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Is My Neighbor Liable if His/Her Tree Hit My House?

Your own property takes enough time and effort – your neighbor’s trees probably aren’t on your radar. If one falls on your car or home, it suddenly becomes your problem however. Whether a bad storm led to the tree falling or if your neighbor simply lacks skill with a chainsaw, learn who may be liable for your damages in Arizona. You may have to file a claim with your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance company, or pursue recovery through a personal injury case.

Tree Ownership and Responsibility

In Arizona, a tree belongs to the property owner responsible for the land on which the trunk stands, regardless of how far the roots spread. If the trunk of the tree that fell stood on your neighbor’s property, he or she is the legal owner of the tree. As the tree’s owner, it is your neighbor’s responsibility to make sure the tree does not harm you or your property in any way. This includes the tree falling and damaging property.

The owner of the tree must take steps such as trimming dead branches and having it removed should it show signs of rot to ensure the safety of the tree. Failure to keep others reasonably safe from the tree, resulting in damage, is negligence based on Arizona’s premises liability laws. Even if the tree’s owner did nothing wrong, he or she will still be liable for damages the tree causes.

If a tree trunk runs across two separate properties, assigning fault can be more difficult. In this case, both property owners would share the responsibility of maintaining it and preventing it from falling. It may take an investigation to decide who is liable for damages a shared tree causes. Both parties may have to split liability and the cost of repairs. In many cases, homeowner’s insurance policies will kick in to cover damage from fallen trees.

Homeowner’s Insurance and Fallen Trees

After a neighbor’s tree falls and damages your house during a storm, your first phone call should be to the property owner’s insurance company. If the tree is within your neighbor’s ownership, his or her insurance will be responsible for paying your damages. Most homeowner’s insurance policies include clauses to cover damage that trees cause due to bad weather, such as strong winds or a lightning strike. If an act of God caused the tree to fall on your home, seek recovery through this outlet. The insurance company should reimburse you and your neighbor for any damage the fallen tree caused without delay.

If you have proof that your neighbor’s negligence contributed to the tree falling, your neighbor may have to pay for repairs out of pocket. The insurance policy may or may not cover damage that stems from property owner negligence. Seek help from an attorney if the insurer denies your claim. You may have to take your neighbor to court to get him or her to pay for your property damage. Required evidence of negligence may include previous complaints about the tree and photographs of the tree.

An attorney can help you gather evidence of your neighbor’s alleged negligence, and prove that a reasonable and prudent landowner would have taken the tree down, or taken another action to prevent it from falling in the same circumstances. A personal injury claim can often lead to greater damage compensation than an insurance settlement. Talk to a lawyer for more information about your specific case in Arizona.