Am I Liable if My Tree Falls On My Neighbor's Property?
If your tree was dying or diseased, you may be
High winds, ice and rainstorms can bring trees crashing down on your home or car. But if one of your trees falls on your neighbor’s property, are you liable for the damage?
Insurance experts say in most cases, the answer is no. If one of your healthy trees got knocked over, your neighbor’s home insurance company will pay for the damage to his property, according to Janet Ruiz, the California representative for the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based trade association. “In most cases,” she says, “an insurance company is not going to spend time trying to figure out where a tree or other item originally came from.”
If your tree lands on a neighbor’s car that’s parked on the street, his auto insurance policy will cover it, as long as he has comprehensive coverage, according to an article by Claudia McClain of McClain Insurance Services published on Angie’s List.
There is an exception, though: A tree that falls due to your own neglect. In this case, your neighbor’s insurance company may seek to recover money from your insurance company. If you ignored requests from the city or from neighbors to remove trees that appeared to be dead, diseased or rotting, you’re more likely to be found liable for the damages, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
You may be liable if construction or remodeling on your house or
property causes a tree on your property to fall on your neighbor’s house or car,
according to an article San Francisco attorney Bret Snider
for FindLaw.com, an online legal resource for consumers.
What about the cost of replacing or hauling off the offending tree?
Policies don’t generally pay for removal of a fallen tree that doesn’t cause
damage. However, your policy will probably pay to remove a tree if it hits a covered
— such as your home or your neighbor’s house or garage.
“The most important lesson, especially as we are heading into the winter months, when you have downed trees and other issues, is know what your policy covers,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, a trade association based in Greenwood, Colorado. She advises that you find out what it covers, its limits, deductible and endorsements. “It’s a good time to check your insurance policies to make sure you have adequate protection,” she says.
Insurance may cover the cost of
replacing landscaping damaged by a storm, for example, but will do so with strict limits,
usually about a total of 5 percent of the total amount of insurance on your
house and a limit of $500 per tree, shrub or plant.
“In general, the more you take care of trees, the better. If they are dying, or have bark beetles or anything else, you should be responsible and take them down. It’s better for you,” said the Insurance Information Institute’s Ruiz. While the damage to your house or others is going to be paid for by insurance, she says, "you certainly don’t want any people injured.”
Related: Can Trees Make You Younger?