If a dead tree on my neighbor’s property came down and damaged my car, who is responsible for the repair costs?

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If a dead tree on my neighbor’s property came down and damaged my car, who is responsible for the repair costs?

Asked on December 14, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that if your neighbor's tree falls on your property, even if it causes injury to a person or damage to property, they are not be liable as long as they were not negligent. For example, did your neighbor have any knowledge that the tree was potentially a hazard? Should they have been on notice of a problem because the tree wasn't showing only bare limbs and not leaves? Did you complain about the safety of the tree, and yet they took no action? If not, then there was probably no negligence involved.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You may well have a legal claim against your neighbor. It will come down to whether or not your neighbor knew or should have known under the circumstances that the tree was dead. If the answer is yes, then they may have been negligent in not having taken action (i.e. having it cut down), in which case they may be liable. Accordingly, you can write them a demand letter (which they can them forward to their insurer) and/or you can sue them. On the other hand, if they did not know the tree was dead and could not have known, they likely are not be liable for damages (i.e. repair costs).


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