When a Tree Falls…

During storm seasons, trees, shrubs, and other plants can be part of damaging debris on properties. When they’re your own, you understand that the damage falls on you to repair. But what if your tree falls on a neighbor’s property and does damage? What if your neighbor’s tree falls on your property and causes damage? Who is responsible?

The simplest answer to this question is not often the one that people want to hear. You are typically going to be responsible for the damage to your own property and clean up from a fallen tree. Likewise, your neighbor is typically going to be responsible for the damage to their property from a fallen tree. However, there may be exceptions.

Dead or Damaged Trees

If you or your neighbor is aware or made formally aware of a dead or damaged tree that may be more likely to fall, break, or otherwise fracture and result in damage, they may be held liable for that resulting damage. But that’s not as simple as telling them you think their tree is dead or dying. A forestry expert, arborist, or other qualified professional would need to examine the tree and provide an official report. And even then, there would need to be cooperation between you and your neighbor.

Legal System

Without cooperation of neighbors in these matters, the legal system is likely to come into play. If the tree falls and damages property, an expert can also examine the tree and that time and determine if there were preexisting issues. However, the person seeking indemnification might have to prove that the preexisting issues were clear and present to the tree’s owner before the damage occurred.

In addition, how severe was the storm? Are the parties involved in a financial state to handle the damages? Was insurance available to cover or partially cover the repairs? In a legal battle, there are many factors that could come into play. If this became a jury case, consider how an affluent neighbor might look to their peers if they are suing a less successful neighbor who didn’t know their tree was dead or dying and can’t easily pay for the damages.

So, the more complicated answer to this question is – it depends. But in the short term, you’ll likely be responsible for any damage to your own property from a fallen tree. If it occurs, be sure to document the tree and the clean-up with photos and any reports from the company or individual(s) that handle the process.

And remember, having the right coverage on your property will help you with the more immediate aftermath to these situations, even if a longer process to determine the full liability occurs. Talk with our agents to discuss your property coverage today.