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Who is responsible if a neighbors tree causes property damage?

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2018 | Property Damage/Insurance Claims

In the aftermath of any type of large and dangerous weather event, there can be a wide and unpredictable range of destruction left behind that many home or property owners may never have experienced before and aren’t quite sure how to deal with. When this occurs, how do you sort out who, if anyone, is liable for the damage that occurred?

Property damage left in the wake of Hurricane Irma

 This was the situation that faced many Floridians who had evacuated their cities to avoid the fury of Hurricane Irma this past September. Upon making their way back home days after the storm to evaluate the damage, most found themselves left with a lot of uncertainty about how to proceed.

While the most infamous form of wreckage associated with Irma may be the very large number of boats that were lost or damaged after the storm had receded, there was also a significant amount of property damage to the businesses and homes of residents throughout Tampa, Miami and the many other cities of Florida that were affected by the storm. When natural elements are a contributing factor in the damage of property, it often raises questions about who can and should be held liable for compensating the property owner. . 

If a tree falls…

Lifelong Floridians may have heard this one before, but for those of you who have just recently joined us in the Sunshine State, this is a helpful lesson that probably bears repeating anyway. In most cases that involve damage done to your property as the result of something like severe weather, you – or more accurately, your insurance policy –  will be covering the cost of the damage. 

Liability for “Acts of God”

When a tree from your neighbor’s yard loses a large branch during a storm and it crashes to the ground, taking part of your fence with it, this falls into the category of what your insurance policy probably refers to as an “Act of God”. In more colloquial terms, this means that whatever damage that occurred was caused by a natural act and was not directly the fault of either your neighbor or yourself. While the initial reaction to this assessment is often understandably a measure of resistance, further reflection offers clarity – events like this are why most people have a homeowner’s insurance policy. It may not be the most convenient solution at the time, but it also wouldn’t be fair to expect your neighbor to pay for something that wasn’t in their control. 

Liability for negligence

However, on closer inspection, sometimes the details of the damage that took place tell a different story about where responsibility may lie. If you suspected or were aware of conditions that you feel played a part in the damage that occurred and those conditions can be proven, then your neighbor could be the one at fault. For example, if your neighbor’s tree was diseased or the large limb that broke your fence was dead before the storm happened and should have been removed some time ago for reasons of safety, this may constitute negligence on the part of your neighbor and they may be liable for the cost of your property damage. 

It is very beneficial to seek experienced legal counsel in cases of property damage before moving forward with what may be an uncertain claim. If you have found yourself in a situation similar to this and feel that your property may have been damaged under circumstances that reflect negligence, we invite you to contact our offices today to schedule a free case evaluation and discuss the possible options available to you. We are dedicated to helping our clients make informed and responsible legal decisions.