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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Falling trees: The silent danger in storms

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Last week’s nor’easter has reminded us of a silent danger – large trees at risk of falling down in a storm and injuring someone.

The risk of injury isn’t trivial – a 17-year-old Newport News boy was badly hurt when a tree more than six feet in diameter fell into his family’s trailer at Warwick Mobile Home Estates at 12095 Jefferson Ave. on Nov. 12.

My colleague Rick Shapiro has written recently about a number of other storm dangers, including drowning while driving, chainsaw safety and generator safety.

The Newport News teen told WAVY-TV that he was sitting on his living-room couch and watching TV – hoping school would be cancelled – when his life changed forever.

"All of a sudden the house started shaking. I thought it was, like, an earthquake," the boy told WAVY.

The tree cut the trailer in half and tore off the roof. It took a crew from Hampton Roads Crane & Rigging Co. – using a 60-ton crane – two hours to lift the tree and free the boy, whose legs were pinned to the floor.

The boy has been released from the hospital after surgery and x-rays. While he didn’t break any bones, the Daily Press reported, he did suffer some nerve damage in his back and legs.

In a case where a tree causes not only personal injury but property damages, the legal issues of responsibility often involve whether a business or homeowner was aware that the tree was in a weakened condition, or was actually a dead tree, as several examples. If the damages orginates from a condition on the business/homeowner property, and if the responsible person/entity knew or should have known of the danger, liability may attach under the law. Injury attorneys must explore these issues and all potential sources of insurance, such as homeowners, or property/liability insurance.

Proper care and maintenance can often prevent trees from falling down as the tree in Newport News did. Tips include: frequent and proper pruning, avoiding damage with lawn mowers and other yard equipment, and digging too close to the tree.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.

(MM)