Are we responsible for auto repair costs associated with a limb falling on our neighbor’s car?

We had a windstorm late last week. A large limb fell from a tree in our yard onto our neighbor’s car. We were nice enough to offer to pay their insurance deductible, however now they are also asking us to cover the cost of a rental car. Are we required to pay this?

Asked on February 29, 2016 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Actually, you are not even obligated to pay the deductible (i.e. you are no obligated to pay *any* amounts) unless you were at fault. Fault in a case like this typically means that the tree was known to be or visibly a risk--e.g. sick, dying, dead, damaged limbs, etc.--but despite knowing or having reason to know of the risk, you did nothing (e.g. did not get it pruned or trimmed). If you failed to protect against known or obvious risks, you were at fault, and would have to pay ALL their out-of-pocket losses (e.g. deductible; car rental). But if you were not at fault--i.e. there was no reason to think that this tree posed any sort of risk--then you would not be liable, do not have to pay anything, and anything you do pay is voluntary.


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