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Liability for Allowing Vegetation to Grow into Roadway

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a caller who asked “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 roadway.

For example, suppose the county mows a drainage ditch once a summer, but the landowner likes to keep the ditch along his or her property trimmed shorter, and for several years hires someone to mow 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 when they abandon that 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.

Assumed duty cases are difficult to prove, but such cases can be successful if the facts are right and clearly show an assumed duty, and a breach of that assumed duty, and harm flowing from the breach of duty.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.