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Tree falls on car, killing two children

We often speak of “car accidents” when we mean a crash or collision involving one or more vehicles. In reality, most of those so-called accidents are no accidents, at least in the sense that they are not foreseeable. If an individual consumes a dozen alcoholic drinks in a short period of time resulting in a high blood alcohol content measurement and then attempts to drive, no one is surprised then the crash into another vehicle because of their intoxication.

And when a driver exceeds the speed limit by 20 or 30 miles per hour, it is not surprising that they lose control and crash or strike another vehicle. While they all may be “accidental” in that a driver did not intend to crash into a particular vehicle, negligent behavior, whether sending text messages, putting on makeup, driving drunk or any one of the thousands of activities one should not perform while driving all make it likely that a driver will be involved in a car accident.

Some incidents involving cars do come closer to the definition of an accident. A tragic, fatal car accident involving a rotted tree in western Pennsylvania is an example. A woman, her boyfriend, and four of her children were traveling along a road when a tree collapsed and crashed onto the top of their vehicle as it passed.

Two of the girls were killed, according to the medical examiner, by blunt force trauma caused by the tree crashing through the roof of the vehicle. The driver, the mother’s boyfriend was left unconscious by the crash.

The tree, which apparently fell due to dry rot, caused the freak accident. Had it fallen a second later, the vehicle would have passed without incident. But even this, perhaps, was no accident. If the tree was on private property, there could be some liability, if the owner was aware of the dangerous location and condition of the tree.

If the tree was on public right of way, the county or state could be responsible, as they have an obligation to maintain the highways in a safe condition, including removing overhanging trees that could collapse onto the highway.  

Source: Weather.com, “Pennsylvania Sisters, Ryleigh and Mikayla Freiwald, Die When Tree Falls on Car,” Allie Goolrick, June 26, 2014

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