Trees sometimes fall or tip over, damaging homes, personal property and vehicles. For example, during or after a major storm, it is pretty typical for large branches to fall on power lines or for trees to tip over. This can cause major damage to a car, including high repair fees.
Tree accidents may be covered by auto insurance or they may be covered by the insurance policy of the property owner on whose property the tree resided. There may be instances where this is not covered by insurance and so it is important to determine who is at fault.
Falling branches and trees on personal property involve the legal concept of “premises liability”. What this means is that the owner of a property is the one liable for injuries sustained on the damaged property due to dangerous conditions and other factors.
Premises liability also includes a variety of situations such as wet floors that cause people to slip and fall. It can apply to residences, public property, supermarkets, sidewalks and shopping malls alike. Under premise liability, whether it is a private home, apartment building or a retail store, property owners have a responsibility to look out for the safety of their property occupants.
To prove premises liability, one must prove that the property owner failed to keep their property safe for other people as well as negligence. The victim must prove that the property owner failed to take reasonable care in maintaining their property to keep it safe and therefore this led to an injury. For instance, if a person’s car was parked on a street where a tree that has clearly not been trimmed for a long time and hangs over a fence into the street – it is apparent that the property owner did not maintain the tree to keep it safe for other people to park on that street. If that same tree fell on a parked car and caused damages, the owner of the parked car could possibly sue the property owner within a personal injury lawsuit.
Depending on whether a tree was property of a city or local municipality, there may be special statutes in place that protect that government entity from premise liability claims. In these cases, the owner of the damaged vehicle would need to immediately file a claim after the incident occurred. There may be a waiting period to file a law suit. In these cases, it is best to speak with a personal injury attorney who can provide legal advice in this matter.