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Fallen Tree: Who Takes Responsibility in Florida?
Damage from tree branches can occur to property owners if the trees on their premises are not sufficiently maintained – at any time, not just during a hurricane or tropical storm. However, as we are all preparing for hurricane season, it is a good time to know who is responsible for fallen trees and any injuries sustained.
Under premises liability law, a commercial or residential owner may be obligated to pay damage awards if they fail to properly maintain their property. If a person becomes injured as a result of a hazardous tree, they may legally file a claim against the property owner to compensate for the injuries. These claims are based on a theory of legal liability known as negligence.
Florida Premises Liability Law
A tree-related accident may be a civil liability case, depending on the location of the incident. The accused of negligent behavior could be an individual (such as a parking lot owner or a city park owner) or an organization (such as a municipal governing body). Financial compensation in a negligence claim is based on the areas of injury.
Negligence cases require the plaintiff to show four things:
- the existence of a duty requiring the defendant to adhere to a certain standard of conduct;
- the defendant’s failure to conform with the standard;
- a causal connection between the breach and the injury;
- and actual damages suffered by the plaintiff.
Property owners in Florida must maintain their properties in reasonably safe conditions. This duty is commonly owed to anyone legally on the premises. As the plaintiff, you must show that the defendant actively owed you a duty of care. A trespasser, for example, would not generally be due a duty of care.
Once you have established that a duty was owed to you, you need to prove that the property owner breached their duty of care by failing to maintain the property and that you were injured due to their inaction. If the victim suffers injuries caused by a tree defect, they may file a claim against the owner for the damage.
Who is Responsible?
Generally speaking, a property owner does not have some kind of obligation to the victims injured outside of their premises. But in certain instances, a duty of care may still extend to people who are not on their property. For example, a property owner might be liable if a medical condition originates and stems from their location and creates a substantial risk to others (such as an overgrown tree that blocks the line of sight on a roadway).
Recoverable Damages & Compensation for Injuries from a Tree
In a scenario in which an injury is triggered by an improperly looked after tree, you may well be entitled to compensation from the liable party. Under Florida Law, you have four years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for your care.
If you file in time and can demonstrate responsibility, you can recover damages for losses such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more.
Protecting Your Property, Family, and Neighbors
As we say, being proactive is key. Remember: property owners may be legally liable if a condition emanates from their premises and then constitutes undue harm to those outside the property (imagine a motorcycle rider who can’t see past a large tree and gets injured in an accident.) If you have a large tree on your property, maintain it to keep your property, neighbors, and passersby safe.
Here’s how to tell who owns the tree (and may ultimately take responsibility in the case of an accident):
- If the trunk of the tree is on your property, you are responsible.
- If the trunk of the tree is in the middle of two property lines, both homeowners are responsible for the tree.
- If the tree is not on your property, but the branches sit over the property, you can remove/trim the portions that sit on your property—you just cannot remove the actual tree.
Hurt? Get Legal Guidance in Your Tree Injury Case
The Tampa Bay tree injury accident lawyers at Mickey Keenan P.A. are dedicated to making you whole again after sustaining tree accident injuries. Our veteran team of attorneys is ready to assist clients in Tampa and beyond.
We’re knowledgeable about the various laws regulating Florida injury lawsuits, and we are all too effective at negotiating for a fair settlement of our client’s cases. To us, you’re like family and it’s important to us to help you claim the payout deserved for any injuries you’ve sustained.
We serve clients in Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater, Brandon, and across the state of Florida. Do not hesitate to call the attorneys at Mickey Keenan, P.A. at 813-871-1300or fill out our online form. We will sit down with you for a free consultation to discuss who is responsible and to make sure you are being compensated adequately for any damages.