It's nearly impossible to predict when a tree could fall and cause serious damage to property or a passer-by. While high winds and rot can contribute to falling limbs, it's also up to property owners and townships to ensure trees are properly maintained to avoid an accident.
Let's look at how a recent accident in Melbourne could result in a public liability case.
On 2 April, 2020, The Age reported on an early morning accident in Templestowe, a quaint suburb of Melbourne. A couple believed to be in their 70s were on an early stroll along a designated track a little before 8 a.m. when a gum tree fell on them and trapped at least one person.
To make matters worse, the tree is reported to have housed a beehive and the victims and first responders at the scene were stung by the aggressive insects as they tried to help. Paramedics were called to the scene and left in under an hour.
One woman who was trapped under the tree is said to be in serious condition at the Royal Melbourne Hospital with both upper and lower body injuries. The other trapped victim, a man, is in stable condition at another hospital with similar but less severe injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.
It is believed that the tree fell after a heavy night of rain which may have loosened its roots.
While this accident may seem like it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the victims likely have grounds to sue. Local councils must ensure that trees on council-owned land are safe in areas like footpaths and parks. If the track the woman and man were walking on when the accident happened was council-owned, the council could face legal action.
The same is true for private property. If a tree is unsafe on private land the owner must ensure it's either maintained to make it safe or remove it altogether. If a visitor or neighbour is injured by the tree, the property owner could be liable.
If you or someone you love has been hit by a falling branch or tree, seek the expertise of a personal injury lawyer from Gerard Malouf & Partners today to find out if you can seek compensation.