While Christmas trees bring joy and a festive spirit, they can also be the cause of severe accidents and catastrophic injuries. Fires, falls, electrocutions, and lacerations from Christmas tree accidents can quickly turn holiday cheer into tears.
Each year, hundreds of people end up in the hospital due to Christmas tree mishaps and mistakes – often through no fault of their own. Some injuries, such as cuts from broken ornaments, may be relatively minor, while others may be life-altering, including burns from electrical fires or crushing injuries from falls or toppling trees.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Christmas tree accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. In this article, the Texas personal injury attorneys at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group explain common Christmas tree accidents, the process for recovering compensation if you have been injured, and how our law firm can help.
We also offer 15 important Christmas tree safety tips that we hope will help keep you, your family, and your pets injury-free this holiday season.
Christmas tree accidents and injuries may be prevented by following safety protocols. Reduce fire hazards by correctly placing lights, ensuring electrical safety, and using fire-resistant decorations.
Electrical malfunctions, faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, and defective holiday lights are the primary causes of Christmas tree fires.
Homeowners, property owners, manufacturers, and retailers could be held liable for Christmas tree accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Christmas tree accident, contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential.
Common Christmas Tree Accidents
Every year, families around the world partake in the time-honored tradition of setting up a Christmas tree. While these trees bring festive cheer into our homes, they also come with potential risks. Understanding the most common types of Christmas tree accidents is crucial in taking preventative measures to ensure that the season remains merry and bright for everyone. Here’s a look at the most common causes of Christmas tree accidents:
Fires: Christmas tree fires are among the most serious accidents. These can occur due to electrical faults in lights, overloaded sockets, or trees being placed too near heat sources. Particularly for dry, real trees, the risk of a tiny spark turning into a major fire is significant.
Falls: Falls while decorating, assembling or dissembling Christmas trees are another common cause of tree accidents. Falls can also occur from the improper or unaccompanied use of ladders or step stools. Awareness of potential hazards and taking necessary precautions can prevent many of these tree accidents.
Electrocutions: Damaged electrical cords or faulty Christmas lights can cause electrocutions, a risk that increases with the use of real trees with metallic ornaments or metallic trees.
Lacerations and cuts: Sharp edges of decorations or broken bulbs, especially glass ones, can lead to cuts and lacerations, sometimes requiring medical attention.
Ingestion Injuries: Pets and small children might be tempted to chew on or swallow small decorations, pine needles, or even fragments of broken ornaments. These ingestion injuries can be harmful and require immediate medical attention.
Allergic Reactions: “Christmas tree syndrome,” caused by mold spores commonly found on real trees, can trigger allergic reactions, adding to the list of potential health risks.
Christmas trees are a cherished seasonal tradition, but they can also pose significant hazards to our families, friends, children and pets. This includes potential fire hazards, particularly with real trees that can dry out, and risks of injury from falling decorations or the tree itself. It’s essential to be mindful of these potential risks and to follow safety guidelines to ensure a joyful and accident-free holiday season.
Common Chrismas Tree Injuries
According to the National Fire Protection Association, on average, there are 350 injuries related to Christmas tree accidents annually. The injuries caused by Christmas tree accidents vary, with the most prevalent being lacerations from broken tree ornaments, falls while establishing or dismantling the tree, and electric shock from defective Christmas tree lights. Here’s a look at common types of tree injuries and why Christmas tree safety is so important:
Burns: Often resulting from electrical malfunctions or candles too close to the tree, burns can range from minor to severe. Ensuring all lights are in good condition and keeping the tree away from open flames are essential to Christmas tree safety.
Traumatic Brain Injuries: Falls while decorating or due to a collapsing tree can lead to head injuries, including concussions or more severe traumatic brain injuries. Using stable ladders and securing the tree base can help prevent such accidents.
Spinal Cord Injuries: Similar to brain injuries, falls can also result in spinal cord damage, potentially leading to long-term disabilities. Safe decorating practices are crucial to mitigate this risk.
Broken Bones: Slippery floors, unstable ladders, or toppling trees can cause falls, leading to broken bones. Maintaining a clutter-free space around the tree and using proper equipment can reduce the chances of such injuries.
