Who’s responsible for what?

One of MY trees fell on my neighbor’s property and caused damage OR One of my neighbor’s trees fell on MY property and caused damage

The Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee is blessed with a HUGE variety of flora, fauna, and TREES! Some say we’re a community inside a forest, and that’s entirely true! But our region is also prone to periods of substantial rain, periods of dryness, and HIGH WINDS! Those swings in our weather can cause our trees to weaken, which makes them prone to falling. When a tree here falls, it usually causes some level of property damage.

Trees falling can cause substantial damage and can also be quite expensive to remove. What’s worse is when a tree (or its large branches) falls and causes damage to a neighbor’s property. Who is responsible to pay for the damage and clean up? We’re NOT talking about YOUR tree falling on YOUR property; that is simply your responsibility and you’ll make a claim against your property’s insurance.

Per property insurance guidelines, unless there is negligence involved, it is generally the responsibility of the owner for whom the damage occurred. In other words, if your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, you are responsible for filing a claim with your property insurer. They will decide if they will subrogate the claim against the owner of the tree that did the damage. It may not sound fair, but insurance carriers are unique in how they define certain “acts of God or nature” risks/claims - and trees are part of that crazy equation. 

Let’s talk a bit about “negligence” and when your tree falling on a neighbor’s property MIGHT be your responsibility (with a claim against your property’s insurance). 

You might be responsible IF you knew the tree that fell was diseased, degraded, pest-infested, or prone to falling AND you didn’t do anything to remedy the problem. If that’s the case, you could be responsible.

The moral of the story is: If you have a lot of trees on your property and some of them could cause damage to your neighbor’s property if they or their branches were to fall, consider doing a property insurance review with your agent to confirm what coverage limits you have - and perhaps hire an arborist to examine your trees!

Thanks for reading, and please give us a call if you have any questions!