Can Shrubs Cause Vehicle Crashes?

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Doug Landau has been consulted on cases where overhanging branches, shrubbery, and the layout of shopping centers have obstructed the view of directional signs and signals, leading to crashes on the road.

In a case out of New Jersey, there was a car crash at a four-way intersection. The injured victim not only sued the motorist who smashed into her, but also sued the property owner whose shrubberies hung and obscured the stop sign. In New Jersey, as well as other jurisdictions, the defendants’ unsafe conduct only has to be “a“ cause of the crash. It does not have to be the only cause of the crash. Under the law in most places, if there is more than one unsafe defendant who was the cause of the harm, they can all be held responsible. 

Similar instance of where a directional sign is blocked by the branches and leaves of a tree, making it difficult to see while driving.

In this particular case, the defendant was recklessly driving by going too fast. He couldn’t see the individual coming, and was unaware of the sign by the corner because of the property owner’s failure to trim the trees and shrubs. The greenery overhung the owner’s fencing, which blocked the view of the sign. So, BOTH the unsafe driver AND the shrubbery owner could be held responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.

In Virginia, the injured victim could bring the same kind of case. In this Commonwealth, we have what is known as “joint and several liability.” This means that either OR both defendants can be held completely responsible. If the injured motorist had $100,000 in medical bills and lost wages, they could collect all of it from either the unsafe driver who struck the car, or the landowner who failed to trim the shrubbery. However, if the defendant driver only had a small car insurance policy, providing only up to $25,000 in coverage, the injured victim could collect that from the defendant driver, and get the other $75,000 from the property owner’s policy. Most homeowners policies are in an amount much larger than car insurance policies, so this may be a smart move to make on behalf of an injured victim.

If you or someone you know or care for has been injured in an automobile crash, or there are questions about what laws apply and what benefits may be available, please email us at frontdesk@landaulawshop.com or call  (703) 796-9555 right away!