Sprains and Strains: Overexertion during tree setup or decoration can lead to muscle strains and sprains. It’s important to be mindful of your physical limits and ask for assistance when needed.
Cuts and Bruises: Broken ornaments or sharp tree branches can cause cuts, while accidental collisions with the tree or decorations can lead to bruises. Careful handling of decorations and awareness of surroundings are key preventive measures.
The joy of a Christmas tree can be overshadowed by the risk of injuries if safety is not prioritized. By being aware of these common types of injuries and taking proactive steps to prevent them, families can enjoy the festive season without the worry of accidents. Let’s remember that a little caution and preparation can go a long way in ensuring that our holiday memories are filled with happiness, not accidents.
Why Artificial & Real Trees Can Be Safety Hazards
The holiday season often centers around the Christmas tree, a symbol of joy and celebration. However, whether you choose a real tree for its natural charm or an artificial tree for its convenience, both types come with distinct safety hazards.
Real Christmas Trees: Safety Hazards
Real Christmas trees, while offering a traditional and authentic holiday experience, come with specific safety concerns, including:
Fire Risk: Real trees are highly flammable, especially when they dry out. In fact, they are three times more likely to cause a fire than an artificial tree and can become engulfed in flames in less than 10 seconds. Keeping them hydrated is crucial, as dry trees can easily catch fire from heat sources or electrical lights. This is an important factor to consider when selecting your tree for the holiday season.
Watering Hazards: Regular watering is essential, but water spills can create slip-and-fall hazards or cause electrical shorts if water comes into contact with light strings or extension cords.
Pest Presence: Real trees can sometimes harbor insects or molds, which can cause allergic reactions or respiratory issues for some individuals.
Disposal Concerns: After the winter holidays, disposing of a real tree requires careful consideration. Dry trees left inside or improperly discarded can pose fire hazards.
Artificial Trees: Safety Hazards
Artificial Christmas trees offer convenience but have their own set of safety issues, including:
Fire and Chemical Risks: While less prone to catching fire than dry real trees, older or lower-quality artificial trees can still be fire hazards. Some may also contain harmful chemicals like lead and other metals in the PVC used for needles. These chemicals can be a health risk if ingested or inhaled. It is imperative to ensure that artificial trees comply with safety standards and are constructed from non-toxic materials.
Electrical Concerns: Pre-lit artificial trees come with built-in lighting, which can malfunction and pose a fire risk if the wiring degrades over time.
Structural Stability: Artificial trees vary in quality, and cheaper models may have poor stability, risking collapse or toppling, especially if overloaded with decorations.
Storage Issues: Improper storage can lead to damaged lights or frayed wires, increasing the risk of accidents in subsequent years.
It is important to follow safety precautions for both real and artificial trees, such as ensuring that all decorations and lights are specifically designed for indoor or outdoor use, as appropriate. Being aware of the types of accidents and possible dangers with real and outdoor electrical lights and artificial trees can prevent mishaps and ensure a safe holiday celebration.
Prevalence of Christmas Tree Fires
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that approximately 200 fires are attributed to Christmas trees each year. On average, there are 160 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees annually. The number of Christmas tree fires in the United States has remained relatively stable over the past decade. Even so, these statistics underscore the importance of proper safety measures when it comes to Christmas tree selection, maintenance, and decoration. Following recommended Christmas tree safety tips and being mindful of potential hazards can significantly decrease the risk of a devastating Christmas tree fire in your home.
Causes of Chrismas Tree Light Fires
Shorts in electrical lights are one of the primary causes of Christmas tree fires. Similarly, open flames from candles, lighters, or matches can also easily ignite a fire. It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of Christmas tree fires are attributed to electrical faults. Typical electrical faults that can lead to Christmas tree fires include electrical malfunctions, such as faulty wiring or overloaded circuits, and malfunctioning holiday lights or decorations.
Faulty Christmas lights can pose a risk of fire due to electrical shorts or frayed wires in the light strands, as well as overloading electrical circuits. By inspecting your Christmas lights for damage and ensuring they are appropriate for indoor or outdoor use, you can help prevent these dangerous fires.
