Who is Liable When a Tree Falls?


October 29th, 2015

 

Many home and business owners have one or more types of trees on their property. Trees provide shade and complement landscaping nicely. However, they can also cause major disputes when they fall. Whether the tree falls due to improper maintenance, ill-health, or because of a storm, a property owner is often left to wonder if he or she is legally liable. Most people assume that they are legally liable if the tree was rooted on their property. However, this may not always be true.

 

When a tree, or a part of the tree, falls onto a neighboring property, that neighbor should submit a claim to his or her insurance company immediately. If the tree fell because of an act of nature, their insurance company is usually responsible for taking care of the damages. For example, if your healthy tree falls onto your neighbor’s property as a result of a tornado, hurricane, wind storm, or winter storm, the damages would probably not be your responsibility.

 

However, there are some cases where a property owner from where the tree fell may be held legally liable. If your tree fell on your neighbor’s home while you were trying to cut it down without professional help, the damage would most likely be your responsibility. Also, if the tree was dying, unstable, or diseased, and you knew about it, you could be legally liable if it falls over on its own. You could also be liable if it falls over during a very light storm that would not normally knock over a tree. When you know you have dying, diseased, or unstable trees, it is your responsibility to take steps to prevent them from causing severe damage.

 

In the event you are legally liable for the damages, your personal insurance company will, in most cases, pay for the cleanup and repairs, up to your policy limit. For any further damages beyond that, you may be financially responsible. Most claims for fallen trees are due to storms or acts of nature, so in most cases, the insurance company representing the property owner will be responsible to cover any necessary repair costs.

 

The best way to try to avoid the headache of a fallen tree is to try to prevent it from happening in the first place. Check your trees regularly and have them inspected at the first sign of disease or any health issues.

 

A professional arborist can analyze the tree to see if it needs any special treatments, pruning, or complete removal. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it is much less expensive than the potential cost of paying for a neighbor’s home being destroyed and the legal costs that ensue.