Who is responsible for damages to a car if a rotten tree came down on it in a storm?

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Who is responsible for damages to a car if a rotten tree came down on it in a storm?

Late last month there was a storm and my neighbor’s tree fell on my car. Now I know about the whole “act of God” deal but this tree was rotten. It actually took down power lines and covered to city street. When the city came out to remove it they said that the tree was rotten (actually hollow and black in most places). My aunt and uncle who I live with, as well as surrounding neighbors, were always worried about that tree; everybody knew it was bad. What do I do?

Asked on July 7, 2011 under Accident Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You *may* have a legal cause of action against your neighbors, so you can write them a demand letter (which they may put forward to their insurer) and/or sue them. The issue will be whether the neighbors themselves knew or *should* have known, under the circumstances, that the tree was rotten. If the answer is yes, then they may have been negligent, or careless, in not taking action (e.g. having it cut down), in which case they may be liable. On the other hand, if they did not know the tree was rotten and reasonably would not have known, they'd likely not be liable, even if you uncle, aunt, etc. knew of the concern.


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