Three people were injured 9 Jan. 2020, with two admitted to hospital, after being hit by a falling tree branch in Melbourne’s inner southeast. The branch came down in St Kilda, at the intersection of Union Street and St Kilda Road, where the tree stands on private land.
A woman in her 40s was trapped under the branch for a short time before being taken to the Alfred Hospital with non-life threatening back injuries, and a man in his 30s was taken to the same hospital with a head injury. Both are in a stable condition. Meanwhile, another woman was treated at the scene for minor injuries by State Emergency Service workers responding to the incident alongside Melbourne police.
The incident comes after a series of tree falls in Victoria. In July 2019, a father and son were killed after a gum tree fell on their car, and a month later, a Melbourne mother died when a tree fell on her car on the Black Spur Highway. That same month, a university professor and mother of two was killed by an old elm tree that fell atop her on a footpath. Then, in December, a South Melbourne woman died when a tree branch fell on the car she was in.
In these cases, who is liable? Who has the responsibility to maintain trees so they are safe? And who is responsible if an injury occurs from these trees or their branches falling?
Trees on public property
Generally, it is up to local councils to ensure that trees on council-owned land are safe. These areas can include footpaths, parks and carparks. If residents are concerned with the safety of trees on public land, they can report it to the council who will inspect the tree and assign an arborist to carry out any necessary maintenance.
If a tree or branch falls on a person, resulting in injury or death, the council could face legal action. Affected parties can seek a public liability injury claim to ensure they are compensated for any medical costs, loss of earnings, and emotional pain and suffering.
Trees on private property
Private property owners are responsible for making sure the trees on their property are properly maintained and safe. If a tree is diseased or unstable, and the tree or one of its branches falls and injures someone, the property owner can be liable for a public liability claim.
Have you been injured by a falling branch or tree?
Speak with a compensation lawyer at Gerard Malouf and Partners as soon as possible to find out about your rights and entitlements in these and similar incidents.