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Falling Ficus illustrates unique hazards for South Florida drivers and property owners

The female driver of a black Thunderbird narrowly escaped serious injury or death when a large Ficus tree crashed down on her car as she was driving midday along East Camino Real, the Palm Beach Post reports.

A Fire Rescue spokesperson told the paper that the driver was “almost encased in a bubble” of tree limbs that shattered her windshield and crushed her car. It took chainsaws to free the driver, who stepped free of the vehicle after branches were cleared. She was in stable condition when transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Our West Palm Beach accident attorneys know that whether private or public, proper tree maintenance and pruning is a shared responsibility that includes property owners and local government, particularly when the tree in question spans both private and public land.

Aside from a state law (Florida Statute 163.3209) that establishes tree care right-of-way guidelines between land owners and electric or other distribution pathways, local ordinances in both Broward County and Palm Beach County address, among other things, historic tree and canopied street care. Palm Beach County requires either a replacement and removal permit; Broward County directed that all tree trimmers must be licensed.

Most Florida Ficus trees are of the variety more colloquially known as the Banyan tree. The first Banyan tree planted in the U.S., according to Wikipedia, was planted by Thomas Edison in Fort Myers. Originally 4-ft. tall, it has grown to 400-feet. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Florida Ficus (aside from their potential girth, height and span) is their dreadlock-like, above-ground, exposed rooting system.

According to the University of Florida, improper landscaping design and plant selection have increased the need for more aggressive maintenance and pruning schedules for plant viability and the safety of those who live around them. The college recommends that pruning “should be a routine part of home-ground maintenance and not delayed until the landscape is overgrown.”

Pruning, in short, protects plants, the public and property owners.

The Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Freeman & Mallard have been successfully and aggressively representing accident victims and their families in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Pierce /Port St. Lucie for years. Call us today to schedule a no-obligation appointment to discuss your case at 1-800-529-2368.

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