What are my rights if I live in an apartment complex and my car was parked in my designated stall when one of the redwood trees on the property fell on top of it?

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What are my rights if I live in an apartment complex and my car was parked in my designated stall when one of the redwood trees on the property fell on top of it?

The tree was about 80 feet tall; my car is totaled. The police wouldn’t come when i called because they said it was a civil matter. The manager at my apartment complex told me it wasn’t their fault; it was nature’s fault. Since I only had liability insurance on my car, I don’t even get compensated for the loss of my vehicle. Can I sue the apartment complex for the value of my car and lost wages?

Asked on December 23, 2014 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A property owner (like an apartment complex) is only liable for damage to a car on its property if the property owner was at fault in some way; that is, a property owner is not the insurer of its tenants and so does not have to pay for damage it did not cause.

In cases of tree damage, the requirement for fault means that the property owner either knew, or reasonably should have known (because the illness, damage, etc. was visible) that a tree was dead, sick, leaning and likely to fall, damaged (like by lightning or a collision), etc. and therefore posed a more-than-usual hazard of falling. In those cases, it would be negligent, or unreasonably careless, to not take action to prevent the tree from falling. However, if the tree was healthy, or even if the tree was sick but the sickness, etc. was not visible, then the property owner would not be liable, since in that case, they had no reason to take any action; i.e. they would have done nothing wrong and would not be at fault. This is why it's a good idea to have collision and the like insurance on your car: to compensate you when no one else is at fault.


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