Christmas Tree Safety Tips: How to Prevent Christmas Tree Accidents
Christmas tree safety is vital, and by following a few key safety tips, you can prevent tree accidents that could lead to injuries or property damage. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Choose the Right Tree: For real trees, select one that’s fresh with green needles that don’t fall off when touched. For artificial trees, choose one that is labeled as fire-resistant.
Location Matters: Place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. Heat sources can dry out a real tree quickly, increasing the risk of fire.
Secure the Tree Firmly: Make sure your tree is stable and won’t tip over. Use a sturdy tree stand and, if necessary, secure the top of the tree to a wall or ceiling with thin guide wires.
Water Real Trees Regularly: Keep the tree base filled with water to prevent the tree from drying out. A dry tree is a significant fire hazard.
Check Lights for Safety: Use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL). Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose bulb connections. Replace any damaged lights and ensure they are approved for indoor or outdoor use.
Use LED Lights: LED lights are not only energy-efficient but also generate less heat, making them safer to use on your tree. They also last longer, reducing the risk of overheating or causing a fire.
Turn Off Lights When Unattended: Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. This reduces the risk of a fire starting while you are asleep or away.
Avoid Overloading Electrical Outlets: Plug lights into different circuits to avoid overloading a single outlet, which can cause electrical mishaps and fires.
Use Appropriate Decorations: Decorate with children and pets in mind. Avoid decorations that are sharp, breakable, or small enough to be a choking hazard.
Choose Non-Flammable Ornaments: Opt for non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations to reduce the risk of fire. Avoid using decorations made of paper, fabric, or other highly flammable materials.
Dispose of the Tree Properly: After the holidays, dispose of real trees promptly. Do not leave them in the house or garage, or leaning against the exterior of your house. A dried-out tree is highly flammable.Take advantage of a local recycling program or have the tree collected promptly after the holiday season.
Regular Maintenance for Artificial Trees: If you have an artificial tree, especially a pre-lit one, inspect it for signs of wear and tear before setting it up. Look for damaged wires and lights.
Allergy Awareness: For real trees, be mindful of potential allergic reactions. Clean the tree outside before bringing it into your home to remove some of the mold spores.
Educate Family Members: Make sure all family members understand the safety guidelines for the tree, especially the importance of not playing around it or tampering with electrical components.
Be Conscientious with Candles: When using candles near a Christmas tree, keep them at least 12 inches away from combustible materials, such as curtains or furniture, and avoid using candles with decorations inside them, as the paper or tree bark may be susceptible to ignition. Trim the wicks to 1/4 inch and never leave a lit candle unattended. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
Following these Christmas tree safety tips can prevent tree accidents, ensuring a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
Who Can Be Liable for a Christmas Tree Accident
In the event of a Christmas tree accident, various parties may be held legally responsible including but not limited to:
In the event of a Christmas tree fire, homeowners may be legally responsible, especially if the fire results in damage to another person’s property. This liability arises from the homeowner’s duty to ensure that their property, including holiday decorations like Christmas trees, does not pose a hazard to others.
Property Owner Liability
Property owners, distinct from homeowners, can also be held accountable for accidents involving Christmas trees on their premises. If the placement of festive decorations leads to injury or losses, and it is determined that the property owner was negligent in maintaining a safe environment, they can be legally responsible.
Manufacturers of Christmas tree products may be liable if a fire or accident is caused by a defective product. Additionally, if they fail to provide adequate fire safety warnings or precautions with their products, they can be held responsible for any resulting damages or injuries. Manufacturer’s instructions should always be clear and comprehensive, providing users with essential safety information and proper usage guidelines to prevent accidents.
Christmas tree retailers could face liability in the event of an accident, particularly if it involves a preventable fire that damages property other than the homeowner’s or if a tree they sold contributes to an accident causing injuries. Retailers are advised to obtain specialized liability insurance to cover risks associated with their premises and the products they sell.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Christmas tree accident, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will be able to determine whether negligence contributed to the accident and can guide you through the legal process of seeking compensation. They will assess the circumstances surrounding the incident, gather evidence, and help establish liability, ensuring that your rights are protected and you receive the appropriate legal recourse for your injuries and losses.
