash through your roof or window, or knock down walls. They can also injure people who are standing near the trees when they fall, or who are inside a car or building that is hit by a falling tree. With 2 billion trees in Indiana, there is a not-insignificant risk of being involved in an accident caused by a falling tree.

If you notice a hazardous tree on a neighbor’s property or at a business you frequent, take pictures to document the hazard and show them to the owner. This action alerts the property owner to a potentially deadly hazard and allows them to address the situation before it causes harm.

You should also save any images you take of the property and dangerous tree in case the owner decides not to take action. If the tree falls and causes an injury to you or a loved one, the pictures or video can support your personal injury or property damage claim against the negligent owner by showing the hazard existed for a while.

An additional measure you can take is communicating with the property owner by email or written letter. These methods of communication provide a paper trail that you can use to show that you told them of the danger and that they failed to act.

Statute of Limitations

If your accident or injury occurs on private property, you must file a personal injury or property damage claim within two years of the incident. If your accident happens on government property such as at a public park, you or your attorney must provide notice to the jurisdiction responsible for the property within 180 days.

The experienced attorneys with Wagner Reese can help you navigate the legal process, file claims, and make notifications promptly so you don’t miss your chance to get the compensation you deserve.

What Happens if Tree Damage is Determined to be an “Act of God”?

Sometimes healthy trees suffer significant damage in severe storms. Injuries or property damage that occur under these circumstances are sometimes ruled an “Act of God.” This insurance term refers to an uncontrollable event where no one person bears responsibility.

You can sometimes file a claim with your homeowners’ policy to cover property damages in these cases. Your homeowners’ insurance should cover damage to building structures and their contents. Likewise, you can file a claim with your car insurance if a tree falls on your vehicle.

Reach out to a Premises Liability Lawyer for Legal Assistance

If a fallen tree branch injured you or a loved one, the experienced premises liability lawyers at Wagner Reese can pursue a claim on your behalf. We can assess the circumstances of your case and help you understand what you need to do to prove liability on the property owner’s part.

Reach out to our office today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys to help you seek a settlement for your injuries caused by a falling tree.