Can I File a Wrongful Death Suit for a Tree Accident?

Wrongful Death Attorney

My loved one was hit and killed when a large tree branch fell on her during a storm. Who is responsible for this death, if anyone, and what recourse does the family have against the liable party?

How do I determine who is liable?

There are several questions that need to be addressed to determine if anyone is liable and if so, where the liability responsible lies.

  • Where exactly did the accident occur?
  • Was it on private or public property?
  • Who is responsible for the maintenance of the tree
  • Was your loved one acting carelessly when the accident occurred?

Cases involving tree accidents are in a category called premises liability. This allows victims — or their families in the case of a death — to hold the property owners liable for injuries occurring on their property because the owners have a responsibility to keep their premises in a safe condition.

Can a private property owner always be held responsible for an injury from a fallen branch?

Generally, the property owner has a responsibility to keep their property safe for anyone who lawfully visits their property. This includes keeping trees maintained. The extent of their duty also depends on the kind of property involved. For example, if the property included several acres of undeveloped, heavily wooded land, it is looked at differently than a typical residential lot. In this case, the property owner cannot be expected to maintain all the trees or the removal of hanging or dead branches.

In order to prove that the defendant was responsible for the tree-related injury, you must prove that the property owner was negligent. To do this, you must address the following:

  • Defendant has the task to maintain the property in an acceptably safe condition
  • Defendant failed in this duty by not correcting or warning of any dangerous conditions
  • Defendant should have known or knew of the dangerous or hazardous conditions
  • The injuries were as a result of the defendant not maintaining safe property conditions

Does it make a difference if the tree is on public property?

It is a bit more difficult to prove liability if the tree is on public property because you have to show that a local entity or government did not keep the property in a reasonably safe condition or did not issue or display warnings that there was a danger or that they should have known of a dangerous condition.

What can we expect to recover and can we proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit?

Wrongful death is defined as someone dying as a result of someone else’s negligence, inaction or malpractice. In order to receive any kind of compensation, the families of the victim must prove that their loved one died as a result of the negligence of another party. Damages may include all medical and funeral expenses, pain and suffering and future lost wages and income if that person was supporting another family member or members. These are all scenarios that you will want to discuss with a Charlottesville, VA wrongful death lawyer to determine if you have a case.

A wrongful death case is typically allowed for immediate family members or those family members who relied on the deceased for financial or emotional needs.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at MartinWren, P.C. for their insight into wrongful death cases and personal injury.