Who’s liable for damage to a car from fallen tree branch?

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Who’s liable for damage to a car from fallen tree branch?

Yesterday, while my friend was at work, a tree branch from an adjacent homeowners yard broke off during a wind storm and landed on her car. Her car sustained damage to the front windshield and the side mirror was broken from the door. It was significant enough that it could not be driven home from work and had to be towed. Her car was legally parked in the parking area designated for employees at the job site. She has a $500 deductible and feels all repairs will not exceed that amount. Should she notify the property owner and ask for damages? What are her options? The homeowner is also landlord to my friend’s employer.

Asked on May 14, 2013 under Accident Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Your friend could ask for reimbursement or compensation, but the property owner would only be liable, or responsible, to provide it if they knew that the branch or tree posed some significant risk--for example: other branches had recently fallen; someone had told them the branch was damaged and drooping--or reasonably must have known that there was a more-than-normal risk--such as if the tree were visibly and obviously sick, dying, or dead. If they did not know or have reason that they should have known of a more-than-normal risk, they would not have been negligent, or unreasonably careless, or otherewise at fault in not doing something about the branch; and if they were not at fault, they are not responsible for the damage. Sometimes something happens that no one is responsible for; in that case, the person damaged and/or their insurance has to pay the cost.


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