WHO IS RESPONSIBLE WHEN A TREE FALLS
It’s an all too familiar conundrum in Tulsa, Oklahoma: who is responsible when a tree falls? Before determining liability, there are several factors to consider, including the condition of the tree prior to the fall and where the tree fell.
Most homeowners assume that if their tree falls onto a neighbor’s property that they are responsible. However, this is usually not the case. If an otherwise healthy tree falls onto a neighbor’s property due to what is known as an “Act of God” (storms, wind, etc.), each homeowner is responsible for the part of the tree that fell onto their property. A healthy tree is one that did not have any visible signs of damage, decay, or rot prior to it falling over. Though each individual policy is different, homeowners policies will usually provide coverage if a healthy tree falls whether it was your tree or a neighbor’s tree due to an “Act of God” and damages property. If a tree falls onto multiple properties, each homeowner should file a claim with their own insurance company. If a healthy tree falls but does not cause any property damage, the homeowner, not insurance, will likely be responsible.
On the other hand, if a homeowner is negligent in caring for and maintaining a tree and it falls either onto their own property or a neighbor’s property whether it is during a storm or not, the homeowner is liable. If the tree was clearly dead or had visible signs of damage, decay, or rot and the homeowner was aware, or should have been aware, of the condition of the tree prior to falling, generally, insurance companies will not cover the damages.
When a tree falls, a homeowner should take pictures from multiple angles for insurance purposes. If electrical lines also came down, contact the power company immediately so that the lines can be de-energized. A tree crew will not be able to work until the lines have been de-energized.
What about a neighbor’s tree that is at risk of falling and causing property damage? Legally, a homeowner is allowed to remove any part of a neighbor’s tree, including the canopy and roots, that crosses the property line as long as it does not damage the tree. If a neighbor has a tree that is dead or rotting away and is at risk of falling onto your property and causing damage, document the condition of the tree and notify the neighbor in writing. If the tree does fall and cause damage to your property, you have proof that the neighbor knew the condition of the tree, failed to act, and should be held liable.
Homeowners should have their trees inspected annually by an ISA Certified Arborist. Regular maintenance of trees, like inspections and trimming, can help ensure structural integrity and help prevent falling.
Jake and the crew at TREES BY JAKE have responded to multiple fallen trees over the years, including trees that have fallen onto multiple properties, taken down power lines, and gone through roofs. Our crew is fully equipped to handle these emergency tree situations safely and efficiently and we will work with your insurance company if required. In addition, Jake is an ISA Certified Arborist and can provide an inspection of your trees and recommend a maintenance plan that may including trimming or cabling/bracing. Call or text us today at 918-500-9955 to handle your tree needs!