Tree Falls on NJ Woman; Saves Her Life?

Photo of injured manHaving a tree fall on you probably doesn’t sound like a good experience, but it may have saved a New Jersey woman’s life.

The woman, a Middlesex County resident, was clearing some snow off her car when a tree crashed down onto her SUV. She was trapped beneath the tree for several minutes as neighbors rushed to her aid, but were unable to remove the tree. Fortunately, a fire station was right around the corner, and she was soon rescued and taken to the hospital. While receiving treatment for some cuts and back pain, doctors discovered something – an undisclosed medical issue that needed attention sooner rather than later. So, in a weird way, the woman may owe her life to a fallen tree.

“Maybe that’s why God smacked her with a tree,” her husband said. “It’s sort of a blessing in disguise.”

Mysterious ways, indeed.

Can Property Owners Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Fallen Trees?

You’d be surprised how often falling trees cause injuries or death in the United States. There are more trees in the U.S. now than there were 100 years ago, and around 100 fatalities every year caused by falling trees.

It is possible to file suit against property owners and even municipal bodies when falling trees cause injury. To win a premises liability case involving a fallen tree, you have to prove that the owner committed negligence. The elements of negligence in a fallen tree case would work something like this:

  1. The property owner has a duty of care to act reasonably to keep visitors to the property safe
  2. The landowner breached that duty of care
  3. Injuries were the foreseeable and likely result of the breach of care

It can be difficult to prove negligence in these cases, and often it centers on the condition of the tree prior to the injury. If the tree, for example, is clearly in danger of falling and the victim can prove that the owner failed to maintain or remove the dangerous tree, the victim is likely to succeed in their case. But in a situation, for example, where a perfectly healthy tree is struck by lightning and falls on a neighboring home, the victim would be hard-pressed to prove that the owner was negligent (unless the neighbor is Zeus).

At any rate, it is always wise to discuss injuries caused by fallen trees in a free consultation with a premises liability attorney.

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