The early and unexpected snowstorms in the northeast over this past weekend led to at least three deaths in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. One death occurred when a tree heavily ladened with snow collapsed and fell into a house killing an occupant. Another person died when he touched a guardrail that had been energized by downed power lines.
Weather and environmental conditions often lead to tragic accidents. It does not require something as severe as an outright snowstorm to cause a spike in motor vehicle accidents. Inclement weather, particularly ice and snow, often lead to serious motor vehicle accidents or trucking accidents, particularly on wide open interstate highways where conditions can quickly deteriorate.
Falling trees or downed power lines are another regular source of serious or fatal accident.
The circumstances of any of these tragedies determine whether there is any legal responsibility for the people who are injured or die. With downed power lines, it often depends on the steps and precautions taken by the utility company once they know or should know that lines have been damaged. Fallen trees have often led to wrongful death claims against property owners who should have known that saturated or unsafe ground conditions can jeopardize the stability of large trees. These conditions are particularly dangerous when the trees are located near highways. Over the years, there have been several cases involving roadside trees which collapse and crush passing vehicles.