CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

Tree Falls on Chico Bridge and Bends Multiple Railings

Tree Falls on Bridge at Five-Mile Recreation Area

Tree falls are a problem with inclement weather, and on December 29, a Chico bridge was the site of such a calamity. The tree’s large branches prevented traffic from passing over the bridge that is located at the Five-Mile recreation area. The tree has since been removed, but the bridge remains closed due to bent railings and potential structural damage.

According to Chico Public Works spokesperson Lynda Gizzi, a contractor is being brought on board to weld railings that were bent by the impact. In addition, due to worries about structural damage to the bridge, an engineer will also be needed to assess the bridge before traffic can pass. At this point, no word was given as to the timeframe for this assessment. However, if structural damage is found, the reopening will be prolonged.

Why a Tree Falls

Fatalities, severe injuries, and even property damage result when a tree falls over due to external events, including age, decay, and disease. In areas with high winds, the most common culprits have compromised roots and soggy soil. If the soil is saturated, even healthy roots can lose grounding, which normally prevents the tree from falling. Other factors that weaken the tree’s root system are:

  • Tree roots cut off by sidewalks, roads and driveways can ultimately cause it to fall.
  • Insect infestation can weaken it.
  • Disease can alter the tree, making it weak.
  • Overwatering can make the soil soggy and weaken the root system. 
  • Poor maintenance can weaken the tree. It is best to balance the tree’s canopy.
  • Improper pruning for overhead wires can add to the root system damage.

Ways to Predict a Tree Will Fall

There are warning signs that a tree will give way in strong winds and fall. If maintenance is properly provided, it is important that such warning signs be addressed. Some of the most common are:

  • Holes in the main trunk: This hole is formed when the tree attempts to self-prune. This cavity may decay and lead to weakness. However, if the area is supported by healthy wood on the outside of the cavity, the cavity/decay may not make it weaker. Maintenance personnel should be on the lookout for this sign.
  • Self-pruning: This is a marker that the tree is trying to help itself stay strong. By doing this, the tree is trying to reduce its size, which is often a sign it does not have sufficient nourishment. Insect infestation may be another reason for self-pruning. So, dead limbs around the tree herald a problem and should be addressed by maintenance personnel in a public area. 
  • Missing bark on the trunk: The cankers or areas of missing bark indicate the tree is dying or dead. This requires the attention of an arborist. If it is not recognized and examined, the maintenance provided to the tree is negligent.
  • Trunk cracks: These cracks indicate the trunk may already be weakened. When this happens, the tree might be hazardous to passing traffic in the near future.
  • Rotten roots: Sometimes, this can be difficult to see. However, fungal growths or mushrooms at the tree’s base can be due to rot. Once again, an arborist should be contacted.
  • Branches that grow in a “V” shape: This can indicate the branches are too close to one another and interfere with healthy development. Look for it in winter or late fall.

Who Is Responsible?

If the indications are that a tree is weak and could fall, the person or agency in charge of maintenance who did not notice the warning signs could be held liable. This is particularly true if there is reason to believe it could impede traffic or be a danger to those traveling on a bridge or road or walking on a sidewalk. In such cases, if someone is injured or property is damaged by the tree falling, a claim may be able to be filed against the government agency in charge of maintenance.

Chico Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Chico personal injury lawyer. If you are injured by a falling tree, contact me at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. Our injury lawyers can also be contacted online if that is easier for you.

Since 1982, our firm has helped our clients obtain the compensation they deserve in many different kinds of trauma, including car crashes, wrongful deaths, motorcycle accidents, and other forms of trauma.

You can learn more about my firm by using the following links:

I am proud to be a member of the organizations listed below:

Photo attribution: Image by Okan Caliskan from Pixabay 

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