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Falling Trees – Who Pays?


Trees – they add beauty to landscaping, shelter to wildlife, oxygen to air, and shade from the harsh heat of Florida’s summers.  Yet, how often do you think about the trees in your yard?  As attorneys, we get the “falling tree question” a lot, especially around hurricane season: “Am I liable if my tree falls on my neighbor’s house?”

Many people assume that any damage caused by a falling tree is the responsibility of the owner of the tree.  That is not always the case.  A tree can fall over if it is diseased or damaged, or it can topple over due to heavy rains and high winds during a storm.  When a healthy tree falls due to bad weather, the owner of the tree is typically not liable because the owner did nothing to cause the tree to fall.  However, if the owner knew or should have known that the tree was diseased or damaged, then the owner may be responsible for any damages caused by the falling tree.

Homeowner insurance policies typically cover damage to structures caused by falling trees, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be a lawsuit.  Insurance companies have a right of subrogation, which means they can sue the party that caused the damage to recover insurance proceeds paid to an insured.  Also, even where insurance covers a loss, the insured may be required to pay a large deductible and may sue to recover it.

Hurricane season is a prime time for trees to fall in Florida and along the east coast.  The official Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th.  It’s never too late to take precautions to remove any dead, diseased or unstable trees from your property that might pose a hazard during inclement weather.  It may seem like an unnecessary expense now, but it might save you money in the future.








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