If some branches from a neighbor’s tree fell on my car and damaged it, are they liable for my repairs?

Asked on March 3, 2012 under Accident Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Typically, someone is only liable for property damage if he or she was at fault in some way. Other than a deliberate act (deliberately damaging property), the main way to incur liability in this regard is through negligence, or unreasonable carelessness. In the case of tree damage, that requires that there have been some sign or warning that the tree was a hazard--it was visibily sick or dead (or least the branches which fell were); large branches had previously fallen; some branches were too long and heavy and obviously drooping; etc. Without some reason to know the tree posed a hazard, there is no negligence, or carelessness, in not taking some steps to protect against that hazard (e.g. not cutting off a dead branch), and hence no liability. Therefore, whether your neighbor is liable or not depends on the facts; did he or she have some reason to know that the tree was a hazard?


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