As storms become more severe and more frequent, so does the damage they cause. Fallen trees are a common sight after severe weather. But who needs to take legal responsibility for fallen tree damage?

Here’s what you need to know about who pays for fallen trees and the damage they cause.

When Do You Take Responsibility for Fallen Tree Damage?

There’s a tree in your yard – and it wasn’t there yesterday. Whose problem is it?

Very often, the responsibility for fallen tree damage lies on your shoulders, regardless of where the tree’s roots were. Why? Because downed trees are usually an act of nature. You can’t control where straight-line winds or a tornado drop a tree.

The rule of thumb is if there’s a tree down as a result of disease or natural event, then you should submit a claim to your homeowner’s insurance policy. It will cover any damage done by the fallen tree and usually fallen tree removal. You still submit the claim even if the tree wasn’t originally on your land.

When Is the Tree Someone Else’s Liability Issue?

Are there any cases where the property owner who previously owned the tree needs to pay?

Yes, if the tree came down as a result of the property owner’s action or inaction that caused the tree to be unsafe – not as a natural event – then it will usually be their responsibility.

Typically, the homeowner from whose property the tree fell pays in two scenarios:

  • When they cut down the tree, and it falls and causes damage
  • When they know the tree is diseased, dying, or otherwise unstable and do nothing to remove or secure it and it falls

In this case, their insurance company will pay the damages and provide cover in case of a lawsuit.

If you’re on the receiving end of a neighbor’s poor tree cutting form, then you may be able to sue or submit a liability claim against the tree owner’s homeowner’s insurance.

Property Damage Liability is Complicated

Neighbor disputes are very complicated because there’s an element of shared space and shared risk when you live near other people.

In order for you to avoid claiming your insurance and force your neighbor, who owns the tree, to pay, then you need proof it was their fault the tree came down.

In cases where the neighbor cut down the tree and it landed on your garage, the issue is usually clear cut. It was your neighbor’s fault, so they pay.

But when the tree came down in a minor weather event or of its own accord, the issue becomes more complicated. You need proof that your neighbor knew the tree was unsafe and did nothing. The damage or disease needed to be apparent, or you need to have complained about the safety fo the tree.

Either Way, Insurance Pays

Who has legal responsibility for fallen tree damage? It’s hard to say because it depends on many different factors. The good news is that homeowner’s insurance will usually cover both the clean-up and the repair costs. Unless there’s a serious case of negligence, the story typically ends there.

Do you have more questions about caring for trees? Find more articles on home and garden care throughout the archive.