If I pay to park in a parking lot of a small private university, dothey have any car damage liability to me as a paying customer?

UPDATED: Nov 30, 2011

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If I pay to park in a parking lot of a small private university, dothey have any car damage liability to me as a paying customer?

One night when it was rainy but not windy a tree fell and smashed my car. Is this simply an “act of God?

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Accident Law, Oregon


L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding whether or not the parking garage is liable to you for a tree falling on your vehicle.  There is not a simple response to your question if this scenario is automatically considered an act of God.  Many times when a tree falls on a vehicle, the accident is determined to be an act of God, which means no one is found to be at fault for the accident, but it is not always deemed an act of God when a tree falls on a vehicle.  If the property owner had a duty to keep the trees healthy and allowed dead trees to be improperly cared for, and then due to their negligence the tree falls and damages a vehicle or injures a person, then the property owner will be held liable for the damages.  However, in order to collect for this type of damage, you may have to hire a tree expert to determine the health of the tree and whether or not the tree was properly cared for. 

If the accident is not an act of God, then you will need to look at your state laws and the any contract involved as to whether or not the parking garage owner has any liability to the vehicles parked in the garage.  There may be different liability depending on whether you parked your own vehicle or had a valet park your vehicle.  Liability may also be different depending on whether there was an exclusionary and limiting liability language on the back of your parking ticket or whether there was sign posted that stated the parking garage would not be responsible for any damage to vehicles parked in the garage. 

You can contact your own car insurance to have them contact the parking garage’s insurance to see if your damage is covered or you can contact them yourself.  This will allow them to investigate the claim fully and not just assume that since a tree fell on your vehicle it is an act of God.


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