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How tree roots can cause sidewalk problems and hurt people

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Premises Liability |

Trees are a beautiful addition to many neighborhoods. They provide shade, oxygen and aesthetic appeal.

However, tree roots can lead to serious personal injuries for unsuspecting pedestrians.

Tree roots and sidewalks

As trees mature, their roots extend and grow in search of water and nutrients. Unfortunately, this growth often occurs underground. It can intersect with sidewalks and other infrastructure. Over time, these roots can push against the concrete, causing it to crack and heave. This process, known as “root heave,” creates uneven surfaces that pose a significant hazard to pedestrians.

Tripping hazards

Uneven sidewalks are a recipe for disaster, especially for people with limited mobility or visual impairments. Pedestrians can easily trip and fall when navigating these uneven surfaces. A range of injuries can result, including sprains, fractures and head trauma. The risk is particularly high in areas with dense tree populations, where root damage to sidewalks is more prevalent.

Legal liability

In many cases, municipalities are responsible for maintaining sidewalks and ensuring public safety. However, when tree roots are the culprit, the lines of responsibility can blur. Property owners may also bear some responsibility for maintaining the trees on their land and preventing root damage to sidewalks.

Regular inspections of sidewalks and nearby trees can help identify potential issues before they escalate. Implementing root barriers during sidewalk construction or tree planting can also help mitigate future damage. Prompt repairs to damaged sidewalks can help prevent accidents and reduce the risk of personal injuries.

By prioritizing the maintenance of sidewalks and trees, communities can create safer environments for pedestrians and minimize the threat posed by tree roots.