Last evening, high winds were reported throughout Western New York. Gusts were reported as high as 65mph across the area and numerous residences and businesses lost power. Power wasn’t the only thing lost last night. Many homes, vehicles and other personal property were damaged in the high winds. Right here in East Aurora, remnants from the wind storm are visible everywhere as many streets remain closed due to downed trees and power lines, and the clean-up continues.
This damage caused by this crazy weather might have you think about who is responsible when someone is injured by a falling tree. Courts in New York have held that if a tree owner knows that a tree could be dangerous but fails to take responsibility for it and then the tree injures another person, the tree owner could be considered negligent and liable for personal injury damages. Knowledge that a tree is dangerous is not always easy to determine.
So what happens in situations like last evening, when the wind is fierce, and unbeknownst to the owner a tree branch comes down and injures someone, who is responsible then? This is not always an easy question to answer. The main question to ask in a situation like this is whether the tree branch toppled due to an “act of god”, or was it somehow related to negligence. The term “act of god” is used to describe events that take place that the property owner, even after using due care, has no control over the situation. A wild windstorm like we experienced last night is a good example of an act of god.
It is not always a cut and dry situation. Not all trees fall down during a windstorm and property owners are expected to maintain certain levels of safety on their property. This includes frequent inspections of trees to make sure that they are free of disease and damage. Even if the wind is responsible for causing a tree limb to fall, the property owner may be held at least partially responsible or liable for injuries if the limb came down due to rot or disease.
If you have been injured by a fallen tree and have questions, please call today for a free, in depth consultation. Oh, and be safe out there!