Crash Caused by Vegetation Blocking View of Roadway
Hi. I’m Indiana personal injury attorney David Holub.
Last week a caller said “I was driving down a country road in late summer and was involved in a motor vehicle crash, where the other party ran a stop sign, but the other driver says it is not his fault because vegetation was growing into the roadway and covering a stop sign, what is the responsibility of a property owner who lets vegetation grow to cover a sign or block the roadway?”
We often find that crashes involve an issue with trees, bushes, agricultural crops and the like blocking a view at an intersection, or blocking a view of a sign.
The law in general is that to the extent a landowner owes a duty to travelers on an adjacent roadway, that duty is limited to refraining from creating hazardous conditions that encroach upon the roadway.
Where the vegetation is wholly contained on a landowner’s property, and does not extend into the highway right of way, there is no duty owed by a property owner to the traveling public.
But things get tricky when a landowner voluntarily assumes a duty to mow or remove vegetation near a road way.
For example, suppose the landowner keeps a ditch along his or her property trimmed short, and for years mows the drainage ditch once every couple of weeks.
You guessed it, by assuming a duty, which motorists come to depend upon, a landowner may make himself or herself liable if they later choose to abandon that assumed duty, and let the vegetation grow, and it blocks the roadway and causes a crash.
The same can apply if a farmer sprays a fence row next to a roadway for weeds every year, and then stops and lets the brush grow up high and block the view of motorists.
Assumed duty cases are difficult to prove, but it can be done if the facts are right. Such cases require extensive investigation and make seeing an attorney soon after a crash can make the difference in making a case for recovery.
If you would like to learn more about personal injury law, we encourage you to listen to our Personal Injury Primer Podcast where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.