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Accident caused by falling tree branch


I was involved in a freak accident on 27 May. A huge branch just dropped off a tree into the road right in front of me and I braked but hit it and came off. My insurance (Highway) say it will be classed as at fault! Is this right?

Walter Duroe, by e-mail



You will need to find out who owns the tree. Then here is the legal test to apply:

The owner of the tree is under a duty of care to act in the manner to be expected from a reasonable and prudent landowner. The owner is not liable for an act of God e.g. lightning. The danger must be of a kind that is apparent to the ordinary layman which the ordinary layman can see with his own eyes. Finally, a reasonable and prudent landowner must carry out preliminary/informal inspections of trees on a regular basis and only if these inspections reveal a problem is the landowner under any duty to arrange for inspection by an arboriculturalist (tree expert).

So the owner’s duty extends no further than the carrying out of periodic observations of trees. In your case it will depend if there was anything that should have alerted the owner that the tree was anything other than healthy or required a closer inspection by a tree expert.

In order for you to find out if you can succeed you will need to instruct a tree expert to prepare a report on whether or not the danger of falling branches was reasonably foreseeable had the tree been periodically checked.



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