November 28, 2021 (ENCINO, LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CA) — A 64-year-old man was killed and two women survived after an enormous oak tree fell came crashing down onto a two-story home, as reported by the LA Times and multiple other news outlets. The tree—estimated to weigh around 100,000 pounds—fell on the home around 11 p.m. At the time of the accident, the now-deceased man was upstairs, and the two women were trapped on the first floor and were able to escape with the help of firefighters.
This falling tree accident is especially concerning because it seemingly happened with no warning; there were no winds or prior rain which could have contributed to the tree falling over. Of course, we don’t know the history of the tree or property, and what, if anything, could have contributed to the accident. The tree was estimated to be 700 years old and was considered historic. Throughout Southern California, there are many other old, mature trees in close proximity to homes.
Trees Can Cause Catastrophic Injuries and Damage
Trees can and often cause damage to parked vehicles when branches fall off them (often during or after storms). They can fall in roadways and cause serious vehicle accidents. Because of their sheer size, falling trees can cause catastrophic injuries including broken limbs, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and death. Anyone injured when a tree falls on them, their vehicle, or their residence would be well-advised to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.
Although a falling tree may seem unforeseeable, many tree falls are the result of improper maintenance or failure to prune. A healthy tree should have a strong foundation that will hold it securely in the ground. There may be warning signs that a tree is going to fall, such as leaning at an unnatural angle or multiple split trunks. Splits can be a weak point in a tree as it matures.
Whether you live in an urban or rural area, having a tree next to your home should never be a life and death situation. Trees are living things and grow and change over time. Large, mature trees require maintenance which can be expensive. Even if they do not topple over, their roots can cause significant damage to driveways, sidewalks, and home foundations.
Who is Liable for a Falling Tree Injury?
Liability for tree fall accidents can be tricky because they are owned by the property owner, but the property owner may be restricted by a city, county, or HOA in their rights to mitigate the risks they cause. A legal claim can be further complicated when a neighbor’s tree falls onto another neighbor’s property. Although standard homeowners insurance may cover tree disasters, obtaining full and fair compensation may be difficult. Multiple entities may be liable for a tree accident. A personal injury attorney can evaluate the incident and determine who can be held liable for the damages and injuries caused.
Man Died From Tree Accident In Riverside County
The accident in Encino that occurred on November 28, 2021, isn’t the first and most definitely won’t be the last. Managing Partner, Samer Habbas of the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates secured a $1,250,000 wrongful death settlement for a premises liability accident involving a tree. A service worker, contracted by the local Homeowners’ Association (HOA), was cutting tree branches when a resident passing through was struck by a branch. The man suffered a large forehead laceration to which he succumbed from.
Can You Remove an Oak Tree in Los Angeles County?
We know that oak trees in Southern California are cherished—the LA County Planning Department recognizes 17 native species of oak trees in LA County.
For property owners, removing mature trees is not without controversy, and in many cases is not legal. Many cities and counties in California have codes and ordinances prohibiting the removal of oak trees. In one extreme case, a man in a small town in Northern California was fined $212,500 for cutting down 22 mature trees, including some coastal live oaks. LA County property owners are subject to the Oak Tree Ordinance.
While this is well-intentioned with the goal of protecting historical, aesthetic, and ecological resources, it does not consider the potential risks that large trees may impose on tenants or homeowners.
If you have a large oak tree on your property in Los Angeles County, you cannot just remove it. According to the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, if you wish to make any changes to an oak tree on your property, it must be approved by the County of Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning.
It is unclear how long it takes to get approval to remove an oak tree in LA County, or what documentation is required. However, it is concerning that residents may be subject to living in close proximity to a dangerous tree.
Speak with a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer About a Tree Injury Case
If you were injured by a falling tree, or a loved one was killed, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to protect your legal rights. The accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates handle a variety of personal injury claims, including injuries or deaths caused by tree accidents. With multiple offices located in Los Angeles, El Segundo, Irvine, Anaheim, Riverside and San Diego, our personal injury attorneys represent injured victims and grieving loved ones across Southern California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call 949-727-9300.
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