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Heavy snows can fell trees, bring premises liability claims

While one thing Manhattan residents don't usually have to worry too much about is pruning trees and landscaping, but for residents who own of property outside of the city, it's an ongoing task.

Whether it's a beach house in the Hamptons or a cozy ski-in in the Berkshires, chances are that there are at least a few trees scattered throughout your property. Winter plays havoc with trees, especially young, fast-growing ones that are liable to snap under the weight of icy layers and piles of snow.

Trees that split, fall and topple are a major headache for homeowners. Not only do they pose dangers to your own property, they can also cause injuries to passersby, workers, neighbors or curious children and give rise to premises liability claims that can send insurance rates skyrocketing.

Especially with properties that get only occasional, seasonal use, take the time to walk the property at least once a year and after major storms or weather events to identify potential liabilities and hazards. Before closing up your Hamptons house for the season, note any single trees or groupings that could be felled by heavy accumulations of snow over the winter. Consider wiring or cabling the trees for added stability.

Trees require annual pruning to remove deadwood that can come crashing down and injure anyone walking beneath. If a summer storm caused a tree to get struck by lightning, arrange for a tree service to cut it down. While it make take years to actually die on its own, it will be steadily deteriorating and posing potential safety hazards.

Look into hiring someone to do year-round maintenance on the trees and shrubs located on your New York property to eliminate worry.

If you have been injured due to dangerous conditions on another's property, you may be able to seek financial compensation by filing a claim.

Source: National Fire Protection Association, "Keep your trees and property safe in winter" Jennifer Smith, accessed Feb. 06, 2015

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