Pursuing Compensation for Christmas Tree Injuries
When a Christmas tree accident occurs due to negligence, the injured party may have the right to seek compensation. This process involves understanding and categorizing the types of damages that you can claim. These are typically divided into economic, non-economic, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Economic damages refer to the quantifiable financial losses resulting from the accident. They include:
Medical Expenses: Costs for immediate medical treatment, ongoing care, rehabilitation, and any future medical needs related to the injury.
Lost Wages: Compensation for the income lost due to time off work following the accident.
Property Damage: Costs to repair or replace property damaged in the incident, such as the home or personal belongings.
Non-economic damages cover the more intangible losses that don’t have a specific dollar value. These include:
Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress caused by the injury.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the inability to enjoy hobbies and other activities the injured person used to participate in before the accident.
Emotional Distress: Compensation for psychological impacts like anxiety, depression, and trauma.
In cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly reckless or malicious, punitive damages might be awarded. These are not tied to the direct losses of the injured party but are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.
There is no standardized method for determining the value of pain and suffering in Christmas tree injury lawsuits, and the amount of damages is determined on an individual basis, taking into consideration various factors. It is essential to to consult with a personal injury lawyer to evaluate your particular case and determine potential compensation.
Navigating the Legal Process
Pursuing compensation involves legal complexities, making it crucial to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will:
Investigate the Accident: Gather evidence to establish liability.
Calculate Damages: Determine the full extent of damages, both economic and non-economic.
Negotiate with Insurance Companies: Handle all communications and negotiations with insurance providers.
Represent You in Court: If necessary, file a lawsuit and represent you in court to fight for fair compensation for your injuries. Watch this video by attorney Ty Stimpson to learn more about the personal injury lawsuit process.
Injured in a Christmas Tree Accident? Contact Us.
Legal assistance is imperative if you or a loved one has been injured in a Christmas tree accident. Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group specializes in representing victims of serious injuries and families in wrongful death and catastrophic cases, providing legal advice and advocacy to individuals who have suffered due to the negligence of others. With a deep understanding of personal injury law, the firm is dedicated to helping clients navigate the complexities of their legal situations, ensuring that they receive the compensation they deserve for their losses and suffering.
At Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group, we understand that dealing with the aftermath of a Christmas tree accident can be overwhelming, both emotionally and financially. That’s why we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t pay any legal fees unless we win your case. This approach allows you to focus on healing and recovery without the stress of upfront costs. We’re committed to advocating for your rights and securing the maximum compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one has been affected by such an incident, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 817-207-4878 (HURT) for a free consultation. Our dedicated team is here to guide you through every step of the legal process with compassion and expertise.
Fast Facts About Christmas Tree Safety
→ The #1 Safety Concern With Real Christmas Trees
The number one safety concern when it comes to using real Christmas trees is the potential for a fire due to a combination of electrical malfunctions and the tree drying out.
→ Make Sure You Child (and Pet) Proof Your Christmas Tree
Secure your Christmas tree by placing a barrier around it, such as an expandable baby gate or kennel fencing. Top-load the tree and stabilize it to the floor, then re-position it to be out of reach of children. Opt for child-friendly decorations and make sure to replace ornament hooks and conceal wires and plugs.
→ Never Leave a Christmas Tree Unattended
It is not safe to leave a Christmas tree unattended, as at least 1 foot of space should be kept around it when burning.
→Water Real Christmas Trees Daily
Water your real Christmas tree daily to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
→ Use The Right Type of Lights On Your Christmas Tree
For a safe and festive Christmas tree, use lights approved for indoor or outdoor use and check them for any damage or wear before using.
Christmas tree accidents can have devastating consequences, but by following the safety tips and precautions outlined in this article, you can greatly reduce the risks associated with both real and artificial trees. Remember to choose a fresh tree that’s well-watered, inspect your holiday lights for damage, and keep candles and other heat sources away from your tree.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a Christmas tree accident, call Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group at 817-203-4878 (HURT).