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Who Is Responsible For A Fallen Tree

Who Is Responsible For A Fallen Tree?


There are many reasons why trees fall, but discovering who is liable for a fallen tree is contingent on you being able to understand why the tree fell, in the first place. The two main reasons why trees fall are natural causes and negligence. In the case of natural causes, a tree fell because of weather conditions like high winds, snowstorms, hurricanes, or other natural events that are unavoidable. In the case of negligence, a tree fell because it was not properly taken care of—this can include: lack of maintenance, ignoring obvious signs, or not cutting down a potentially dangerous tree.   This is very difficult to prove.  Usually, if you don’t have documentation in writing that the tree is potentially dangerous before it fails you have no recourse.

Who is Responsible for a Fallen Tree

Let’s go over a few scenarios, that will help you understand if a fallen tree is your responsibility, your neighbor’s responsibility, or neither’s responsibility. Oftentimes, trees are in close proximity, and it is hard to discern if a fallen tree belongs to you or your neighbors.

Here’s the first scenario. If you have a tree that is growing within the confines of your own property, this tree is considered your tree. Regardless of if your tree grows into your neighbor’s property, if the tree is rooted in your yard, that means that the tree belongs to you. However, if part of your tree breaks or the tree falls over into your neighbor’s yard it is their responsibility. Even if it hits their house or their car.  Again, unless the tree has been documented in writing to be potentially dangerous it is considered an “act of God”.  A natural occurrence that just happened.  Sometimes depending on the person, the tree owner has offered to pay to clean up the tree, even the cost to structures but in our experience this is rare.

Here’s another scenario. Let’s say that you’ve got a massive tree, and its trunk is so big that it grows on your property and your neighbor’s property, at the same time. In this instance, because the tree is rooted in both of your properties if something happens and the tree falls down, it will be both your and your neighbor’s responsibility.

Will My Homeowners Insurance Pay for My Fallen Tree?

The short answer is, maybe. But let’s talk about this in more detail, so that you can determine if your insurance will cover your fallen tree.

There are multiple things that affect if your insurance will cover a fallen tree.  Every policy is different so if you have more extensive coverage, you will probably get more money.  If you have a basic policy, you may get some money but the cost of the deductible may make it not worth making a claim.   Also, the more significant the damage is; if a car or house were damaged the more likely you will receive more money.  Most insurance companies have very specific rules. They often break it down to how much they will pay to take it off the house and how much to take the debris away.  So, it is important that tree companies work within the details of your policy and bill you appropriately.  Most tree companies want you to pay them and have you be reimbursed by your insurance company.

If a tree fell because of natural causes, then your insurance will probably cover the costs of damages. This means that if there were exceptionally high winds, a snowstorm, a hurricane, or any other kind of natural disaster that made your tree fall down, you won’t be held liable for the damages. Let’s say that a tree falls down, and it damages both your property and your neighbor’s property. Well, if that tree fell down because of a natural disaster, then insurance will in most cases cover the fallen tree.  Just to reiterate there are lots of variables in coverage.

What Happens if a Tree that Is on Public Land Falls onto My Property?

Let’s say that a tree falls in your yard, and it is rooted in a public place, like a park. If this tree falls on your property, then it is the responsibility of community officials to remove the tree. In other words, if the tree is not rooted on your land, and belongs to a public company or government, then it is not your job to remove the tree. Despite the fact that community officials are going to be tasked with removing the tree, you are not entirely off the hook, because you will still be responsible for the damages that come from the fallen tree. However, the good news is that oftentimes your homeowner’s insurance will cover any damages that come from a community tree falling on your property

What if the tree was predisposed to failure due to negligence?

Things get tricky—and inconvenient—when a tree falls down because of negligence. However, negligence is difficult to prove.  If a tree that failed was dead or compromised it can be really frustrating but there is usually not much you can do. Even in our litigious society, it is usually not worth suing your neighbor.  It is usually more expensive to hire a lawyer and go to court than to pay for the repairs out of pocket. So, it is best to have your trees evaluated and if there are trees you are concerned about on your neighbor’s property ask them to have their trees evaluated.  Documenting potentially dangerous trees so they can be pruned or removed is the best way to avoid the “oh no’ moment when you find out the hard way.  If your neighbor does not want to take care of their trees and an arborist tells you there is an obvious hazard then send them a letter via certified mail so that they cannot deny they were aware of the risk.

When there is a tragedy, someone gets hurt or killed then it gets very complicated and sometimes contentious. This usually results in a prolonged legal case where the tree owner and the tree are investigated. Every detail is scrutinized to prove whether it was truly negligence or not

Thankfully these worst-case scenarios rarely happen but communication and documentation are key.  More often than not the really sketchy trees are on the property lines or in less obvious places.  Where each neighbor thinks it’s not theirs.  “Why doesn’t Joe take that tree down before it falls”?   In most cases, it’s a tree that no one really looked at or had it evaluated.  Out of sight out of mind, not negligence.

If a Tree Falls on My Land, Can I Remove it Myself?

We’ve been over a lot of hypothetical situations, and we know that it is easy to wonder if you can remove a fallen tree yourself. We get it, removing trees is expensive, and you might not want to deal with the stress of paying for fallen tree removal, especially when you might not have even been the reason that the tree fell down. Unexpected expenses can be a burden, and if a tree spontaneously fell down, it is a burden to front the bill.

However, it is vital that you contact a professional arborist to remove any fallen trees. It is not safe for you to remove a tree by yourself, especially if you do not have the proper training. It might seem like a simple job to remove a fallen tree, but the job is much harder and labor-intensive than you would imagine. Another thing that is important to note, is that if you try to remove a tree by yourself, then you are liable for whatever happens during the tree removal process. This means that if you are removing the tree by yourself, and you accidentally damage something while trying to remove the tree, then you’re going to be held accountable for the costs of remedying the damages. 

For safety purposes—and for the sake of your own wallet if something goes wrong—keep the tree removal services for the professionals to handle. You’re going to thank yourself, for not trying to remove a fallen tree yourself.

We’ve been over a lot, but let’s recap. There are many factors that go into deciding who is liable for a fallen tree, but the most important things to discern are: how a tree fell and whose property a tree is rooted on. If you have the answer to those two questions, oftentimes it is relatively simple to figure out who is responsible for a fallen tree. If you have any questions about who is responsible for a fallen tree, it is always a good idea to contact your insurance provider to sort out any uncertainties that you might have about costs and coverage. We hope that you’ve learned a lot about fallen trees, and if you have any questions call Mayer Tree Service.  We have lots of experience with all of these scenarios.

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