With the recent severe winter storms, the issue of tree liability comes up. If a tree on your property falls on your neighbor’s property, who is responsible for the damage and clean up? As with many issues in the law, the answer depends. . .
Why did the tree fall?
If the tree was healthy and fell due to unusually high winds, tornado, heavy snow or other weather conditions, there is no negligence on the part of the tree owner and he would not be held responsible for the tree falling on a neighbor’s property. This is considered an act of God or nature. In this case, if the tree falls on your property, you would submit a claim to your own insurance carrier.
If the tree was diseased or damaged and the tree owner knew (or should have known) about the damage, the tree owner will be held responsible. Tree owners have a duty to inspect trees periodically for disease and damage and to have them trimmed or removed if they present a danger to the public or to property.
If your neighbor cuts a tree on his property without professional help and the tree falls the wrong way onto your property, the tree owner is responsible for the damage to your property. This is simple negligence.
If you live in an area with large overhanging trees, you should periodically inspect them for disease or damage and take steps to prevent them from causing injury to persons or property. If you are the victim of a falling tree coming from another property, you must determine why the tree fell and whether the tree owner did something (or failed to do something) which caused the tree to fall. Unfortunately, if the tree fell due to purely natural causes, such as high winds uprooting a tree, nobody is at fault and the law offers no remedy. In such cases, if personal injury or property damage occurs, chances are your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy will provide coverage, subject, of course, to that inevitable deductible. — Kevin Palmer