Tree falls on carThis is today’s question: My neighbor’s tree fell into my yard and damaged my car. Who pays?

The answer: It depends. (Have you noticed how often lawyers answer questions that way?)

Normally, if the damage occurs because of some natural occurrence such as a windstorm, you pay for damage done on your property by your neighbor’s falling tree.

If you have it, your automobile comprehensive coverage would pay. However, for good reason, many people don’t buy comprehensive coverage for older vehicles. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you are SOL. Even if you have comprehensive coverage, there is almost always a deductible amount that you must pay before your insurance kicks in.

If the damage had been done to your house instead of to your car, your homeowner’s insurance or your renter’s insurance would pay to repair the damage and haul away the tree. There may be a deductible.

However, if the facts are a little different, the answer changes.

If your neighbor actually knew, or should have known, that the tree was defective and did nothing about correcting the defect, your neighbor must pay for the damage that was caused, using her homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

If, for example, your neighbor knew that his tree was dead or diseased and that there was a risk of the tree or its branches falling, but did not remove or trim the tree, he is responsible and must pay for the damage.

If this happens to you, the first thing to do is speak with your neighbor and your neighbor’s insurance company to try to resolve the problem. If that doesn’t work, consider using community mediation, a voluntary and either free or inexpensive system that exists in many neighborhoods.

If all else fails, as a last resort consider going to court. In Maryland, small claims courts – where there are no technical rules of evidence or consumer-tripping technicalities – decide cases involving up to $5,000.00.

**This article is designed to provide helpful information that can be read within 2 minutes. It is neither a full explanation of this subject nor legal advice. To learn more, and to get legal advice on which you can rely, contact me or another lawyer.

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